US tries to get ahead of dire January jobs report

White House

Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 10, about 8.8 million workers reported not being on the job because they were sick with COVID or caring for someone who was, according to the Census Bureau

The White House is trying to get ahead of what is expected to be a dire jobs report for January, casting the blame upon the Omicron variant, claiming it kept workers out sick.

We had omicron and we do expect that that will affect the numbers, White House economic adviser Brian Deese told MSNBC on Tuesday morning.

Early data suggests January’s jobs report will be a tough one. Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 10, about 8.8 million workers reported not being on the job because they were sick with COVID or caring for someone who was, according to data from the Census Bureau.

The highest seven-day average case count was on January 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deese tried to lower expectations for the January numbers, pointing out workers out sick would not have been counted as employed.

When the Department of Labor does the survey, they ask employers how many people are on the job. If somebody was out sick during the week that they asked that question and were not receiving paid sick leave they will not count as employed even if they have stayed on the job, Deese noted.

We expect that that will have an impact on the numbers, he added. Obviously early in January we saw a lot of people out sick for short-term periods. So that may lead to a number that is a little confusing.

He also repeated the White House argument that Biden has seen record jobs growth in his presidency. Biden often touts high job numbers as an indicator the economy is robust and recovering from the pandemic.

We never put too much weight on any individual month. This will particularly be true in this month because of the likely affect of the short-term absences from omicron, Deese said.

The January jobs report will be released on Friday morning.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, on Monday, echoed Deese’s argument.

We just wanted to kind of prepare, you know, people to understand how the data is taken, she said. As a result, the month’s jobs report may show job losses in large part because workers were out sick from omicron.

In another troubling sign, in early January applications for first-time jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, rose to 286,000, according to the Labor Department. It was the highest count since October.

Jobs numbers are based on how many people are working during a ‘survey reference week’ – which is generally around the 12th of the month. For January that was Jan. 9 to Jan. 15.

So January’s job report will not include hourly workers who were out sick, on leave or otherwise out of work during that week.

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