On the Money — US reports meager job growth to finish 2021
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Today’s Big Deal: The nation saw 199,000 jobs added in December — falling significantly short of expectations by economists as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread. We’ll also look at how Republicans have seized on the news to hit President Biden’s economic agenda, and how he’s fending off the attacks.
But first, we’d love to give a huge shout out to Naomi Jagoda, our resident tax expert and a major player on The Hill’s Finance team who will be leaving us this week. You can learn more about her next steps and continue to follow her tax coverage at @NJagoda on Twitter.
Let’s get to it.
Economy adds 199K jobs in December
The U.S. added a disappointing 199,000 jobs in December as the omicron variant of COVID-19 began to spread through the country, data released Friday by the Labor Department shows.
While the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in December from 4.2 percent in November, last month’s job gain fell far short of projections. Economists expected the U.S. to have added roughly 420,000 jobs last month after several weeks of low unemployment claims and signs of strength from private sector payrolls.
Despite the lackluster December job gain, the report showed signs of growing competition for sorely needed workers as employers struggle to keep up with the recovering economy.
- The jobless rate dropped to its lowest level since March 2019 as the labor force participation held firm, and average hourly earnings were up 4.6 percent on the year last month.
- The Labor Department also revised October and November’s job gains up by a combined 141,000 jobs — the latest major upward correction of a disappointing initial report.
The December jobs report likely reflects little of omicron’s full impact on the economy. The two surveys conducted by the Labor Department to compile the employment figures occurred the week of Dec. 12, well before cases began spiking in major U.S. cities.
Several industries under pressure by the pandemic also saw little to no job growth in December, a troubling sign as COVID-19 cases spike.
The leisure and hospitality sector gained just 53,000 jobs in December, well short of the six-digit monthly gains seen earlier in the year. Employment in health care and retail flatlined last month, while manufacturing, construction and transportation services all saw solid job gains.
Sylvan has more here.
LEADING THE DAY
Biden takes aim at GOP for ‘talking down’ economic recovery
President Biden on Friday sharpened his attacks against Republicans on the economy, accusing them of “talking down” the economic recovery as he lauded the decline in unemployment and job growth during his first year in office.
Speaking to reporters from the State Dining Room, Biden called GOP claims that he isn’t addressing inflation “malarkey” and accused Republicans of characterizing the economic recovery in negative terms because they voted against the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law that provided funding for school reopenings, COVID-19 vaccine distribution and additional relief for Americans.
“They want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen,” Biden said in prepared remarks. “They voted against the tax cuts for middle-class families. They voted against the funds we needed to reopen our schools …”
- Republicans have attacked Biden’s economic agenda, blaming him for rising inflation that is expected to persist into next year. Some Democrats have criticized the White House for being too slow to rebut Republican attacks on inflation.
- Biden’s remarks signified an effort to take those criticisms head on as the 2022 midterm elections approach and Democrats try to hold on to their narrow majorities in Congress.
- The president also took a swipe at his predecessor, one day after eviscerating former President Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. “The stock market — the last guy’s measure of everything — is about 20 percent higher than it was when my predecessor was there.”
Read more from The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant here.
Inflation soars to record 5 percent in 19 countries using euro
Inflation hit a record high last month in countries using the euro currency, according to a report from The Associated Press.
Eurostat, the European Union office that handles such statistics, found that prices for consumers rose 5 percent across the 19 countries that use the euro in December compared to the previous year.
This inflation reading is the highest in history for the euro currency, since record-keeping began in 1997.
Read more from The Hill’s Chloe Folmar here.
SHOT IN THE ARM
Citigroup workers who are unvaccinated by Jan. 14 to be fired
Citigroup Inc. workers who refuse to comply with the company’s vaccine mandate by Jan. 14 will be fired, Bloomberg reports.
They will be put on unpaid leave and released from employment at the end of January.
Employees will be required to sign an agreement stating that they will not pursue legal action against Citigroup to receive year-end bonus payments. Some workers will still receive certain payments.
Good to Know
Twitter launched a new feature that allows users to retweet a post with a video reacting to the content, the company announced this week.
Here’s what else have our eye on:
- Domestic extremists are adapting their online strategies to push disinformation and conspiracies despite a crackdown by social media platforms in the year since the attack by a pro-Trump mob on the Capitol.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you on Monday.
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