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Job Creation Surges in March as 916,000 Positions Are Added

  • Easing of pandemic-related restrictions is helping to fuel major boost in job creation in recent months
  • Leisure and hospitality, education, and construction post the greatest number of new positions in March
  • Jobs report reflects an ongoing labor recovery, but employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Employers in the United States added 916,000 nonfarm payroll positions in March, a strong jobs report reflecting the ongoing resumption of economic activity as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. However, the labor force remains well below pre-pandemic levels and will not reach fully recovery for several months at the current pace.

The Department of Labor also revised previous jobs reports to show higher numbers than previously reported. January’s total was increased by 67,000 to 233,000 newly created jobs, while February’s tally rose 89,000 to 468,000.

Each sector had a net gain in jobs in March, with the exception of flat numbers in the health care and information sectors. However, jobs in each sector remained below the pre-pandemic benchmark of February 2020. The total number of jobs in the United States is down 8.4 million, or 5.5 percent, from that month.

The leisure and hospitality sector, one of the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions, again led growth with 280,000 new positions. These were primarily concentrated in the food service and drinking establishments, with 176,000 new jobs in these locations. There was also a net gain of 64,000 jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation, as well as 40,000 new jobs in accommodation. Overall, the leisure and hospitality sector is still down 3.1 million jobs, or 18.5 percent, compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

A resumption of in-person learning helped fuel gains in public and private education. A total of 76,000 jobs were added in local government education, along with 64,000 in private education and 50,000 in state government education.

Following a drop of 56,000 positions that was likely driven by winter weather conditions, the construction sector added 110,000. Other changes included 66,000 new jobs in professional and business services, 53,000 in manufacturing, and 23,000 in retail.

While the transportation and warehousing sector added 48,000 jobs, the data also showed the severe impact of the pandemic on travel. Ground passenger transportation and transit added 13,000 jobs, but was down by 112,000 (22.8 percent) compared to February 2020. Six thousand jobs were added in air transportation, but the industry was down 104,000 positions (20.1 percent) compared to pre-pandemic figures.

The unemployment rate stood at 6 percent in March, 2.5 points higher than in February 2020. A total of 9.7 million were considered unemployed, including 4.2 million who had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer – up 3.1 million from the long-term unemployment figure of February 2020. The unemployment tally does not include 6.9 million people who are not in the labor force but want a job, or 5.8 million people working part time who would prefer a full-time job.

Average hourly earnings fell four cents to $29.96, while the average work week increased 0.3 hours to 34.9 hours.

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