The US added just 210,000 jobs in November, seriously underperforming analyst expectations amid concerns that the Omicron variant could put recent gains at risk, the feds said Friday.
The disappointing number comes after the US added more than 531,000 jobs in October.
Despite November’s worse than expected payroll numbers, the unemployment rate for the month dropped more than expected. It stood at 4.2 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in October and 3.5 percent in February 2020 before COVID-19 shutdowns.
S&P 500 futures rose about 0.5 percent on the news.
November’s payroll numbers come amid a potential resurgence in coronavirus cases that could jeopardize job gains.
Over the summer, the spread of the Delta variant jeopardized reopening plans and seemed to reduce hiring by employers. Now, some analysts warn that the Omicron variant — which was detected in New York this week — could do the same this winter.
“Concern about the virus could reduce people’s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, the Fed is expected to soon wind down its bond-buying program and potentially hike rates next year amid concerns about skyrocketing inflation.
Friday’s jobs report comes after recent encouraging jobless benefits figures. On Thursday, the Labor Department revealed that 222,000 people had filed for unemployment benefits ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday — a modest jump from the previous week but still near low pre-pandemic levels.
Unemployment benefits applications are seen as a proxy for layoffs.