The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in January, while nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+49,000). The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it.
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JANUARY 2021
The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in January, while
nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+49,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus
(COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In January, notable job gains in
professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset
by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in
transportation and warehousing.
This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey
measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The
establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For
more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two
surveys, see the Technical Note.
Household Survey Data
In January, the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent, and the
number of unemployed persons decreased to 10.1 million. Although both measures are much
lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in
February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively). (See table A-1. See the note
at the end of the news release and tables B and C for information about annual
population adjustments to the household survey estimates. See the box note at the end
of this news release for more information about how the household survey and its
measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates declined over the month for adult
men (6.0 percent), adult women (6.0 percent), Whites (5.7 percent), and Hispanics (8.6
percent). The jobless rates changed little for teenagers (14.8 percent), Blacks (9.2
percent), and Asians (6.6 percent). (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff decreased in January
to 2.7 million. This measure is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million
in April but is 2.0 million higher than its February level. The number of permanent
job losers, at 3.5 million, changed little in January but is 2.2 million higher than
in February. The number of reentrants to the labor force decreased in January to 2.0
million. (Reentrants are persons who previously worked but were not in the labor force
prior to beginning their job search.) (See table A-11.)
In January, the number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks decreased to 2.3 million.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 4.0
million, was about unchanged in January and accounted for 39.5 percent of the total
unemployed. (See table A-12.)
After accounting for the annual adjustments to the population controls, both the
civilian labor force and the number of employed persons changed little in January. At
61.4 percent, the labor force participation rate was about unchanged over the month
but is 1.9 percentage points lower than its February level. The employment-population
ratio, at 57.5 percent in January, changed little over the month but is 3.6 percentage
points lower than in February. (See table A-1. For additional information about the
effects of the population adjustments, see table C.)
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 6.0 million,
changed little in January. This measure is 1.6 million higher than the February level.
These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part
time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.
(See table A-8.)
The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job, at 7.0 million,
edged down in January but is 1.9 million higher than in February. These individuals
were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during
the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)
The number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.9 million,
decreased in January. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had
looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4
weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the
marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was little
changed over the month at 624,000. (See Summary table A.)
Household Survey Supplemental Data
In January, the share of employed persons who teleworked because of the coronavirus
pandemic edged down to 23.2 percent. These data refer to employed persons who
teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically
because of the pandemic.
In January, 14.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because
their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic–that is, they did not
work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the
pandemic. This measure is 1.1 million lower than in December. Among those who
reported in January that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related
closures or lost business, 12.7 percent received at least some pay from their
employer for the hours not worked, little changed from the previous month.
Among those not in the labor force in January, 4.7 million persons were prevented
from looking for work due to the pandemic; this measure is little changed from
December. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either
actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)
These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning
in May 2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data
are not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions
for all months are available online at
Establishment Survey Data
Total nonfarm payroll employment changed little in January (+49,000) but is below its
February 2020 level by 9.9 million, or 6.5 percent. In January, notable job gains in
professional and business services and in both public and private education were
offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in
transportation and warehousing. (See table B-1. See the note at the end of this news
release and table A for information about the annual benchmark process. See the box
note at the end of this news release for more information about how the establishment
survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)
In January, employment in professional and business services rose by 97,000, with
temporary help services accounting for most of the gain (+81,000). Job growth also
occurred in management and technical consulting services (+16,000), computer systems
design and related services (+11,000), and scientific research and development
services (+10,000). These gains were partially offset by job losses in services to
buildings and dwellings (-14,000) and in advertising and related services (-6,000).
Since February, employment in professional and business services is down by 825,000.
In January, employment increased in local government education (+49,000), state
government education (+36,000), and private education (+34,000). In both public and
private education, pandemic-related employment declines in 2020 distorted the normal
seasonal buildup and layoff patterns. This likely contributed to the job gains in
January (after seasonal adjustment).
Wholesale trade continued to add jobs in January (+14,000). However, employment in
the industry is 263,000 below its February level.
In January, employment in mining increased by 9,000, with a gain of 8,000 in support
activities for mining. Mining employment is down by 133,000 since a recent peak in
January 2019, though employment in the industry showed little change for several
months prior to the uptick in January.
In January, employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 61,000, following a
steep decline in December (-536,000). In January, employment edged down in
amusements, gambling, and recreation (-27,000) and in accommodation (-18,000).
Employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend down (-19,000).
Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 8.2 million during March and April,
increased by 4.9 million from May to November, and then declined by 597,000 over
the past 2 months. Since February, employment in leisure and hospitality is down
by 3.9 million, or 22.9 percent.
Retail trade lost 38,000 jobs in January, after adding 135,000 jobs in December. Over
the month, employment declined in general merchandise stores (-38,000), electronics
and appliance stores (-29,000), and nonstore retailers (-15,000). These job losses
were partially offset by gains in food and beverage stores (+15,000), clothing and
clothing accessories stores (+15,000), and health and personal care stores (+14,000).
Employment in retail trade is 383,000 lower than in February.
Employment in health care declined by 30,000 in January. Within the industry, job
losses occurred in nursing care facilities (-19,000), home health care services
(-13,000), and community care facilities for the elderly (-7,000). Since February,
health care employment is down by 542,000.
Employment in transportation and warehousing declined by 28,000 in January and is
164,000 lower than in February. In January, job losses occurred in warehousing and
storage (-17,000) and in couriers and messengers (-14,000); however, employment in
these industries is higher than in February by 97,000 and 137,000, respectively.
Employment in air transportation increased by 15,000 over the month but is 105,000
lower than in February.
Employment in manufacturing changed little over the month (-10,000), following 8
months of growth. Within the industry, durable goods lost 17,000 jobs in January.
