US private payrolls unexpectedly decreased by 301,000 in January as the omicron coronavirus variant takes a toll on American companies, according to the ADP Research Institute’s national employment report released on Wednesday.

The market expectation was an increase of 207,000, while the figure for December was revised down from 807,000 to 776,000.

Small and medium businesses shed 144,000 and 59,000 jobs, respectively, while large businesses cut 98,000 in December.

“The labor market recovery took a step back at the start of 2022 due to the effect of the omicron variant and its significant, though likely temporary, impact to job growth,” ADP chief economist Nela Richardson said in the report.

“The majority of industry sectors experienced job loss, marking the most recent decline since December 2020. Leisure and hospitality saw the largest setback after substantial gains in fourth quarter 2021, while small businesses were hit hardest by losses, erasing most of the job gains made in December 2021,” she added.

The US government’s nonfarm payroll report will be released on Friday, with analysts expecting an increase of 150,000 jobs in January after a jump of 199,000 in December.​​​​​​​

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