U.S. loses 140,000 jobs in December in first decline since onset of coronavirus

U.S. loses 140,000 jobs in December in first decline since onset of coronavirus

The numbers: The U.S. lost jobs in December for the first time in eight months as the coronvirus bore down on the economy again and forced businesses to resort to more layoffs.

Businesses and government shed 140,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. The decline in employment was the first since last April, when the U.S. lost a gargantuan 20.8 million jobs in that one month alone.

The economy is still missing some 10 million jobs that existed before the onset of the pandemic, with little prospect that they’ll be recovered any time soon.

The official unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 6.7%.

Read: Jobless claims still very high at the end of 2020

Economists estimate true unemployment is several points higher because the official jobless rate doesn’t include several million people who’ve left the labor force.

“People dropping out of the labor force is a big problem,” said Thomas Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve.

In premarket trades, U.S. stocks were set to open higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

set a new record on Thursday as investors look past the current economic difficulties to better times later in the year as more people get vaccinated.

Big picture: The U.S. economy hasn’t been hurt nearly as bad by the coronavirus outbreak at the end of 2020 as it was during the initial onslaught last spring.

Yet momentum has clearly slowed. Economic growth and hiring are unlikely to speed back up again until vaccinations are more widespread and the pandemic peters out. Unemployment is expected to remain high at least until the summer.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

were set to open slightly higher in Friday trades.

The Dow set a record high the day before on prospects for a stronger economy in 2021, aided by more federal stimulus from a Democratic president and Congress.

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