Personal payrolls fell for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in December, according to an ADP report on Wednesday.
The 123,000 decline was a sign that the U.S. economy had cooled significantly by late 2020. The economists polled by Dow Jones had expected growth of 60,000.
The December decline impacted seven straight months of job growth resulting from the massive vacations in March and April when large swaths of the U.S. economy were shut down to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Companies laid off 19.4 million net workers in April and have since regained 9.9 million. This is based on ADP estimates, which are sometimes very different from the Department of Labor’s official monthly payroll. The decline in December followed an increase from 304,000 in November, a number that’s down 3,000 from the original estimate.
At the industry level, the battered leisure and hospitality sector led the cuts at 58,000 as states and municipalities rolled back indoor eating restrictions while outdoor dining became less practical in colder weather.
Almost all of the layoffs came from companies employing more than 1,000 people as hotel and restaurant chains cut staff.
Companies in this category cut 169,000 employees, while small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, which are also part of the bar and restaurant industry, reduced their workforce by 16,000. Franchises lost 5,300 positions and further cuts are expected as Disney and Marriott announced large cuts in December.
Commerce, transportation and supply reduced staff by 50,000 while the other service category was reduced by 12,000 and information services by 6,000. Manufacturing also lost 21,000 jobs and education fell 1,000.
Companies with 50 to 499 employees have created 37,000 jobs.
The growth industries included professional and business services (+12,000), education and health services (+8,000) and construction (+3,000).
The ADP report, which was generated using Moody’s Analytics, is two days ahead of the Department of Labor’s December employment report, which is expected to only grow 50,000 jobs after rising from 245,000 in November.
For most of the pandemic, ADP estimates were below the final government figure. According to the Labor Department, private payrolls rose 344,000 in November, 40,000 more than the final ADP figure.