U.S. employers hired far more than expected in March 2021 as the increasing pace of Covid-19 vaccinations continued to spur hiring of leisure and hospitality workers, as well as state and local agencies.
The construction industry also had a strong March as the property market remained healthy and construction resumed after the winter months.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the total number of non-farm workers rose 916,000 last month, the best monthly pressure since August. The unemployment rate fell steadily to 6%.
The total employment surge was better than the Dow Jones polled net profit of 675,000. Although regular trading on the US stock exchange will be closed on Friday due to the Good Friday holidays, the Dow futures rose more than 150 points just before 9 a.m.CET.
CNBC examined the net changes in industry for March jobs based on the data included in the employment report.
Leisure and hospitality, which included some of the worst layoffs in the pandemic a year ago, posted by far the largest net income of the month, adding 280,000 jobs. Food and drink options accounted for nearly two-thirds of the increase (up 176,000), but arts, entertainment and recreation accounted for 64,000.
Although strong hiring for the sector in March followed an even larger net income of 384,000 in February, employment in the leisure and hospitality sectors has declined 3.1 million, or 18.5%, since February 2020.
The food services sub-industry, which includes waiters, cooks and bartenders, saw some of the sharpest declines in the past 12 months as Covid-19 and efforts to contain its spread forced restaurants to close starting last spring. The U.S. economy lost 1.7 million jobs in March 2020 and more than 20 million in April.
Still, economists said the latest data marks a turning point for the U.S. job market and a sign of more robust employment numbers after the virus hit the U.S. job market a year ago.
“Just as important as the large number of jobs are the types of additional jobs. While leisure and hospitality, the hardest hit sectors, have increased the most, other increases show that the economy is broadly being repaired,” said Robert Frick , A corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union, said in an email.
Government recruitment was a ray of hope, up 136,000 in March, as the introduction of the vaccine and economic reopening brought teachers back into class. Employment rose 76,000 in municipal education, 50,000 in state education, and 64,000 in private education.
“Good attitudes in education show that teachers are back to work after schools reopen, and profits in manufacturing ultimately reflect the resurgence of that sector,” added Frick.
Construction employment, boosted by a surge in construction projects in the spring months, rose 110,000 after falling 56,000 in February. The growth in the industry was widespread in March with 65,000 increases in specialist retailers, 27,000 in heavy construction and 18,000 in building construction.
Manufacturing added 53,000 jobs and retailing added 22,500. Health and social care scored 36,400 points and professional and business services rose 66,000.
“Today’s labor market report highlights the strong recovery that is emerging in the service sector of the economy,” wrote Charlie Ripley, vice president of portfolio management at Allianz Investment Management. “The salary data suggests the job market is starting to turn around, but we still have a long way to go before significant progress is made and the job market fully recovers.”
– CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to the coverage.