US Adds 49,000 Jobs in January, But There’s Still Risk of a ‘Double-Dip Recession’

Portrait of female worker driving forklift in warehouse.
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In January 2021, the US added 49,000 jobs, growing after December’s 140,000 decline, the Labor Department said today. The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3% in January and the number of unemployed persons decreased to 10.1 million.

This is below projections, as Dow Jones had estimated a 50,000 increase and Citigroup had projected a gain of 250,000, according to CNBC.

See: Joblessness in the US Is Likely Worse Than the Data Shows
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“The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the department said in a statement. “Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 –3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively,” it added.

In January, notable job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing, according to the department.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which continues to be hard hit by the pandemic, declined by 61,000. Since February, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.9 million, or 22.9% The retail trade sector lost 38,000 jobs in January, and employment in healthcare declined by 30,000 in January. In addition, employment in transportation and warehousing declined by 28,000 in January.

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“We now have 3 disappointing months in a row. We have to admit we’ve stalled out. There’s a danger of double-dip recession,” Austan Goolsbee, professor at University Chicago’s Booth School of Business and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama said, according to a tweet from the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein.

See: What Experts Say 2021 Will Look Like for Your Wallet
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Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates declined over the month for adult men (6%) and adult women (6%percent). Minorities continue to be the most affected groups, with black unemployment standing at 9.2%, Hispanics at 8.6%, Asians at 6.6%, compared to white unemployment standing at 5.7%.

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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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