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How omicron is affecting the latest US jobs data

A Walmart cashier checks out a customer.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Not to be sneezed at.
  • Nate DiCamillo
By Nate DiCamillo

Economics reporter based in New York.

Published Last updated

As covid-19 cases begin to dip in the US, economists are getting the first look at the omicron variant’s impact on the labor market recovery.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment in the week ended Jan. 15 rose 55,000 from the previous week to 286,000, the highest point for initial jobless claims since October. At the same time, job openings ticked down in December according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in recent weeks according to Indeed data.

Data from the US Census Bureau also showed that 8.7 million US workers were out sick, multiples higher than previous covid waves.

US workers are experiencing disruptions from covid-19 in a variety of ways

Estimates of the percentages of workers who’ve been kept out of the workplace because of the pandemic range from 2% to the high single digits, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at personal finance website Bankrate. This includes people who are sick with covid, who have been exposed, who are afraid to work, have to care for someone who is vulnerable, or employees of businesses that have decided to temporarily close.

“Not all of these data points are easily captured at the moment, but we have some reason to believe they are occurring or will show up in some fashion,” Hamrick said. “We’ve seen two straight months of less-than-forecast payroll gains and the forthcoming January reading may be less than impressive as well.”

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