U.S. private-sector job growth ramped up in November even as the labor market faces one of the worst worker shortages in decades, according to the ADP National Employment Report released Wednesday morning.
Companies added 534,000 jobs last month, topping the 525,000-job gain that economists surveyed by Refinitiv had predicted. It marked a decline from October, when companies added a revised 570,000 positions.
Leisure and hospitality, the sector hit hardest by the pandemic, accounted for the bulk of the gains, adding 136,000 new positions last month. While employment in the sector – which includes bars and restaurants – is still well below the level it was about one year ago, it's been steadily hiring workers as vaccination rates have increased, business restrictions have eased and more Americans venture out to shop, eat at restaurants and travel.
Professional and business services also made up a significant number of job gains, adding 110,000 new positions last month. It was followed by trade, transportation and utilities, which saw an increase of 78,000, and education and health services, which contributed 55,000.
In all, the service-producing sector contributed 424,000 jobs in November. But the goods-producing sector also played a role in job creation, adding some 110,000 jobs. Manufacturing contributed 50,000, while construction added 52,000. Natural resources and mining increased its payroll by 7,000.
Large businesses that employ more than 500 workers saw the biggest gain last month, with payrolls rising by 277,000. Medium-sized businesses that employ between 50 to 499 employees created 142,000 jobs, while small businesses added 115,000 positions.
The report comes amid newfound fears that the omicron variant of COVID-19 – a highly mutated strain that health officials have said is "of concern" – could derail the global economy's recovery from the pandemic.
While it was not immediately clear how effective the vaccines were against the new variant, mRNA vaccines – such as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna – can be easily updated.
The economic impacts of the new strain – which has been found in Hong Kong, Belgium and Israel, as well as South Africa – were already being felt on Friday, with at least 10 European nations suspending air travel from southern Africa. The 27-nation European Union also recommended an "emergency brake" on travel from southern Africa, citing the "very concerning" new variant
"The labor market recovery continued to power through its challenges last month," said Nela Richardson, ADP's chief economist. "Service providers, which are more vulnerable to the pandemic, have dominated job gains this year. It’s too early to tell if the Omicron variant could potentially slow the jobs recovery in coming months."
The ADP release precedes the more closely watched Labor Department jobs report, which is expected to show that payrolls rose by 550,000 and the unemployment rate inched down slightly to 4.5% when it's released on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET.