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Employment Blog February 2021

This Employment Blog is taken from the U S Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in January, and nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+49,000). The labor market continued to be impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. Notable job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing.

Substantial job losses related to the coronavirus pandemic first occurred in March (-1.7 million) and April (-20.7 million) of 2020. As economic activity resumed, employment increased by 12.6 million from May through November but declined again in December (-227,000) following a surge in the number of coronavirus cases. In January, nonfarm employment changed little (+49,000) and was below its February 2020 level by 9.9 million, or 6.5 percent.

Taking a closer look at the January payroll data, employment in professional and business services increased by 97,000 over the month, led by a gain of 81,000 in temporary help services. Smaller job gains occurred in management and consulting services (+16,000), computer systems design (+11,000), and scientific research services (+10,000). These gains were partially offset by losses in services to buildings and dwellings (-14,000) and in advertising (-6,000). Employment in professional and business services has risen by 1.6 million since a recent low in April but remains 825,000 below its February level.

In January, employment increased in local government education (+49,000), state government education (+36,000), and private education (+34,000). In both public and private education, pandemic-related employment declines in 2020 distorted the normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns. This likely contributed to the job gains in January (after seasonal adjustment).

Wholesale trade continued to add jobs in January (+14,000). Since April, employment in the industry has risen by 146,000. However, it is 263,000 lower than it was in February.

In January, mining added 9,000 jobs, mostly in support activities for mining (+8,000). Mining employment is down by 133,000 since a recent peak in January 2019, though employment in the industry showed little change for several months prior to the uptick in January.

Leisure and hospitality lost 61,000 jobs in January, following a large loss of 536,000 jobs in December. Employment in accommodation edged down in January (-18,000). After declining by 402,000 in December, employment in food services and drinking places changed little in January (-19,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 8.2 million during March and April, increased by 4.9 million from May to November, and then declined by 597,000 over the past 2 months.

In January, retail trade lost 38,000 jobs, following a gain of 135,000 jobs in December. Over the month, job losses occurred in general merchandising stores (-38,000), electronics and appliance stores (-29,000), and nonstore retailers (-15,000). By contrast, employment rose in food and beverage stores (+15,000), clothing and accessories stores (+15,000), and health and personal care stores (+14,000). Since February, employment in retail trade is down by 383,000.

Health care employment declined by 30,000 over the month. Nursing care facilities (-19,000) and community care facilities for the elderly (-7,000) continued to lose jobs in January. Employment also declined in home health care services (-13,000). Health care employment is 542,000 lower than its February level.

In January, transportation and warehousing lost 28,000 jobs, including a loss of 17,000 in warehousing and storage. Couriers and messengers lost 14,000 jobs in January and 31,000 jobs in December, following an unusually large job gain in November (+72,000). Employment in air transportation increased by 15,000 in January but is down by 105,000 since February.

Employment in manufacturing changed little in January (-10,000), with a decline of 17,000 in durable goods industries. Manufacturing employment has increased by 803,000 since April but is down by 582,000 since February, before the onset of the pandemic.

Construction employment changed little in January (-3,000), after increasing for 8 consecutive months. However, employment in the industry is down by 256,000 since February.

Employment in other major industries–including information, financial activities, and other services–showed little change over the month.

Real average hourly earnings for all employees were unchanged from December to January, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This result stems from an increase of 0.2 percent in average hourly earnings being offset by an increase of 0.3 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). Real average weekly earnings increased 0.8 percent over the month due to the unchanged real average hourly earnings being combined with an increase of 0.9 percent in the average workweek.


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