WASHINGTON — U.S employers added just 49,000 jobs in January, a sign that that the viral pandemic retains a tight grip on the economy nearly a year after it triggered a painful recession.
The tepid increase followed a decline of 227,000 jobs in December, the first loss since April. The unemployment rate for January fell sharply from 6.7% to 6.3%, the Labor Department said today. About half the drop occurred because some of those out of work found jobs, while others stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.
The figures reflect a faltering job market, slowed by a viral pandemic that is still causing consumers to avoid traveling, shopping, dining out, attending entertainment venues and engaging in other forms of face-to-face contact. Nearly 10 million Americans remain unemployed.
Some states and localities re-imposed restrictions on businesses in December as cases spiked. Some of those restrictions were loosened in January, though perhaps not in time to affect the jobs report, which measures employment in the middle of each month.
As hiring has slowed, many employers have continued to lay off workers. The number of applications for unemployment benefits, though declining for the past few weeks, remained at an elevated 779,000 last week.