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Almost every major industry saw job growth in January, led by robust gains in leisure and hospitality

A Now Hiring sign hangs near the entrance to a Winn-Dixie Supermarket on September 21, 2021 in Hallandale, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • The US saw a gain of 467,000 jobs in the first month of the year. 
  • Almost all major industries saw monthly gains; leisure and hospitality saw employment grow by 151,000.
  • However, leisure and hospitality has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

January was a strong month of job growth compared to what economists expected to see, and once again restaurants and hotels led the way.

Today’s job report brought another month of gains with 467,000 nonfarm payrolls added. That comes in below last month’s gain of 510,000, which was revised up from 199,000, but well above economists’ expectations for just 150,000 new jobs in January.

“Hopefully we can keep up this strong pace of payroll gains while also potentially seeing some more gains from some of the sectors that have been hit hardest,” Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed Hiring Lab, told Insider. 

Almost every major industry saw some kind of gain in January, as the chart below shows: 

Leisure and hospitality had the largest net gain in the first month of the year, although the industry is still 10.3% below pre-pandemic employment. Food services and drinking places in particular saw a strong gain of 108,200. Accommodation also saw a gain of 22,600.

Despite the strong gains, the unemployment rate remains high in leisure and hospitality, according to a press release from the Independent Restaurant Coalition citing BLS numbers.

“When people working in leisure and hospitality are more than twice as likely to be unemployed, it’s hard to argue the economy is thriving,” Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, said in a release. “More than 90,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic, taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them. This industry employs over a million single moms, is America’s favorite first job, and provides management positions to people of color more than any other industry.” 

Other industries posted large gains as well. “We saw retail and transportation and warehousing both lead very strong jobs gains in January,” Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider.

In fact, Bunker said employment in warehousing and storage is 31% above pre-pandemic levels.

Bunker noted on Twitter retail trade is back to pre-pandemic employment after a gain of 61,400 in January. Bunker said contributing to that recovery has been “returning to some normalcy that people are more likely to go back to stores now, people are vaccinated and that even if you’re concerned about say Omicron you can sort of mask and return to a place.” 

“But also part of this has to do with the fact that there’s also been a shift to online retail,” he added. “I’m sure that has helped improve the recovery for the sector.”

Construction as well as mining and logging saw small job losses in January. Construction employment is almost back to where it was before the pandemic though, just 1.3% below its February 2020 level.

Bunker said the impact of Omicron could have potentially impacted construction since this industry has a high share of paying people weekly. Construction businesses surveyed during the height of the Omicron wave could have been more likely to report job losses than firms in other sectors that are basing their responses to the BLS on longer pay periods that included weeks with lower virus spread. 

After seeing gains for the majority of last year, mining and logging saw a net loss of 4,000. The industry still has some way to go before it reaches employment recovery, where it’s 15.2% below pre-pandemic employment. 

The latest jobs report also brought another month of wage growth as employees raise wages to help bring in workers. Average hourly earnings for all employees rose 0.7% over the month and 5.7% from last January. 

Overall, the US is still 2.9 million jobs below February 2020 payrolls. Despite the monthly gain in January, other figures in the report highlight Omicron’s negative impact on the labor market. 

Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, wrote on Twitter that “there are still clear Omicron effects in this report.” Among the data points noted, Pollak wrote that “3.6 million people were absent from work due to illness” and that “6.0 million people were unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic, up from 3.1 million in December.”

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