Here’s where jobs landed in the past month – in one graph

The leisure and hospitality sector dominated hiring in December, as restaurant and bar managers added waiters, cooks and bartenders to their payrolls before the holidays.

This sector saw net employment growth of 53,000 workers, with restaurants accounting for 42,600 of this gain and hotels, motels and other accommodation businesses adding 10,000. Amusement parks, casinos and others leisure companies laid off 6,600 workers in December.

For the year, leisure and hospitality created 2.6 million jobs, but employment itself was down 1.2 million jobs, or 7.2%, since February 2020. Employment in food services is still down 653,000 since February 2020.

The large professional and business services sector was another bright spot in December as well, with computer programmers, management consultants and building maintenance workers (including janitors, landscapers and chimney sweeps) all having recorded decent earnings. The sector added 43,000 net positions.

Hiring in the hospitality and professional services industries helped the US economy as a whole to create 199,000 jobs in December, according to Labor Department data. The unemployment rate fell below 4% for the first time since February 2020 and wages rose 4.7% compared to December 2020.

However, many economists were perplexed by the number of jobs, given the expectations of a gain north of 400,000 jobs.

Overall, this impression had a mixed message – the number of growth in the wage bill may seem disappointing, but the underlying story is the lack of labor availability, which manifests itself in a faster wage growth, ”said Anu Gaggar, global investment strategist for Commonwealth Financial Network, said in an email.

Both manufacturing and construction saw decent hires.

Manufacturers, who created 26,000 jobs overall, added 7,700 machine workers, 4,200 motor vehicle workers and 1,600 furniture workers. The Labor Department noted that about 8,000 of the net gains in the machines reflected workers returning after a strike.

Construction added 22,000 people, with the companies employing heavy and civil engineers (10,400) and specialty contractors (12,900). Construction employment has lost 88,000 jobs from its February 2020 level.

December was a lackluster month for retailing as consumer stores actually lost 2,100 modest jobs in the midst of the all-important shopping season. The Labor Department said sporting, hobby, book and music stores lost 12,500 net positions in December, but warehouse clubs and supercentres registered 15,000.

Government payrolls also recorded net losses in the last month of 2021, with state and local governments laying off 5,100 and 7,800 workers, respectively. Overall, public sector employment fell by 12,000.

CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed reporting.

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