Washington, Jan 8 (efe-epa).- The unemployment rate in the United States remained unchanged last month at 6.7 percent, but the world’s largest economy lost jobs for the first time since April as Covid-19 cases and deaths surged, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
Private sector payrolls decreased by 95,000 in December, while government employment – excluding public schools – dropped by 45,000, the BLS said in its monthly jobs report.
The return of lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus led to the loss of 498,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality, a category that includes food service, bars, amusements, lodging, gambling and recreation.
The sector employs 3.9 million fewer people now than in February 2020, a contraction of 23.2 percent.
Professional and business services added 161,000 jobs last month, while the number of positions in retail grew by 120,500.
The economy saw seven straight months of employment gains, following massive coronavirus-triggered job losses in March and April unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But the November increase was the lowest since the US labor market began to recover from the impact of lockdown orders, which led to the elimination of 20.7 million jobs last spring.
The US set a new one-day record for Covid-19 deaths on Thursday with 4,085, lifting the total number of fatalities to 365,000, while confirmed infections are nearing 22 million.
The official unemployment rate (U-3), which had held steady at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent for several months until the pandemic slammed the US economy, rose sharply at the start of the coronavirus crisis and shot up to 14 percent in May 2020.
The broader U-6 measure of unemployment, which includes people working part-time who would prefer a full-time position and workers who have given up looking for a job, stayed level last month at 11.6 percent.
On Dec. 27, outgoing President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill that included means-tested $600 direct payments to individuals and an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits.
Yet the package was less than half the size of the first relief legislation, the $2.2-trillion CARES Act, and President-elect Joe Biden says that he plans to ask Congress to do more.
Initial claims for jobless benefits declined slightly last week to 818,750, compared with 837,500 the week before, the BLS said.
During the week that ended Dec. 26, 5.07 million people were receiving unemployment benefits, down from 5.19 million the previous week. EFE