The White House is girding for negative job numbers for the first time since President Joe Biden took office, Axios reported Monday.
The Bureau of Labor is expected to release January numbers on Friday, when statistics could show negative job growth due largely to the omicron variant.
Difficulties with omicron caused a large number of U.S. workers to miss work this month, says Biden’s team, and they believe the variant's effects will be temporary, Axios reported.
"Forecasters see a large omicron effect on employment in January, but expect that to reverse in future months as we see the wave beginning to come down," David Kamin, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, told Axios.
"That is very different from overall trends in the economy looking ahead."
While Biden’s approval rating has dropped significantly amid rising inflation, a surge of migrants at the southern border and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the job market remained one of the few positives to which the administration could point.
COVID-19 cases spiked in mid-January. The highest seven-day average case count coming on Jan. 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The job numbers will be affected by the amount of hourly workers not paid because they were out sick, quarantining, or because their employer temporarily shut down, Axios said. There also were layoffs of seasonal workers after the holidays.
Forecasters surveyed by FactSet, a financial data and software company, were projecting only 162,500 jobs added in January, which would be the weakest since December 2020. There also was concern that the number might be significantly worse than that.
In early January, 8.75 million people Americans — up from 2.96 million in early December — said they were not working because they were ill with COVID-19 or caring for someone who was, according to a Census survey.
Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending Jan. 22 following three straight increases.
Jobless claims fell by 30,000 to 260,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday; fewer than the 265,000 analysts were expecting.
The four-week average of claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, rose by 15,000 to 247,000, the highest in two months.
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