December Jobs Numbers: Payrolls Rise only 199,000, Unemployment Rate fell to 3.9%, Wages up 4.7%
The U.S. economy added far fewer jobs than expected in December. Nonfarm payrolls grew by 199,000, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.9%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That compared with the Dow Jones estimate of 422,000 for the payrolls number and 4.1% for the unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate was a fresh pandemic-era low and near the 50-year low of 3.5% in February 2020. That decline came even though the labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.9% amid an ongoing labor shortage. Average hourly earnings rose more than expected as the U.S. sees its fastest inflation pace in nearly 40 years. Wages climbed 0.6% for the month and were up 4.7% year over year. That compares with respective estimates of 0.4% and 4.2%.
November Trade Deficit Hits Near Record-High $80.2 Billion
The U.S. trade deficit surged to a near-record high of $80.2 billion in November as exports slowed at the same time that imports jumped sharply. The November deficit was 19.3% higher than the October deficit of $67.2 billion and was just below the all-time monthly record of $81.4 billion set in September, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
Imports, goods Americans bought from other countries, jumped 4.% to $304.4 billion in November while exports, those the U.S. sends overseas, edged up a scant 0.2% to $224.2 billion. Through the first 11 months of 2021, the U.S. trade deficit is 28.6% higher than during the same period last year with the economic recovery in the United States outpacing other nations, as is the readiness of Americans to spend.
New York’s Record Wave of Omicron-Variant Cases Sees Fewer Severe Ones
Fewer New York residents are seeing the worst outcomes of Covid-19 in its latest surge compared with earlier waves, a potential harbinger of what other highly vaccinated parts of the country will experience.
At Northwell Health, New York state’s largest hospital network, about 10% of recent Covid-19 patients are ending up in the ICU compared with 25%-35% in previous surges, said Mangala Narasimhan, director of critical-care services. Fully vaccinated patients are staying for an average of four days, Dr. Narasimhan said, compared with almost two weeks for unvaccinated patients. Patients are generally younger, and a greater share is white than during other surges, she said. Officials in the U.K. and South Africa have also reported lower rates of serious illness from Omicron than previous strains of the virus.
The Supreme Court Signaled it Could Block OSHA’s Nationwide Vaccine Mandate
Justices heard oral arguments on Friday to determine whether or not to halt federal vaccine and testing mandates for health care workers put in place by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and a mandate for private employers with at least 100 workers put in place by the OSHA. Based on the nearly four hours of questions and comments from the justices, experts say that they believe the court is leaning toward issuing a stay on the OSHA mandate, but may let the CMS mandate for health care workers go forward. However, any clear outcome is far from certain.
Business lobbies, religious groups, and states with Republican leaders have led legal challenges against the mandates, arguing the agencies implementing them are overreaching their authority. Meanwhile the Biden administration has contended that these mandates are necessary to protect workers and health care providers amid a global pandemic.
US COVID – Cases, Hospitalizations, Deaths Increasing at Different Rates
Since the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend, daily incidence in the US has increased by a factor of nearly 6, and it has quadrupled since just December 19. The current average of 554,328 new cases per day is more than double the previous record—250,435 on January 11, 2021. The US has reported more than 6 million new cases since December 20. Genomic sequencing data from the US CDC show a continued increase in the prevalence of the Omicron variant across the US. Omicron is estimated to be the dominant variant in all 10 HHS regions, including 8 regions with more than 90%.
Hospitalizations in the US are rapidly approaching a record high as well. The current average is 31% below the record high—124,031 on January 11, 2021—but the trend is increasing rapidly. A surge in hospitalizations could place severe stress on health systems nationwide, particularly in the context of staffing shortages in many parts of the country. Daily mortality appears to have increased slightly over the past several weeks.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of January 9:
One Vaccine Dose
- 85.2% of all New Yorkers – 15,882,286 (plus 17,735 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,649,306 (plus 988).
- 72.4% of all New Yorkers – 14,073,217 (plus 116,380).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,436,881 (plus 111).
- All New Yorkers – 5,061,145
- In the Hudson Valley – 599,146
The Governor updated COVID data through January 8. There were 138 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,859.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 11,747.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 21.71% – 379.43 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 22.83% – 356.99 positive cases per 100,00 population
CDC Recommends First Covid-19 Boosters for 12- to 15-Year-Olds
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Covid-19 boosters for 12- to 15-year-olds, making the doses available to the adolescents for the first time. The CDC decision comes after its advisers had voted 13 to 1 in favor of the children getting the extra dose at least five months after they finished their first round of vaccination.
The dose is the same as that given during the first round of vaccination, and as what adults get.
About half of 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, which predicts about one-third might return for a booster dose.
