Pandemic recovery picks up speed as employers add 916,000 jobs

The huge job gain was up from the 468,000 increase in jobs reported for February, which itself was revised up by nearly 100,000 jobs from its initial reading.

The gain was also much better than predicted by economists, who expected a strong but still more modest increase of 647,000 jobs.

Some of the sectors scoring big improvements were among those hurt most badly by the shutdowns associated with the pandemic, including restaurants and bars, which added 176,000 jobs.

State and local education jobs rose by 126,000 as schools started to reopen. Hotels and other accommodations added 40,000 jobs, and the category that includes performing arts, spectator sports and amusement parks added 64,000.
Other big gains came in sectors that have done well the last year, despite the recession. Construction added 110,000 jobs, as commercial projects increased and homebuilding continued to thrive. The jobs gain there was also helped by an easier comparison to February, when severe winter storms shut down construction in much of the country.
Delivery services, such as FedEx (FDX) and United Parcel Service (UPS), which had already posted among the biggest job gains of the last year due to the increase in online shopping, added another 17,000 jobs.

Economists said the report suggests that the labor market could finally be on the path to recovery from the job losses suffered from the pandemic, even if it will still take a while to resume pre-Covid employment levels.

“With the vaccination program likely to reach critical mass within the next couple of months and the next round of fiscal stimulus providing a big boost, there is finally real light at the end of the tunnel,” said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist for Capital Economics.

The unemployment rate improved to 6%, compared with the 6.2% in February. But while some sectors are back to their pre-pandemic employment levels, the overall US economy still has 8.4 million fewer jobs than it did before Covid-19 related job losses started a year ago.

The 6% unemployment rate is the lowest since the start of the pandemic, but it is not quite as strong as it appears. A much lower percentage of the labor force that is without jobs looked for work in the last month — which they need to do to be counted in the unemployment rate.

That could be for a variety of reasons: They are waiting to be called back to work by their previous employer, they have become discouraged about finding a job or they need to stay home with children who have yet to return to school.

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