America Added 467,000 Jobs in January Despite Omicron Surge

The U.S. has a robust economy despite an incredible rise in COVID-19 case numbers added 467,000 jobs in January—an encouraging signal that, after nearly two years, the economy’s fate is no longer closely tied to the pandemic.

Labor force participation also jumped in January, reaching 62.2 percent—a level not seen since before the pandemic began. This is another sign Americans are looking for jobs. Because of an increasing labor force rate, the unemployment rate slightly rose to 4 percent.

The Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report was released Friday and showed a significantly higher level of optimism than the projections. Some economists expected slow or even negative growth after a month where the omicron variant of COVID-19 had caused widespread disruptions—and an expansion of mask and vaccine mandates in some jurisdictions. The reality is that these expectations have been exceeded. It shows the economy continued to grow despite the continued pandemic.

In fact, Friday’s reports could lead to one conclusion: the pandemic now affects the political, and not the economy.

The Labor Department updated upwards job figures for November and December in the same release. It showed that approximately 700,000 additional jobs were created during these two months. We now have an overall view of the economy in the wake of the omicron wave. This data is combined with the January data. The overall picture looks very positive. Vaccines and other treatments have blunted the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, allowing Americans who wish to resume nearly normal lives to do so—and many have done so, despite the number of new infections.

Officials need to seriously examine the existing pandemic policy frameworks that are still in effect (or were extended in certain cases during the omicron waves). Schools must be open to all and children should not be masked. It is necessary to end government mandates for vaccines and masks. This will allow people and businesses to decide their level of risk. The rest of the country is living with the pandemic, and politicians should take notice—particularly in situations where there is little evidence that those policies are having an effect.

We are not back in the pre-pandemic norm, however. According to data from the government released just a few weeks back, there are approximately 2.9 million jobs less than it had in February 2020. There are also about 60 people unemployed for every 100 job opportunities.

That’s a powerful argument for expanding immigration to help fill job openings—but the Biden administration has so far been unwilling to shed many of the anti-immigration policies imposed by its predecessor.

Suzanne P. Clark was the president and CEO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She stated in a statement that without filling these vacant jobs, we can’t control inflation, clear our supply chains or expand our economy. Clark acknowledged that recent Biden administration actions, such as increasing H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers (which were granted by Biden), are a positive move but said that Congress must “resolve the workforce shortage crisis.”

There is much to be done on the political front of this pandemic. However, the recovery seems to be moving at full speed ahead. Anyone who suffered through the horrible job figures of March 2019 and April 2020 will be happy to hear that this is an amazing and welcomed turnaround within less than two years.

While the pandemic remains, it is almost over. This is great news.