Labs Limit Covid-19 Test Access -Focus on Symptomatic Cases – as Demand Soars
Escalating demand for Covid-19 tests is prompting some laboratories to ration access, giving priority to people with symptoms or other health concerns as the Omicron variant quickly spreads. Triaging who is eligible for Covid-19 tests can help ensure that patients who need a test the most get results fast enough to isolate or get treatment, pathologists and public-health experts say. The strategy, however, risks perpetuating the virus’s spread if some people get turned away from testing altogether.
Even before the Omicron wave put many people out sick or into quarantine, laboratories were chronically understaffed and heading into their third year of pandemic operations.
WHO: More Variants Will Emerge Amid Vaccine Inequity
As millions more people test positive for COVID-19 amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned that it was “wishful thinking” to believe that the latest variant of concern would be the last to emerge in the pandemic, or work as one that could take the world to a significant level of protection against the virus.
WHO Health Emergencies Program Executive Director Dr. Michael Ryan said in a press conference on Thursday night, January 6, that with billions still unvaccinated worldwide, “there is still plenty opportunity for this virus to spread and to generate new variants.”
Euro Zone Inflation Hit a New Record High of 5% in December
Preliminary data showed Friday that the headline inflation rate came in at 5% for the month, compared to the same month last year. The figure represents the highest ever on record and follows November’s all-time high of 4.9%. The increase was mostly due to higher energy prices.
Inflation has been in the spotlight after consecutive increases in recent months, with money managers debating whether the European Central Bank should be taking a more aggressive stance to combat rising prices. The central bank said last month that it would be cutting its monthly asset purchases, but vowed to continue its unprecedented level of stimulus in 2022.
Manufacturing Adds 26,000 Jobs, Mostly in Durable Goods
Manufacturing added 26,000 jobs in December with durable goods sectors accounted for 20,000 jobs of the gain, according to a breakdown by industry issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Leading the way was machinery, with an increase of 7,700 jobs, and motor vehicles and parts, up 4,200. Other sectors with employment increases included nonmetallic mineral products, up 2,100 jobs, miscellaneous manufacturing (up 2,000), and primary metals (up 1,900)
Manufacturing totaled 12.58 million jobs in December on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was up from an adjusted 12.554 million in November and 12.231 million in December 2020. Employment in manufacturing hasn’t yet fully recovered from COVID-19. Manufacturing jobs are down by 219,000 from February 2020 levels, the last month before COVID-19 began to slam the economy,
U.S. Factory Orders Increase Strongly in November
he Commerce Department said on Thursday that factory orders rose 1.6% in November. Data for October was revised higher to show orders rising 1.2% instead of 1.0% as previously reported. Manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9% of the economy, is being supported by businesses replenishing depleted inventories.
There were increases in orders for computers and electronic products as well as transportation equipment. But orders for machinery fell as did those for electrical equipment, appliances and components.
Jobless Claims: 207,000 Americans Filed New claims Last Week
New unemployment claims rose but remained near a 52-year low last week, with the weekly pace of new claims holding below pre-pandemic levels as the labor market sees job openings near a record high.
- Initial jobless claims, week ended Jan. 1: 207,000 vs. 195,000 expected and a revised 200,000 during the prior week.
- Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 25: 1.754 million vs. 1.678 million expected and a revised 1.718 million during the prior week.
Continuing claims, like new claims, have trended lower, but remained above pre-pandemic levels in the latest data. And in the latest data, they increased slightly by 36,000 to reach a total of nearly 1.8 million, rising from what had been the lowest level since early March 2020 during the prior week.
GM Unveils New Electric Chevrolet Silverado Priced at $39,900 – $105,000
General Motors plans to build a work truck version of its new electric Chevrolet Silverado for commercial customers and a fully loaded luxury model that will retail for more than $100,000 when it launches the new pickup next year. A “WT,” or Work Truck, will be the first truck offered to fleet buyers in spring 2023, followed by a fully loaded $105,000 RST limited first edition model for consumers next fall. GM said the work truck will start at $39,900.
“It will offer a revolutionary mix of capability, performance, safety, flexibility and design that catapults this electric truck for both fleet and retail customers into a category of its own,” GM CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday when unveiling the Silverado EV during a virtual keynote for the CES technology show.
GE Research Partnering with NASA on Venus Spacecraft
NASA recently awarded GE Research, in Niskayuna a three-year, $1.7 million grant to develop an ultraviolet imaging device that would be used on a NASA mission to Venus within the next decade.
GE Research, the main research lab for General Electric Co., has been tasked to design a UV imager that can survive and operate on Venus, where temperatures can reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit – the same temperature as a wood-fired pizza oven. The technology will use silicon carbide semiconductor technology, which GE has developed over decades. The same technology is used by Albany Nanotech for its $500 million New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, to which GE transferred its technology several years ago.