U.S. December Unemployment Rate Unchanged at 6.7%

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U.S. December Unemployment Rate Unchanged at 6.7%

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

THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — DECEMBER 2020

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.

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). (See table A-1. For more information about how the household
survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the box note at the
end of this news release.)

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. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

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. (See table A-11.)

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. (See table A-12.)

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. (See table A-1.)

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. (See table A-8.)

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.
(See table A-1.)

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. (See Summary
table A.)  

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 at
www.bls.gov/cps/effects-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.htm.

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. (See table B-1. For more information about how
the establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic,
see the box note at the end of this news release.)

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. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

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. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

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.)

HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table B. Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age, seasonally adjusted [Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, sex, and age 2019 2020
Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.

TOTAL

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

260,181 259,502 259,628 259,758 259,896 260,047 260,204 260,373 260,558 260,742 260,925 261,085 261,230

Civilian labor force

164,579 164,455 164,448 162,721 156,478 158,200 159,797 160,085 160,818 160,078 160,718 160,536 160,567

Participation rate

63.3 63.4 63.3 62.6 60.2 60.8 61.4 61.5 61.7 61.4 61.6 61.5 61.5

Employed

158,735 158,659 158,732 155,536 133,370 137,224 142,100 143,777 147,276 147,543 149,669 149,809 149,830

Employment-population ratio

61.0 61.1 61.1 59.9 51.3 52.8 54.6 55.2 56.5 56.6 57.4 57.4 57.4

Unemployed

5,844 5,796 5,717 7,185 23,109 20,975 17,697 16,308 13,542 12,535 11,049 10,728 10,736

Unemployment rate

3.6 3.5 3.5 4.4 14.8 13.3 11.1 10.2 8.4 7.8 6.9 6.7 6.7

Men, 20 years and over

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

117,413 117,110 117,181 117,254 117,330 117,410 117,492 117,580 117,672 117,763 117,854 117,936 118,010

Civilian labor force

83,996 83,970 83,930 83,171 80,490 81,073 81,922 81,861 82,461 82,293 82,505 82,226 82,244

Participation rate

71.5 71.7 71.6 70.9 68.6 69.1 69.7 69.6 70.1 69.9 70.0 69.7 69.7

Employed

81,373 81,329 81,235 79,785 69,975 71,668 73,605 74,173 75,903 76,258 77,013 76,777 77,004

Employment-population ratio

69.3 69.4 69.3 68.0 59.6 61.0 62.6 63.1 64.5 64.8 65.3 65.1 65.3

Unemployed

2,623 2,641 2,695 3,385 10,515 9,405 8,317 7,688 6,558 6,036 5,492 5,449 5,240

Unemployment rate

3.1 3.1 3.2 4.1 13.1 11.6 10.2 9.4 8.0 7.3 6.7 6.6 6.4

Women, 20 years and over

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

126,082 125,770 125,841 125,915 125,991 126,072 126,155 126,243 126,336 126,429 126,520 126,604 126,681

Civilian labor force

74,616 74,502 74,501 73,657 70,896 71,548 72,479 72,866 72,728 71,865 72,255 72,395 72,422

Participation rate

59.2 59.2 59.2 58.5 56.3 56.8 57.5 57.7 57.6 56.8 57.1 57.2 57.2

Employed

72,172 72,099 72,171 70,691 59,938 61,630 64,321 65,270 66,667 66,328 67,534 67,941 67,872

Employment-population ratio

57.2 57.3 57.4 56.1 47.6 48.9 51.0 51.7 52.8 52.5 53.4 53.7 53.6

Unemployed

2,443 2,404 2,330 2,966 10,958 9,918 8,158 7,596 6,061 5,537 4,721 4,453 4,551

Unemployment rate

3.3 3.2 3.1 4.0 15.5 13.9 11.3 10.4 8.3 7.7 6.5 6.2 6.3

Both sexes, 16 to 19 years

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

16,686 16,622 16,606 16,590 16,574 16,566 16,557 16,550 16,550 16,551 16,551 16,545 16,538

Civilian labor force

5,967 5,982 6,017 5,894 5,093 5,579 5,396 5,358 5,630 5,920 5,958 5,915 5,900

Participation rate

35.8 36.0 36.2 35.5 30.7 33.7 32.6 32.4 34.0 35.8 36.0 35.8 35.7

Employed

5,190 5,231 5,326 5,060 3,457 3,926 4,174 4,333 4,706 4,957 5,122 5,091 4,955

Employment-population ratio

31.1 31.5 32.1 30.5 20.9 23.7 25.2 26.2 28.4 29.9 30.9 30.8 30.0

Unemployed

778 751 691 834 1,636 1,653 1,222 1,024 924 963 836 825 946

Unemployment rate

13.0 12.6 11.5 14.1 32.1 29.6 22.6 19.1 16.4 16.3 14.0 13.9 16.0