The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has disrupted business and kept millions of people at home from work. But in December, at least, it did not do much to cool the red-hot labor market.
Employers posted 10.9 million open jobs in the last month of 2021, the Department of Labor said Tuesday. That was modestly up from November, and close to the record 11.1 million openings in July. In December, there were about 1.7 jobs open to any unemployed worker, most in the two decades the government has maintained.
Predictors had expected that the jump in cases of coronavirus would lead to a withdrawal in recruitment, and a delay is still possible. Nationally, cases of coronavirus did not reach their peak until mid-January, and they are still growing in some parts of the country.
The virus kept millions of workers at home in December and January, leaving many companies short of staff and some forced to close or limit their hours. That has probably forced some companies to postpone hiring.
But so far there is not much evidence that Omicron has derailed a strong labor market. Employers laid off or laid off only 1.2 million workers in December, the lowest on record.
Many workers benefit from their leverage by looking for better jobs. More than 4.3 million workers leave their jobs voluntarily, slightly less than in November, but still close to a record.
Economists will get a more up-to-date snapshot of the labor market on Friday, when the Labor Department publishes data on job growth and unemployment in January. Forecasters surveyed by FactSet expect the report to show that employers added 165,000 jobs. But Omicron has created an unusual amount of uncertainty and some economists believe the report last month could show a net job loss.