The U.S. economy recorded an increase of 199,000 jobs in December and the unemployment dipped to 3.9%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday.
Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 199,000 in December, according to the BLS, and the number of unemployed Americans dipped to 6.3 million. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal projected the economy to add 422,000 jobs in December and for unemployment to fall to 4.1%.
December’s jobs report leaves the U.S. economy with roughly 6.5 million more jobs than at the end of 2020 but still 3.5 million short of pre-pandemic levels.
One promise from the U.S. economy emerging from the pandemic was that American workers would benefit from a tight labor pool driving up salary and pay. And while that happened, the benefits have all been erased by the sudden surge of inflation on President Biden’s watch.
That means workers aren’t running in place, they are actually falling behind as rising prices force middle- and working-class families to make hard choices, like whether to fill the gas tank or the refrigerator.
Inflation topped out at 5.4% in July, the government reported Wednesday, the third straight month above 5%. When President Trump left office in January, inflation was in check at just 1.4%.
The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims decreased to 385,000 last week as the economy continues its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics figure released Thursday represented a slight decrease in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending July 24, when 399,000 new jobless claims were reported. That number was revised down from the 400,000 jobless claims initially reported last week.
A consumer price measurement used by the Federal Reserve to track inflation spiked again in June and hit its highest level since 1991, government data showed.
The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index increased 4% over the 12 months between July 2020 and June, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report released Friday. Excluding volatile energy and food prices, the index spiked 3.5% in that same 12-month period.
The index increased 0.5% in June, in line with economists’ forecasts, CNBC reported.
“Inflation has increased notably and will likely remain elevated in coming months before moderating,” Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell said during a press conference this week. “As the economy continues to reopen and spending rebounds, we are seeing upward pressure on prices, particularly because supply bottlenecks in some sectors have limited how quickly production can respond in the near term.”
U.S. workers’ fear of contracting coronavirus while on the job has hit a pandemic low as the economy continues its steady recovery.
The number of Americans not working due to their fear of getting the virus while at their job dipped to 3.05 million by the end of June, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey released Wednesday. The figure hit its peak in July 2020 when 6.24 million unemployed Americans reported not looking for a job due to coronavirus fears, Axios reported.
“People are feeling safer about returning to work, which should help businesses staff-up to meet the tremendous demand we’re seeing right now,” Wells Fargo senior economist Sarah House told Axios.
Economists expect inflation to “accelerate strongly” in the coming weeks and months, but said consumer prices would eventually moderate.
The consumer price index (CPI), a common measure for inflation, is expected to rise 2.8% in 2021 and 2.3% in 2022 compared to the 1.2% increase that occurred in 2020, according to economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE).
The projection, released Monday, reflected the Federal Reserve consensus that inflation will heat up by the end of the year before cooling down as the economic recovery continues.