The recovery of the labor market from the damage caused by the COVID 19 pandemic gained additional momentum in March as states continued to ease restrictions and more people received vaccines, boosting employment in the leisure and hospitality industry.
In March, the employers added 916,000 jobs and the gains from February were revised higher to 468,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected the addition of 647,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate meanwhile, ticked to 6%, its lowest level since the COVID- 19 pandemic caused many businesses to temporarily close their doors in March last year. The unemployment rate in April 2020 peaked at a record high of 14.7%.
Despite the gains, the U.S. economy has 8.4 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.
Springtime is here for economic recovery, as the latest employment report showed the economy growing since September at its fastest rate, said Daniel Zhao, Senior Economist at Glassdoor, a job review website. After the first winter freeze from the thawing of the pandemic and severe weather, the economy is thawing out.
The Leisure and hospitality sector added 280,000 jobs last month, with food services and drinking places accounting for 176,000 jobs- or about two-thirds of the gain. Housing and social activities also saw sizable job growth. Employment in the sector is down from the March 2020 level to 3.1 million.
Elsewhere, public and private education added a total of 190,000 jobs as schools resumed in-person learning and other school-related activities.
Construction saw an increase of 110,000 jobs. Among the major working groups, the unemployment rate for Asian workers ticked up 6% while it fell to 7.9% for Hispanic workers.
The black unemployment rate for White workers and White workers was little changed at 5.4% and 9.6% respectively.
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The labor force participation rate was stable at 61.5%, down 1.8 percentage points from its level of February 2020.
Average hourly earnings for all employees on private payrolls fell by 4 cents to$ 29.96 while the average hourly workweek increased to 34.9 hours.