Last week saw more bad COVID-19 news for the world as South African scientists identified a new COVID-19 variant now known as Omicron.
This new variant has now been seen in 20 countries across the world, and has recently been found in the US.
Its existence hurt markets as panic set in about whether this could prolong the pandemic even further and therefore negatively impact on the economic recovery.
Unfortunately, today has seen even more bad news for the US and its economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-farm payroll growth only grew by 210,000 jobs in November.
This drop also brings down the average monthly job gains from 582,000 to 555,000.
While Omicron cannot be blamed for this decline, the New York Times rightly notes these labor figures “underscore the economy’s fragility as the pandemic persists”.
Other concerns affecting the job market is the ongoing supply chain crisis and bottlenecks employers are facing in hiring new workers, according to Business Insider.
Worries about the holiday season
The sectors that benefited the most from the November job gains were professional and business services, and transport and warehousing, which added 90,000 and 50,000 respectively.
While there were some gains in leisure and hospitality (+23,000), the employment rate for this sector have stagnated at 7.5% and employment in retail declined by 20,000 in November.
This is particularly concerning as retailers are about the enter their busiest season in the run up to the Christmas holidays. The National Retail Federation predicted that they would need to hire up to 665,000 seasonal workers to achieve record sales over the Christmas period.
So what must retailers do now to attract and retain their workers in December?
Some retailers are doing this through referral bonuses, while others are increasing wages or upping their benefits.
Macy’s is actually doing all three to try and hire 76,000 workers for the holidays. It is offering $500 referral bonuses, as well as improving its education benefits offering with Guild Education and raising its minimum wage to $17 per hour.
Walmart has similarly increased its minimum wage to $17 per hour and has introduced new education benefits.
December’s figures will now be eagerly awaited to see how effective retailers were at hiring, and keeping their businesses alive into 2022.
The world is keeping its fingers crossed Omicron’s health and economic impact is minor.