January Jobs Report: Above Analysts’ Expectations at 467,000, Despite Omicron and Tight Labor Market

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Despite the Omicron surge and a tight labor market, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 467,000 in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Feb. 4. This was well above analysts’ expectations. The growth was driven by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and transportation and warehousing.

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The unemployment rate was little changed at 4%, according to the BLS report. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected employers to add just 150,000 jobs last month.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of global job search engine Adzuna, told GOBankingRates that today’s jobs report came in above expectations.  

“The million-dollar question for employers remains how to hire more workers from a smaller talent pool. Employment fell significantly over 2021, partly driven by the ‘Great Retirement’ which saw older workers dropping out of the labor force early,” Hunter added.  “Front-line, lower-paid roles remain difficult to fill. Employers need to be competitive in order to hire and pushing salary transparency could be a meaningful way for them to stand out.”

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He added, however, that higher wages alone aren’t enough to keep workers from looking for new opportunities elsewhere, and employers need to get creative with their benefits packages and workplace perks to offer the lucrative, relevant culture and experiences their staff really want.

“Employers are slowly but surely finding creative solutions to address labor market imbalances, and although many employees are resigning from their current roles amid the ‘Great Resignation,’ they’re pursuing opportunities elsewhere in the market that better align with their ambitions and aspirations. Finally, workers who left the market temporarily during COVID-19 are coming back — not as soon as we want them to, but as the pandemic eases we can certainly expect them to return,” he said.

In January, professional and business services added 86,000 jobs. Job gains occurred in management and technical consulting services, computer systems design and related services, architectural and engineering services, and other professional and technical services, according to the announcement.

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Employment in temporary help services continued to trend up as well, and employment in professional and business services is 511,000 higher than in February 2020. This is largely attributed to temporary help services, computer systems design and related services, and management and technical consulting services.

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Additionally, the retail trade, transportation and warehousing, healthcare and wholesale trade sectors all saw growth.

The report comes on the heels of the ADP National Employment Report released Feb. 2., which showed that private sector employment decreased by 301,000 jobs in December — largely due to the effects of the Omicron variant — indicating a significant drop following November’s 807,000 jobs addition, according to the report.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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