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Friday, March 1, 2024

Covid’s grip shows in disappointing jobs data, but there are signs things may improve

  • January's employment report shows that Covid's grip on the economy is relentless, especially for leisure and hospitality jobs.
  • Economists say there were some positives, like higher wages and more hours worked — both potential precursors to further hiring.
  • The vaccine rollout is critical to the improvement in labor.

In this article

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past a closed restaurant as snow falls in New York, on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

January's jobs report shows that Covid's grip on the economy is relentless, but there are signs that pent-up demand and hiring could improve as the vaccine rollout gains momentum.

Some economists say the report, with just 49,000 jobs created, also shows that the economy is in need of a lift from fiscal stimulus.

A consensus of economists had expected that 50,000 payrolls were added in January, but some were more optimistic. NatWest Markets, for instance, was looking for 300,000 payrolls, and Citigroup was forecasting 250,000.

"It shows the job market remains in the clutches of the pandemic, and until we get broad vaccinations, we're not going to stabilize the jobs market," said Marvin Loh, senior global macro strategist at State Street.

"It was a really poor number," he added. "It does show the lockdowns that started at the end of the year had a bigger impact."

Pockets of pain, gain in some industries

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