US employment growth rebounded less than expected in January and job losses the prior month were deeper than initially thought, strengthening the argument for additional relief money from the government to aid the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Labor Department said on Friday nonfarm payrolls increased by 49,000 jobs last month. Data for December was revised to show 227,000 jobs lost instead of 140,000 as previously reported.
December's drop was the first in eight months and came amid renewed restrictions on businesses like restaurants and bars to slow a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
The unemployment rate was at 6.3% in January. The jobless rate has been understated by people misclassifying themselves as being "employed but absent from work."
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising by 50,000 jobs in January.
The closely watched employment report underscored the need for additional relief money from the government, with millions of people experiencing long bouts of unemployment and others having permanently lost their jobs, and given up the search for work. Employment is more than 9 million jobs below its peak in February 2020. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it would not return to its pre-pandemic level before 2024.
President Joe Biden is pushing the US Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion recovery plan, which has been met with resistance from mostly Republican lawmakers, now worried about the swelling national debt. The Senate worked late into the night on Thursday, with Biden's fellow Democrats aiming to override Republican opposition to the sweeping Covid-19 relief plan.