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The economy added 916,000 jobs in March

But total employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels

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If you’ve been looking for a job, your chances of finding one last month were the best since the coronavirus (COVID-19) shut down the economy 12 months ago.

The Labor Department reports that the economy produced 916,000 jobs last month. In March 2020, as the economy went into lockdown mode, the economy lost 701,000 jobs.

“These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” said William Beach, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, public and private education, and construction.”

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent in March, considerably lower than its recent high in April 2020. However, it is 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. 

Where the jobs are

Your odds of getting hired last month were best if you applied at a hotel or restaurant. Jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 280,000 as pandemic-related restrictions eased in many parts of the country. 

The report shows most of the increase was at bars and restaurants, which accounted for 176,000 new jobs. Despite the big gain, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.1 million, or 18.5 percent, since February 2020.

Teachers and school administrators also accounted for thousands of jobs in March as schools began to reopen for in-classroom instruction. Employment rose by 76,000 in local government education, by 50,000 in state government education, and by 64,000 in private education. 

Jobs in construction increased by 110,000 last month, helping to make up for the 56,000 construction jobs that were lost in February. Employment growth in construction was widespread in March, with gains of 65,000 in specialty trade contractors, 27,000 in heavy and civil engineering construction, and 18,000 in construction of buildings. Employment in construction is 182,000 below its February 2020 level.

Business and professional services, a sector that has remained relatively stable throughout the pandemic, added 66,000 jobs in March. However, total employment in that sector is down by 685,000 from before the pandemic.

Retailers added only 23,000 jobs in March, with clothing stores seeing the biggest gains. Employment in health care was largely unchanged.

Average hourly earnings for all employees fell by four cents to $29.96. 

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