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December Employment Outlook

December 7, 2020
min read
Celestine Grev

Typically, December brings us a rush, as employers take on additional workers to meet the needs of increased shopping and activity during the holiday season.

While many businesses are still hiring holiday help - particularly for distribution and fulfillment needs due to the pandemic-driven focus on online shopping - this isn’t a typical December. 

Since the weather turned colder, people have moved indoors, which has made the spread of Coronavirus worse. The current surge in COVID-19 cases and increasing state lockdowns are starting to have an impact as businesses are again encouraged to lean on remote work and individuals are encouraged to stay home unless absolutely necessary. With the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings not yet known and restrictions increasing nationwide, it’s likely that we’ll see even more of these effects in next month’s employment statistics.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics’ news release on Friday, December 4th, offers insight into current employment trends across the nation and how this year’s holiday season may be different from the norm. Check out our key takeaways from the report or scroll down for an infographic with some of the most important stats.

  1. November has been the slowest month for recovery since the start of the pandemic. From April’s high unemployment rate of 14.7%, we’ve seen a steady decline in unemployment rate - with a decrease of almost a full percentage point every month. In November, that slowed to just .2% (6.9% unemployment in October compared to 6.7% unemployment in November).
  1. The transportation and warehousing industry is adding jobs quickly. In November, the industry added 145,000 jobs (compared to 63,200 in October) and is now within reach of pre-COVID employment levels - only 123,000 below February. Looking at the warehousing and storage section specifically - a substantial piece of transportation and warehousing - employment is actually 97,000 above what it was in February of this year. When you’re thinking about 2020 trends, the importance of warehousing simply can’t be overlooked.
  1. The hospitality and leisure industry is no longer leading job growth. For the past few months, hospitality and leisure has created more new jobs than any other single industry. In November, that strong growth trend came to a screeching halt, as hospitality and leisure employment stayed essentially flat - adding just 31,000 jobs. The section of food services and drinking places, which contributed most to the hospitality and leisure industry’s gains last month (+192,000 jobs in October) had the biggest impact on this slowdown, with -17,000 jobs in November.
  1. Direct pandemic impact numbers are worth keeping an eye on. The number of employees teleworking because of the pandemic went up in November, from 21.2% to 21.8%. While this isn’t a steep increase, it is a reversal - the number was trending down for the past several months. The number of people who were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic also reversed its trajectory this past month, growing from 3.6 million in October to 3.9 million in November. Previously, the number had been rapidly declining. Whether this is a blip in the trendline or a total reversal remains to be seen.

Learn more from the infographic below:

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