Memo: December Jobs Report

January 7, 2022 Groundwork Collaborative

The monthly employment data release for December shows that the U.S. economy added only 199,000 jobs, far fewer jobs than expected. Rakeen Mabud, chief economist and managing director of policy and research at Groundwork, says this jobs report – combined with record COVID cases – underscores the deep and urgent need for public investment: 

“If there was ever a jobs report that called for large-scale, continued investment in the things people need to weather this period, this is it. We are not in a healthy labor market or recovery when the white unemployment rate is at 3.2 percent while the Black unemployment rate is more than double that at 7.1 percent.” 

To speak to Dr. Mabud about the December jobs numbers, email And join our monthly tweetchat at 1 p.m. ET today using the hashtag #BeyondTheNumbers.


  • Our economy is still shy 3.6 million jobs since the pandemic began. While overall unemployment dropped to 3.9% – better than the 4.1% estimate – hard-to-find or too expensive child care and record levels of COVID cases driven by Omicron continue to discourage people from returning to work. 
  • The economy continues to leave Black workers, especially Black women, behind. The Black unemployment rate is once again more than twice that of the white unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for Black women rose from 4.9% in November to 6.2% in December. 
  • The pandemic exacerbated these deep inequalities in our labor market — but it did not create them. For decades, policymakers have gutted public investments, cut taxes for wealthy people and corporations, and enacted racist and sexist policies that have systematically devalued the work of women and workers of color. 
  • We must use all of the resources at our disposal to sustain a recovery that reaches all communities and build a labor market that works for everyone. Cancelling student debt, permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit, and raising the minimum wage — not to mention dispelling the myth of “low-skilled labor” — are all worker-centered actions that will help create a just and healthy economy for all of us.


Groundwork Collaborative: The Groundwork Collaborative’s mission is to advance an economic vision for strong, broadly shared prosperity and true opportunity for all.