U.S. positive aspects small 199,000 jobs in December and unemployment charge falls to three.9%

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The payment: The U.S. created a lackluster 199,000 new jobs in December, suggesting continued labor shortages and another major coronavirus outbreak are holding back the economy.

Employment growth fell well short of Wall Street’s expectations. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast 422,000 new jobs.

Meanwhile, the US unemployment rate slipped from 4.2% to 3.9% and hit a new pandemic low. The reason: A separate household survey, from which the rate was derived, actually showed a significantly stronger increase in employment for the second month in a row.

The US economy has millions of jobs open.

Robyn Beck / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

The household survey found 651,000 people found jobs in December, after adding 1.1 million in November. While the household survey is less reliable, it sometimes captures changes in employment more quickly than the company survey.

In any case, companies have tried to attract more workers by offering contractual bonuses, higher wages and better social benefits. Hourly wages rose 19 cents, or 0.6%, to $ 30.31.

Wages rose 4.7% in 2021. The last time wages rose so quickly was several decades ago. But even the strong wage increase was not enough to offset the rise in inflation.

Consumer prices rose 6.8% annually through November.

Big picture: Companies cluttered with customer orders are aggressively trying to fill more than 10 million open positions to keep up with demand.

The newest placeholder is the Omicron strain of the coronavirus. It could disrupt business for a month or two, say economists, but the US will likely prove to be as resilient again as it did during the delta wave last fall.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.47% and the S & P500 SPX, -0.10% should open little changed in Friday trading.

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