The U.S. economy shed 140,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent, according to data released Friday.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had forecast an addition of 50,000 jobs and a slight rise in the unemployment rate to 6.8 percent.
“The decline in payroll employment reflects the recent increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and efforts to contain the pandemic,” the Labor Department said.
Uncertainty about control of the Senate—and, to a lesser extent, the outcome of President Donald Trump’s attempts to continue to contest the presidential election—may also have weighed on the labor market in December. Studies have shown that policy uncertainty can discourage business spending, particularly in less competitive markets. It’s likely that the shutdowns and pandemic have made many areas of the economy less competitive over the past year.