This week’s U.S. jobs report will be lowered by the White House due to the short absence of workers as a result of Omicron, which may have overstated the number of unemployed people, Bloomberg reported.
Several White House officials have warned that Friday’s payroll report will be tainted by sickness absences as a result of the holiday season. Federal Reserve officials have also expressed concern.
In his remarks, Brian Deese, the director of President Joe Biden’s National Economic Council, said the number could be confusing because the illnesses are recorded as job losses.
“We expect that that will have an impact on the numbers,” Deese said on MSNBC on Tuesday.
“We never put too much weight on any individual month; this will particularly be true in this month, because of the likely effect of the short-term absences from omicron.”
Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said on Bloomberg TV on Tuesday that, “We’re probably going to have a bad jobs report in the end of this week. I mean just because of omicron.”
James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, said the January jobs data wouldn’t be good either.
Meanwhile, Biden has repeatedly touted employment data as evidence of a robust economic recovery and emphasized the declining jobless rate to counter critics of overheating inflation.
Even though Friday’s report is based on a different survey from the payrolls survey and counts temporary, unpaid sick leave differently, it could still show historically low unemployment.
Getting the Ready to Land
As well as Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned that January’s jobs gain may be less than expected.
A worker who was out of the office “and did not receive paid leave, they are counted as having lost their job,” Psaki stated on Monday. When the data were being collected in January, she said that almost 9 million people missed work because of illness.
“So we just wanted to kind of prepare, you know, people to understand how the data is taken,” she continued.
“As a result, the month’s jobs report may show job losses in large part because workers were out sick from omicron.”
As of January, economists expected nonfarm payrolls to rise by 150,000, the weakest reading for the month since the end of 2020.
According to Bloomberg’s median forecast estimate, the unemployment rate in the United States will remain at 3.9%.