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U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs in March, crushing expectations

WASHINGTON: The U.S. economy added a whopping 916,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell to 6% from 6.2%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The blowout job gains show how vaccines and the economic reopening are juicing the battered labor market. Economists had been expecting an increase of 675,000.

  • It comes after the economy added 379,000 jobs in February, far outpacing expectations.
  • President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on March 11, which is expected to add another boost to the recovery.
Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: March’s jobs report marked the biggest hiring spree since last summer.

Plus: Job gains in both January and February were even higher (+156,000) than previously reported.

Details: The leisure and hospitality sector (think restaurants, bars, etc.) was the standout with 280,000 new jobs added. But there were broad gains across other industries — construction, manufacturing — too.

  • The unemployment rate for workers without a high school degree dropped from 10.1% to 8.2% — a sharp decline.
  • It also dropped for all racial and ethnic groups, except Asian Americans. Their unemployment rate jumped by nearly a full percentage point.

What to watch: Whether the millions of workers out of the labor force come off the sidelines.

  • Roughly 347,000 came back last month — but there are still 3.8 million fewer people in the labor force compared to the beginning of last year.

The bottom line: These numbers show there’s still more than enough slack in the labor market to support extremely strong jobs growth through the rest of 2021 and beyond.

  • Employment gains slowed down at the end of 2020, but there’s no reason they can’t pick back up again with gusto.

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