Jobs Report: U.S. Lost 140,000 Jobs in December, the First Decline since April

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 140,000 in December, and the unemployment rate
was unchanged at 6.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The 
decline in payroll employment reflects the recent increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases 
and efforts to contain the pandemic. 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. 

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey 
measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The
establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For 
more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys,
see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

In December, both the unemployment rate, at 6.7 percent, and the number of unemployed 
persons, at 10.7 million, were unchanged. Although both measures are much lower than their
April highs, they are nearly twice their pre-pandemic levels in February (3.5 percent and 
5.7 million, respectively). 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (16.0 percent) and 
Hispanics (9.3 percent) increased in December. The jobless rates for adult men (6.4 
percent), adult women (6.3 percent), Whites (6.0 percent), Blacks (9.9 percent), and 
Asians (5.9 percent) showed little change. 

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff increased by 277,000 in 
December to 3.0 million. This measure is down considerably from the high of 18.0 million 
in April but is 2.3 million higher than in February. The number of permanent job losers 
declined by 348,000 to 3.4 million in December but is up by 2.1 million since February. 
The number of unemployed reentrants increased by 282,000 to 2.3 million over the month, 
452,000 higher than in February. 

In December, the number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 449,000 to 2.9
million, while the number of persons jobless 15 to 26 weeks declined by 303,000 to 1.6 
million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 4.0
million, was essentially unchanged in December but has increased by 2.8 million since 
February. The number of those jobless for 27 weeks or more accounted for 37.1 percent of
total unemployed in December. 

The labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio were both 
unchanged over the month, at 61.5 percent and 57.4 percent, respectively. These measures 
are up from their recent April lows but are lower than in February by 1.8 percentage
points and 3.7 percentage points, respectively. 

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 6.2 million, decreased
by 471,000 over the month. This measure is down from its April high of 10.9 million but
is 1.8 million higher than the February level. These individuals, who would have 
preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been 
reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. 

In December, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job, at 
7.3 million, was little changed over the month but is 2.3 million higher than in 
February. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not 
actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job. 

Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons 
marginally attached to the labor force, at 2.2 million, changed little in December but
is up by 749,000 since February. These individuals wanted and were available for work
and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in
the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the 
marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was essentially 
unchanged at 663,000 in December but is up by 262,000 since February. 

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In December, 23.7 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus 
pandemic, up from 21.8 percent in November. These data refer to employed persons who 
teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically 
because of the pandemic. 

In December, 15.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because 
their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work
at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. 
This measure is 1.0 million higher than in November. Among those who reported in 
December that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost 
business, 12.8 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours 
not worked, little changed from November.  

Among those not in the labor force in December, 4.6 million persons were prevented 
from looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is up from 3.9 million in
November. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either 
actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)  
These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning
in May to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are 
not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for
all months are available online.
Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 140,000 in December. Employment declines
in leisure and hospitality, private education, and government were partially offset by
gains in professional and business services, retail trade, construction, and 
transportation and warehousing. In December, nonfarm employment was below its February
level by 9.8 million, or 6.5 percent. 

In December, employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 498,000, with three-
quarters of the decrease in food services and drinking places (-372,000). Employment
also fell in the amusements, gambling, and recreation industry (-92,000) and in the 
accommodation industry (-24,000). Since February, employment in leisure and 
hospitality is down by 3.9 million, or 23.2 percent. 

Employment in private education decreased by 63,000 in December. Employment in the
industry is down by 450,000 since February.

Government employment declined by 45,000 in December. Employment in the component of 
local government that excludes education declined by 32,000, and state government 
education lost 20,000 jobs. Federal government employment increased by 6,000. Since 
February, government employment overall is down by 1.3 million. 

Other services lost 22,000 jobs in December, with over half of the loss in personal
and laundry services (-12,000). Employment in the other services industry is down by 
453,000 since February.

In December, employment in professional and business services increased by 161,000,
with a large gain in temporary help services (+68,000). Job growth also occurred in 
computer systems design and related services (+20,000), other professional and technical
services (+11,000), management of companies and enterprises (+11,000), and business 
support services (+7,000). Employment in professional and business services is down by
858,000 since February.

Retail trade added 121,000 jobs in December, with nearly half of the growth occurring
in the component of general merchandise stores that includes warehouse clubs and 
supercenters (+59,000). Job gains also occurred in nonstore retailers (+14,000), 
automobile dealers (+13,000), health and personal care stores (+10,000), and food and
beverage stores (+8,000). Employment in retail trade is 411,000 lower than in February.

Construction added 51,000 jobs in December, but employment in the industry is 226,000 
below its February level. In December, employment rose in residential specialty trade 
contractors (+14,000) and residential building (+9,000), two industries that have 
gained back the jobs lost in March and April. In December, employment also increased 
in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+18,000) and in heavy and civil 
engineering construction (+15,000).

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 47,000 in December, largely in 
couriers and messengers (+37,000). While employment in transportation and warehousing
overall is 89,000 lower than in February, employment in couriers and messengers has
increased by 222,000 over the same period. In December, employment also grew in 
warehousing and storage (+8,000) and in truck transportation (+7,000), while transit
and ground passenger transportation lost 9,000 jobs. 

In December, health care added 39,000 jobs. Employment growth in hospitals (+32,000)
and ambulatory health care services (+21,000) was partially offset by declines in 
nursing care facilities (-6,000) and community care facilities for the elderly (-5,000).
Health care employment is 502,000 lower than in February.

In December, manufacturing employment increased by 38,000, with gains in motor vehicles
and parts (+7,000), plastics and rubber products (+7,000), and nonmetallic mineral 
products (+6,000). By contrast, miscellaneous nondurable goods manufacturing lost 
11,000 jobs over the month. Despite gains over the past 8 months, employment in 
manufacturing is 543,000 below its February level.

Wholesale trade employment rose by 25,000 in December but is down by 251,000 since 
February. In December, job gains occurred in durable goods (+11,000) and nondurable
goods (+11,000).

In December, employment changed little in other major industries, including mining,
information, and financial activities.

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 23 cents to $29.81. Average hourly earnings of private-sector 
production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 20 cents to $25.09. These 
increases largely reflect the disproportionate number of lower-paid workers in 
leisure and hospitality who went off payrolls, which put upward pressure on the 
average hourly earnings estimates. 

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 0.1
hour to 34.7 hours in December. In manufacturing, the workweek was unchanged at 
40.2 hours, and overtime increased by 0.1 hour to 3.3 hours. The average workweek
for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was 
unchanged at 34.2 hours. 

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised up by 
44,000, from +610,000 to +654,000, and the change for November was revised up by 
91,000, from +245,000 to +336,000. With these revisions, employment in October 
and November combined was 135,000 more than previously reported. (Monthly 
revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government
agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of 
seasonal factors.)

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