Washington, Feb 5 (efe-epa).- The headline unemployment rate in the United States fell 0.4 percent in January to 6.3 percent, yet the world’s largest economy created only 49,000 new jobs amid the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
Significantly, the BLS revised its December report to indicate that 227,000 jobs were eliminated in the final month of 2020, 87,000 more than the initial estimate of 140,000.
“The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In January, 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,” the BLS said.
The US leads the world in Covid-19 deaths, with 456,000, and cases, which are approaching 27 million.
Total nonfarm payroll employment is down by 9.9 million from the pre-pandemic level of February 2020, when the official unemployment rate (U-3) was 3.5 percent, the lowest in 50 years.
And even with last month’s decline in the jobless rate, the number of unemployed people was 10.1 million, compared with 5.7 million in February 2020.
More than 20 million jobs were lost in the first two months of the pandemic in the US, pushing the U-3 rate to 14 percent last May.
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, declined last month from 11.6 percent to 11.1 percent.
The labor force participation rate – the share of the population 16 and over either working or seeking work – held steady in October at 61.7 percent.
To put that statistic in context, the participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent in January 2000 and stood at 63.6 percent in February 2020.
Initial claims for jobless benefits declined last week to 779,000, the lowest figure in nine weeks, the BLS said Thursday.
New unemployment claims averaged 200,000 a week in the months before the pandemic.
Early Friday, the US Senate narrowly approved a procedural motion paving the way for the Democrats to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package without support from Republicans.
Vice President Kamala Harris, in her constitutional role as president of the Senate, cast the deciding vote in favor of the motion.
A similar measure had already sailed through the House of Representatives, where the Democrats have a larger majority.
The legislation includes means-tested direct payments of $1,400 to individuals and an additional $400 a week in federal unemployment benefits through the end of September, as well aid to state and municipal governments and additional funding to fight the pandemic.
On Dec. 27, then-President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill with $600 direct payments and an extra $300 a week in jobless benefits.
Yet the package was less than half the size of the first relief legislation, the $2.2-trillion CARES Act, enacted last March. EFE