Despite a spike in omicron Covid-19 cases, U.S. employers managed to add over 450,000 jobs last month thanks to robust hiring at restaurants and bars, retailers and mail and parcel delivery workers.
The leisure and hospitality sector, which the Covid-19 pandemic has hit especially hard, added more than 150,000 jobs in the first month of 2022. The gain represents the latest in a string of strong numbers for the sector, which includes restaurants, hotels, casinos and theme parks.
Leisure and hospitality has added an average of 196,000 jobs each month over the last 12 months, well ahead of any other industry as it rebounds from the worst of the pandemic. But thanks to the widespread business closures in 2020, the sector is still short by 1.8 million jobs, or 10.3%, compared to where employment stood in February 2020.
Within the sector, restaurants and bars added 108,000 jobs, accommodation added just over 22,000 and amusement, gambling, and recreation venues tacked on 20,000.
Retail had healthy job gains in January as employers added 61,400 to payrolls, the industry’s second-best print over the last 12 months. Health and personal care stores hired 11,300, department stores added about 12,000 and warehouse clubs rose by 16,700.
“The jobs report blew away expectations across the board. The headline number of 467,000 was multiples above expectations, wages came in hot, and most importantly the labor force participation rate rose all during a period where Omicron cases spiked,” Cliff Hodge, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Wealth, said in an email.
Transportation and warehousing also posted a strong January with a gain of 54,200 jobs as thousands of couriers and messengers returned to the workforce. Workers who pick up and deliver packages and mail saw employment pop by 21,200 last month while warehousing and storage facilities added 13,400.
The U.S. economy hired 7,500 truckers in January 2022, the third-best month of the last 12 for a subset of the U.S. workforce watched closely for supply-chain relief.
“In January, job gains occurred in couriers and messengers (+21,000), warehousing and storage (+13,000), truck transportation (+8,000), and air transportation (+7,000),” the Labor Department said in a press release. “All four of these component industries have surpassed their February 2020 employment levels, with particularly strong growth in warehousing and storage (+410,000) and couriers and messengers (+236,000).”
January was a strong month for the broad professional and business services sector, which added 86,000 jobs, with decent gains among computer system designers and management consultants.
Many economists said they were happy to see the labor force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio both climb 0.3 percentage points in January. The Labor Department said the increase in the participation rate was thanks to a bump in the size of the population in age groups that participate in the labor force at high rates.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.73% month over month, their fastest clip since December 2020. Average hourly earnings were up 5.68% compared to where they were in January 2021, the hottest annual pace since spring 2020.
— CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed reporting.