US employers add 678,000 jobs as pandemic fears fade

(CN) — U.S. employers created 678,000 new jobs last month, while the jobless rate fell to 3.8%, a pandemic-era low.

the February jobs report released by the Labor Department on Friday morning shows the economy is still on a roll after adding a revised 481,000 jobs in January. Last month’s robust growth exceeded economists’ expectations of about 400,000 new jobs.

Reported cases of the omicron variant of Covid-19 have been steadily declining since the peak in January, no doubt a contributing factor to the strong labor market recovery in recent months.

“If we see more numbers like this moving forward, we can be optimistic for this year,” wrote Nick Bunker, director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab. “Employment is growing at a healthy pace and unemployment is getting closer and closer to pre-pandemic levels.”

The economy is averaging 582,000 new jobs a month so far this year, a rate Bunker said would bring payrolls back to pre-pandemic levels by June.

“If there are no bumps in the road, it could be a really good summer,” he said.

Job growth in February was led by strong gains in leisure and hospitality, the industry hardest hit by the pandemic. It added 179,000 jobs, including 124,000 in food establishments and 28,000 in accommodation. The industry is still down 1.5 million jobs since February 2020.

Professional and business services added 95,000 jobs last month. The sector is up 596,000 jobs from its pre-pandemic level, thanks to 240,000 new positions in interim services, 154,000 in IT systems design and 152,000 in management and consulting technical.

Health care payrolls rose by 64,000 in February, while notable gains were also seen in construction (60,000), transportation and warehousing (48,000), retail trade (37,000 ) and manufacturing (36,000). Public employment has changed little.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell from 4% to 3.8%, the lowest level in the Covid-19 era. The unemployment rate was 3.5% just before the start of the pandemic.

“Two years have passed since the last pre-pandemic employment report. During this period, we have seen dramatic fluctuations as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs, millions were recalled to old jobs and wages have jumped to entice others into new positions,” Bunker wrote. “Now, as we approach the spring of 2022, the labor market should return to some semblance of what we were seeing in February 2020.”

President Joe Biden noted on Friday that 7.4 million jobs have been created since he took office in January 2021. Overall, the economy is still down 2.1 million jobs since February 2020. .

“This progress is the result of the new economic approach I spoke about in the State of the Union – growing the economy from the bottom up and from the bottom up. And it is the result of our success in fighting Covid-19 and moving forward safely,” Biden said in a statement.

He added, “While we must tackle head-on the challenge facing families with rising costs, today’s report underscores that the United States is uniquely positioned to meet the challenge that the inflation has posed across the world as we recover from the pandemic”.

The rise in hiring this year comes amid waning concerns about the coronavirus. A survey published last week by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that only 24% of Americans are very worried about themselves or a family member infected with Covid-19, compared to 36% in December and January, when the variant omicron has caused a spike in infections nationwide.

As the job market continues to recover and inflation becomes the primary economic concern, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates this month. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in late January that the economy was “much stronger” now than it was in 2015, when the central bank began raising interest rates after the last economic downturn.

Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a statement on Friday that “the real economy has considerable momentum.”

“This will give the Fed greater confidence to move forward with its planned policy tightening but, with wage growth now stabilizing, there is arguably less pressure for officials to accelerate a series rate hikes over the next few months,” Pearce said. .

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