Weekly unemployment claims increased modestly in December, as many states imposed lockdowns to counter the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Average weekly unemployment claims rose to 836,750 for the month (through December 26) from 747,625 per week in November, according to the Department of Labor.
However, the overall unemployment rate was unchanged in December at 6.7% after seven consecutive months of declines, as previously laid-off workers began returning to their jobs, according to the Department of Labor Employment Situation Report issued January 8. But the rate is still nearly double the pre-pandemic rate in February of 3.5%.
Average hourly earnings increased by $0.23 for the month to end the year at $29.81.
Most sectors post gains
Eight of the 11 sectors of the S&P 500 made gains in 2020, led by Information Technology, up 43.89%, Consumer Discretionary, up 33.30%, Communications Services, up 23.61%, and Materials, up 20.73%. The three sectors that posted losses for the year included Energy, down 33.68%, Real Estate, down 2.17% (with commercial real estate suffering due to the pandemic), and Financials, down just 1.69% after making a strong recovering in the 4th quarter with a 23.22% gain for the quarter.
The chart below shows the results of the 11 sectors for the past month, quarter and year-to-date: