Correspondent in New York
The U.S. labor market added 210,000 jobs in November, a figure well below expectations from analysts and showing how the economy of the world's leading power is currently unable to shake off the Covid-19 pandemic.
The November data was much worse than analysts expected, after a good performance in October, when 546,000 jobs were added, according to data reviewed by the Labor Department. The estimate is that November will confirm the growth rate indicated last month and between 500,000 and 600,000 jobs will be added.
The data, in the absence of its revision, is close to a third of the forecasts from analysts, in another setback for the economic recovery of the world's leading power, which gives mixed signals about its ability to recover a job market similar to the one it enjoyed before the pandemic.
The US has nearly four million fewer workers than in February 2020.
Despite the disappointing data, unemployment fell to 4.2%, a day after it was learned that weekly jobless claims - an indication of the level of layoffs - were at their lowest level in more than half a century.
All this portrays a labor market with high demand for employees, but in which many still choose not to return to work, one of the constants since the US economy began to recover this year with the arrival of the covid vaccine.
The factors for not returning to work are diverse: expectation of higher wages in the face of rising inflation - despite the fact that in November, for example, the salaries grew 4.8%-, extension of subsidies until September, fear of contagion, change of professional course motivated by the pandemic, child care for contagious disorders and, more recently, refusal to be vaccinated against the obligation required by some companies.
58% of Americans believe that there is an abundance of work, according to a survey by the Conference Board, the highest figure since this survey began 43 years ago.
The reality that despite this demand, the labor market is suffering ups and downs shows the fragility of the US economy, also affected by inflation and problems in the supply chain. The concern is greater about the possible incidence of the Omicron variant, whose transmission capacity and resistance against vaccines is yet to be determined, but what could do derail US employment again in one of its peak seasons, that of the Christmas and New Year's Eve parties. The Delta variant already had a detrimental effect on the job market in late summer and now the impact of Ómicron remains to be seen.
The mixed signals emitted by the employment data - weak recovery of jobs, very low unemployment levels - are decisive for regulators. The US Federal Reserve must take measures on the disappearance of stimuli - including the purchase of assets and very low rates - so as not to overheat the economy at a time of rising inflation and calibrating its impact on the labor market is decisive.