The U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs in December -- reversing a positive pattern of employment recovery that had been in place since May. Job losses in the leisure and hospitality sectors reflected the recent increase in coronavirus cases in the U.S. and the efforts of states to contain the pandemic. The unemployment rate was steady at 6.7%. Notable job losses occurred over the month in leisure, education and government. The number of jobs increased in the temporary help and courier segments. In December, 23.7% of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, up from 21.8% in November. The number of unemployed persons, at 10.7 million, was up 5 million from the February level. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that another 787,000 people filed initial unemployment claims, and the total of continuous claims was 5.2 million, down from 6.2 million a month ago. These data points indicate that the employment environment, while improving, is still under stress. We expect the unemployment rate will remain high (and the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low) into 2021 as the U.S. economy slowly recovers.
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