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Source: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

America's job recovery hit another hiccup last month.

  • Good news: Nearly everybody who wants a job is getting one.
  • Bad news: The number of people who want a job isn't rising very fast.

Why it matters: A shortage of workers is holding back job creation and America's recovery from the pandemic.

  • Employers added just 199,000 jobs — half as many as economists penciled in. The survey is based on mid-December, before Omicron infections soared.
  • But the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, a fresh pandemic-era low.

What they're saying: "Both sides of today’s report agree the labor market is recovering. The disagreement is just over how fast it is happening," Indeed economist Nick Bunker said in a note.

Between the lines: The monthly jobs report is actually two reports in one, based on separate surveys. Lately they’ve diverged, with employers reporting slowing job creation but households saying more people are finding work.

  • There may be less of a contradiction than it seems. Employers want to create new jobs, and are hiring the formerly unemployed, driving down the jobless rate.
  • But that isn't coaxing more people to work. The share of adults in the labor force was unchanged in December and remains 1.5 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels.

The bottom line: Employers can't hire people who aren't looking for work, and that's holding back job growth.

Editor's note: This piece was updated with further details from the report.

Go deeper

Jan 10, 2022 - Economy & Business

Main Street without workers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As labor grows scarcer and pricier, stores are turning to cashier-less checkout to stay in business.

Why it matters: Businesses increasingly face the almost unheard-of predicament of figuring out how to keep their doors open with fewer — or no — employees.

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.