March Jobs Report: Springtime for Recovery is Here

Daniel Zhao

April 2, 2021

The latest jobs numbers are out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. What do they mean for job seekers, employers and investors? Here’s a quick take from Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao.

Springtime is here for the economic recovery, as today's jobs report showed the economy growing at its fastest pace since September. The U.S. labor market added 916,000 jobs in March, accelerating dramatically from a revised 468,000 increase in February. After a winter freeze from the third wave of the pandemic and severe weather, the economy is thawing out.

Payroll Growth Accelerates

Payroll employment rose 916,000 in March, beating expectations. While payrolls are still 8.4 million short of pre-crisis levels, adding jobs back at March's pace will help us recover much faster than if jobs were only trickling back. With the pandemic still going on, it's not yet time to floor it, but the recovery appears poised to continue rapidly in the coming months.

Goods and Services Industries Both Trend Upward

Service-providing industries like leisure & hospitality (+280,000) and public and private education (+190,000) rebounded in March as the reopening reached restaurants and schools alike. Goods-producing industries like construction (+110,000 jobs) also saw strong growth, rebounding from the effects of winter weather in February. 

Unemployment Drops to 6 Percent

The unemployment rate dropped to 6.0 percent in March, down from 6.2 percent in February. However, labor force participation improved only marginally, rising to 61.5 percent. Similarly, temporary layoffs fell to 2.0 million in March from 2.2 million in February, while permanent job losers were largely unchanged at 3.4 million. The above signs indicate job gains are largely coming from pulling furloughed workers back into employment. An open question remains on how quickly workers who have been laid-off or who have fallen out of the labor force can be pulled off the sidelines.

Black Unemployment Rate Falls

The Black unemployment rate fell to 9.6 percent after a surprise jump in February to 9.9 percent. The longer-term view indicates that this improvement, however, is muted with the Black unemployment rate still above January lows.

Looking Ahead

March's jobs report is the most optimistic report since the pandemic began. The end of the pandemic appears to be in sight as vaccine distribution accelerates, and the economic recovery looks like it's champing at the bit. While the pandemic is not over yet, the finish line appears close and the economy is surging forward in a last sprint toward a full reopening. If that momentum continues, we may be looking at a bright summer with monthly gains of over a million jobs, getting us much closer to pre-pandemic employment.

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