Employment in manufacturing is up by 803,000 since April but is 582,000 lower than
Construction employment changed little over the month (-3,000), after increasing
for 8 consecutive months. However, employment in the industry is down by 256,000
In January, employment changed little in other major industries, including
information, financial activities, and other services.
In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 6 cents to $29.96. Average hourly earnings of private-sector
production and nonsupervisory employees, at $25.18, changed little (+3 cents). The
large employment fluctuations over the past several months–especially in
industries with lower-paid workers–complicate the analysis of recent trends in
average hourly earnings. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by
0.3 hour to 35.0 hours in January. In manufacturing, the workweek also increased
by 0.3 hour to 40.4 hours, and overtime was unchanged at 3.2 hours. The average
workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 0.2 hour to 34.4 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised down by
72,000, from +336,000 to +264,000, and the change for December was revised down
by 87,000, from -140,000 to -227,000. With these revisions, employment in November
and December combined was 159,000 lower than previously reported. (Monthly
revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government
agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal
factors. The annual benchmark process also contributed to the November and
Table A. Revisions to total nonfarm employment, January to December 2020, seasonally
(Numbers in thousands)
| Level | Over-the-month change
Year and month | | As | | | As |
| As |previously | Difference| As |previously| Difference
| revised |published | | revised |published |
| | | | | |
2020 | | | | | |
| | | | | |
January……… | 152,234 | 152,212 | 22 | 315 | 214 | 101
February…….. | 152,523 | 152,463 | 60 | 289 | 251 | 38
March……….. | 150,840 | 151,090 | -250 | -1,683 | -1,373 | -310
April……….. | 130,161 | 130,303 | -142 |-20,679 |-20,787 | 108
May…………. | 132,994 | 133,028 | -34 | 2,833 | 2,725 | 108
June………… | 137,840 | 137,809 | 31 | 4,846 | 4,781 | 65
July………… | 139,566 | 139,570 | -4 | 1,726 | 1,761 | -35
August………. | 141,149 | 141,063 | 86 | 1,583 | 1,493 | 90
September……. | 141,865 | 141,774 | 91 | 716 | 711 | 5
October……… | 142,545 | 142,428 | 117 | 680 | 654 | 26
November…….. | 142,809 | 142,764 | 45 | 264 | 336 | -72
December(p)….. | 142,582 | 142,624 | -42 | -227 | -140 | -87
(p) = preliminary.
Adjustments to Population Estimates for the Household Survey
Effective with data for January 2021, updated population estimates were incorporated
into the household survey. Population estimates for the household survey are developed
by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each year, the Census Bureau updates the estimates to
reflect new information and assumptions about the growth of the population since the
previous decennial census. The change in population reflected in the new estimates
results from adjustments for net international migration, updated vital statistics,
and estimation methodology improvements.
In accordance with usual practice, BLS will not revise the official household survey
estimates for December 2020 and earlier months. To show the impact of the population
adjustments, however, differences in selected December 2020 labor force series based
on the old and new population estimates are shown in table B.
The adjustments decreased the estimated size of the civilian noninstitutional
population in December by 476,000, the civilian labor force by 200,000, employment by
180,000, and unemployment by 20,000. The number of persons not in the labor force was
decreased by 277,000. The total unemployment rate, employment-population ratio, and
labor force participation rate were unaffected.
Data users are cautioned that these annual population adjustments can affect the
comparability of household data series over time. Table C shows the effect of the
introduction of new population estimates on the comparison of selected labor force
measures between December 2020 and January 2021. Additional information on the
population adjustments and their effect on national labor force estimates is
available at www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cps-pop-control-adjustments.pdf.
Population controls for veterans, which are derived from a Department of Veterans
Affairs population model and are updated periodically, have also been updated with
the release of data for January 2021. Historical data have not been revised.
Civilian noninstitutional population
Civilian labor force
Not in labor force
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Estimates for the above race groups (White, Black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.
|Dec.-Jan. change, after
Civilian noninstitutional population
Civilian labor force
Not in labor force
(1) This Dec.-Jan. change is calculated by subtracting the population control effect from the over-the-month change in the published seasonally adjusted estimates.
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
- Employment Situation Summary Table A. Household data, seasonally adjusted
- Employment Situation Summary Table B. Establishment data, seasonally adjusted
- Employment Situation Frequently Asked Questions
- Employment Situation Technical Note
- Table A-1. Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age
- Table A-2. Employment status of the civilian population by race, sex, and age
- Table A-3. Employment status of the Hispanic or Latino population by sex and age
- Table A-4. Employment status of the civilian population 25 years and over by educational attainment
- Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
- Table A-6. Employment status of the civilian population by sex, age, and disability status, not seasonally adjusted
- Table A-7. Employment status of the civilian population by nativity and sex, not seasonally adjusted
- Table A-8. Employed persons by class of worker and part-time status
- Table A-9. Selected employment indicators
- Table A-10. Selected unemployment indicators, seasonally adjusted
- Table A-11. Unemployed persons by reason for unemployment
- Table A-12. Unemployed persons by duration of unemployment
- Table A-13. Employed and unemployed persons by occupation, not seasonally adjusted
- Table A-14. Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted
- Table A-15. Alternative measures of labor underutilization
- Table A-16. Persons not in the labor force and multiple jobholders by sex, not seasonally adjusted
- Table B-1. Employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail
- Table B-2. Average weekly hours and overtime of all employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted
- Table B-3. Average hourly and weekly earnings of all employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted
- Table B-4. Indexes of aggregate weekly hours and payrolls for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted
- Table B-5. Employment of women on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted
- Table B-6. Employment of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted(1)
- Table B-7. Average weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted(1)
- Table B-8. Average hourly and weekly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted(1)
- Table B-9. Indexes of aggregate weekly hours and payrolls for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted(1)
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