Dec hiring was led by the hospitality and leisure sector as bar and restaurant managers hired wait staff, bartenders, and cooks in preparation for Christmas.
Net job growth in this sector was 53,000. Restaurants accounted for 42,600, while hotels, motels and accommodation companies added 10,000. Decent saw 6,600 job losses at amusement parks, casinos, and other recreation businesses.
Leisure and hospitality created 2.6 million new jobs in the past year. However, employment fell by 1.2 million, or 7.2% since February 2020. The number of people employed in food service is down 653,000 from February 2020.
Another bright spot was December’s broad professional and commercial services sector. Management consultants, computer programmers and builders service workers, including janitors, landscapers, chimney sweeps, all posted decent gains. There were 43,000 additional positions in the sector.
According to Labor Department data, 199,000 additional jobs were created in the U.S. by the hiring of professionals and in hospitality in December. For the first time since February 2020, the unemployment rate was below 4% and wages were up 4.7% in December 2020.
Many economists are still puzzled at the headline job numbers given their expectations of an increase north of 400,000.
“Overall, this print had mixed messaging – the payrolls growth number may look disappointing, but the underlying story is lack of availability of labor, which is manifesting itself in faster wage growth,” Anu Gaggar, global investment strategist for Commonwealth Financial Network, said in an email.
Construction and manufacturing both had decently-paid workers.
The overall 26,000 job increase in manufacturing was due to the addition of 7,700 workers for machinery, 4,200 workers on motor vehicles, and 1,600 workers for furniture. According to the Labor Department, 8,000 of machinery’s net gains were due to workers returning from strike.
As companies increased their workforce of heavy- and civil engineers (10.400), and special trade contractors (12.900), construction added 22,000. From February 2020, construction employment has dropped 88,000.
December was disappointing for retail, with consumer-facing shops losing just 2100 jobs at the beginning of Christmas shopping. Labor Department reported that 12,500 positions were lost by sporting goods, hobby and book stores in December. Warehouse clubs and supercenters however, added another 15,000.
In the last month of 2021, government payrolls saw net losses as both state and local governments lost 5,100 and 7,800 employees respectively. Public sector employment fell by 12,000.
—Nate Rattner of CNBC contributed reporting.
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