The U.S. jobs report for December will show the extent of a winter labor-market slowdown, offering insight about the economic recovery’s vitality.
Job growth has slowed in recent months as cold weather, rising Covid-19 infections, and new restrictions on businesses deal a setback to the recovery from the pandemic. Friday’s report is expected to show that job growth slowed considerably in December, which would extend a slowdown that began last summer.
Estimates of how the labor market performed at the end of what was surely the country’s worst year of job loss on record vary widely. The pandemic and related restrictions led to 22 million job losses in March and April; 12 million have been recovered since then. Economists believe employers added 50,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate rose by a tenth of a percentage point to 6.8%, according to the median estimate of a Wall Street Journal poll.
Some economists believe the economy lost jobs, which would end seven months of gains. Others believe employers added 200,000 jobs or more.
Any of those cases would suggest the recovery continues to lose momentum. After the sharp contraction in March and April, the labor market quickly snapped back to life, adding a total 9.3 million jobs over the next three months. Since then, job growth has eased each month.