Key bit: The U.S. created a lackluster 199,000 new jobs in December, signaling that persistent labor shortages and another major coronavirus outbreak are holding back the economy.
The increase in employment was well below Wall Street’s expectations. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 422,000 new jobs.
The U.S. jobless rate, meanwhile, slipped to 3.9% from 4.2% and drifted to a new pandemic low. The rate stood at 3.5% right before the pandemic.
The reason for the sharp decline: A separate survey of households from which the rate is derived actually showed a much bigger increase in employment for the second month in a row.
More: Businesses laden with customer orders are aggressively seeking to fill more than 10 million open jobs in order to keep up with demand. But it’s been slow going.
Companies in the hospitality business such as restaurants and hotels led the way in hiring last last month. They added 53,000 jobs.