Nonfarm payrolls fell by 140,000 in December, the Labor Department said, against the Dow Jones consensus estimate for a 50,000 gain.
President Trump signed a Covid relief bill, giving extra jobless benefits to millions of workers. Aid may not come for weeks and the total amount may be lower.
Come Friday, many low-wage workers across the US are getting a pay bump.
Whether the Biden administration will get the chance to raise the federal minimum wage will likely come down to runoff election in Georgia on Tuesday.
When schools closed because of COVID-19, teachers delivered free food to students at their homes. Many saw poverty firsthand for the first time.
Millions of Americans expect to lose wages in the next four weeks.