2020 ends. The unemployment rate holds steady and there is an opportunity to reshape⎯and repopulate⎯the nation’s workforce.

JOB GROWTH: The final month of 2020 delivered a loss of 140,000 jobs, due to continued or renewed lockdowns as virus cases spiked across the nation. That followed many months of positive momentum, including the upward revision of the previous two months, which saw another 44,000 jobs in October and 91,000 in November.

TOP INDUSTRIES: The sector most deeply impacted in December was leisure and hospitality, which lost nearly half a million jobs. Those substantial losses overwhelmed smaller job gains in professional and business services, retail trade, construction, and transportation and warehousing.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Despite the overall loss in jobs, the unemployment rate stayed steady at 6.7% in December. 

WAGES: Average hourly earnings rose again in December, but this is less reflective of real wage gains than of the large number of layoffs among lower-paid workers, which raises the overall average for all other jobs. \WORK WEEK: The average work week dropped by one-tenth of an hour to 34.7 hours.

TEMPORARY JOB TRENDS: One of the winners in December was the temporary help sector, which added nearly 68,000 new jobs.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Despite the temporary loss of recovery momentum, the outlook for 2021 remains positive. The distribution of vaccines in the coming months should allow a loosening of the current restrictions and a gradual return to a strengthening economy. There are lots of workers ripe for recruiting into completely new fields and new jobs, including some that posed the greatest challenges to fill pre-pandemic. By adjusting expectations and redefining traditional job requirements in terms of experience, education, transferable skills, training, etc., there is an opportunity to reshape⎯and repopulate⎯the nation’s workforce.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Steinberg Employment Research, CNN, Staffing Industry Analysts, American Staffing Association, CNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, FOX Business, Bloomberg