The US economy lost jobs for the first time in eight months in December as a deadly surge in coronavirus infections sparked a new wave of lockdown measures.
Employers shed 140,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
The closely watched jobs report was the most grim since April, when unemployment soared to a record 14.7 percent as the COVID-19 pandemic first rattled America. Economists were expecting an addition of 77,000 jobs, which would have been less than a quarter of November’s revised total of 336,000.
The losses came as several states imposed new restrictions to curb a record-setting spike in coronavirus cases, such as mask mandates, bans on indoor dining and limits on public and private gatherings.
Vaccines could help the economy return to normal once they’re distributed across the country — but in the meantime, millions of Americans are relying on unemployment benefits and hundreds of thousands are seeking jobless aid every week.
“A bumpy ride remains for at least the next few months before the economy reopens,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “Because the pandemic is the cause of the economy’s troubles, we’re dependent on more rapid administration of COVID-19 vaccines.”
December marked the first month of job losses since April as local, state and federal officials struggled to control the pandemic. The economy started adding jobs in May but growth had slowed down in each month since June, when nonfarm payrolls added 4.8 million gigs.
The $900 billion stimulus package Congress passed last month could take some pressure of the economy as COVID-19 continues to kill thousands of Americans a day.
The bill President Trump signed last week will send a $600 check to millions of eligible taxpayers and give jobless workers an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits.
With Post wires