US employers slashed 140,000 jobs in December 2020, the first monthly decline in employment since April 2020, as recent Covid-19 spikes have stalled the recovery of the labour market, an official report said.
"The decline in payroll employment reflects the recent increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and efforts to contain the pandemic," the Labour Department's Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) said in its monthly employment report.
The BLS report noted that employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 498,000, with three-quarters of the decrease in food services and drinking places, by 372,000, Xinhua news agency reported.
Since February 2020, employment in leisure and hospitality has been down by 3.9 million, or 23.2 per cent.
Employment in private education, meanwhile, decreased by 63,000 in December, the report showed, noting that employment in the industry has fallen by 450,000 since February.
Government employment also declined by 45,000 in the month. Since February 2020, government employment overall has been cut by 1.3 million.
In December, job losses in leisure and hospitality and in private education were partially offset by gains in professional and business services, retail trade, and construction, according to the Bureau's report.
The report also showed that growth in total non-farm payroll employment for October was revised up by 44,000 to 654,000, and the gain for November was revised up by 91,000 to 336,000.
Amid widespread Covid-19 shutdowns in March and April last year, 22 million Americans lost their jobs.
The latest data showed that the number of unemployed in December remained unchanged at 10.7 million, which is about 5 million higher than pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
The unemployment rate, which has been trending down over the past seven months, remained unchanged at 6.7 per cent in December, the report showed, indicating the disruption to the labour market recovery.
The unemployment rate in December was down by 8 percentage points from its recent high in April 2020 but is 3.2 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February, the Bureau noted.
Weekly initial jobless claims have been largely declining in the past few months, but the trend was recently reversed in the weeks ending November 14 and November 21, 2020, and then in the weeks ending December 5 and December 12, 2020.
The Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) registered 57.2 per cent in December, 1.3 percentage point higher than the November reading, according to the latest Services ISM Report on Business.
The employment index, however, fell by 3.3 percentage points to 48.2 per cent, marking the first contraction after three consecutive months of growth.
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