WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s employers unleashed a burst of hiring in March, adding 916,000 jobs in a sign that a sustained recovery from the pandemic recession is taking hold as vaccinations accelerate, stimulus checks flow through the economy and businesses increasingly reopen.
The March increase—the most since August—was nearly double February’s gain of 468,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate declined from 6.2% to 6%.
Even with last month’s robust increase, the economy remains more than 8 million jobs short of the number it had before the pandemic erupted a little over a year ago. But with the recovery widely expected to strengthen, many forecasters predict enough hiring in the coming months to recover nearly all those lost jobs by year’s end.
Last month, hiring strengthened across the economy. Restaurants, hotels and bars — the sector that was most damaged by the virus — added 216,000 jobs. Construction companies, aided by better weather after severe storms in February, gained 110,000.
Manufacturers added 53,000. And professional and business services, which include such well-paying fields as engineering and architecture, gained 66,000.
In another encouraging sign, about 500,000 women returned to the workforce last month and found jobs, in part a reflection of school re-openings around the country. Women disproportionately quit jobs or stopped looking for work during the pandemic, in many cases because they had to care for children attending school online from home. A reversal of that trend will be important as employers seek to rapidly rehire.
A survey found that manufacturing grew in March at its fastest pace since 1983. And vaccinations are increasingly being administered, although new confirmed infections have risen from lower levels in recent weeks.