U.S. Economy Gains 379,000 Jobs in February
The short month of February saw thousands of jobs return to the United States. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data (as reported by Axios), the U.S. regained 379,000 jobs last month. That result well outpaced the 210,000 jobs that economists had expected to see. Furthermore, it was the best month for growth since October of 2020.
The lion’s share of February’s hiring came from the leisure and hospitality sector. In February, businesses such as hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc. added 355,000 jobs. More specially, 286,000 of those jobs came from what the BLS report described as “food services and drinking places.” A few other categories seeing gains included temporary help services (+53,000), health care and social assistance (+46,000), and retail (+41,000). Meanwhile, one of the largest losses for the month came from local and state government education, which shed a combined total of 69,000 jobs. Additionally, employment in the construction industry fell by 61,000 in February.
As for why the latest report shined brighter than anticipated, there are a few theories. First, as vaccines continue to be rolled out and COVID-19 infections trend downward in many parts of the country, some restrictions are also being lifted. Moreover, with three vaccines now in distribution, President Joe Biden has revised his estimate and now suggests that inoculations will be available to all Americans by mid-May. In turn, businesses may be feeling hopeful about the future. On top of that, winter weather has started to recede — although storms in parts of the country including hard-hit Texas during the past month may have had a negative impact on the February report.
Of course, as past months have proven, it’s impossible to celebrate each month’s job gains without also checking up on the larger context. On that note, the U.S. has lost a net of nine million jobs in the past year, with peak employment reaching a total of 152.5 million jobs just before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy. Because of this, as Glassdoor’s Daniel Zhao noted to MarketWatch, “The economy would need to add almost 1 million jobs a month for the rest of 2021 to return to pre-crisis levels by the end of the year.” Similarly, former Obama administration economic adviser Jason Furman tweeted that, “February was OK but at that pace [it] would take 4-1/2 years to recover.”
Overall, February’s report is encouraging while still falling short of being outstanding. That said, if President Biden’s vaccination goals remain on target, there’s reason to believe that hiring will accelerate tremendously in the coming months. With that, as the United States collectively observes the one-year “anniversary” of pandemic life, there may finally be cause for cautious optimism.