U.S. labor update: Payrolls drop, but jobless rate holds steady

Employment declined in the United States in December as layoffs in restaurants and bars more than offset hiring in other industry sectors.

Nonfarm payrolls decreased 140,000 and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The drop in payrolls was the first since April, although overall employment in December remained 9.8 million below February and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. The jobless rate has dropped eight points since April, but remains 3.2 points higher than February.

Initial payroll estimates were revised upward to 336,000 for November and 654,000 for October.

For December, 10.7 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work, and 4 million of those have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

Another 6.2 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find full-time posiitons.

The labor participation rate remained unchanged at 61.5 percent.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector — which includes restaurants, bars and hotels — dropped 498,000 as surges in COVID-19 cases resulted in restrictions, closures and fewer customers.

Employment declined 63,000 in the private education sector, while government payrolls shrank 45,000.

At the same time, though, employment increased 161,000 in professional and business services, 121,000 in retail trades and 51,000 in construction. Manufacturers added 38,000 to payrolls.

The average workwork for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls slipped a tenth of an hour to 34.7 hours. Average hourly wages rose 23 cents to $29.81.