The United States added 379,000 jobs in February, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department—far surpassing the 198,000 new jobs economists were expecting—as hiring rebounded in the leisure and hospitality sectors.
The restaurant industry—one the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic last spring—saw the biggest gains last month with 286,000 jobs added, while state and local government and construction jobs continued to decline.
The unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 6.2% in February from 6.3% in January—it’s clocked in between 6% and 7% for the last five months.
Experts including Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell have warned that this number understates the true scope of the unemployment crisis in the United States since more than four million workers, including a disproportionate number of women and people of color, have left the workforce and are no longer counted in the government’s official tally.
The labor force participation rate held steady at 61.4% last month.
The report again showed huge discrepancies in unemployment by race: the unemployment rate for Black Americans was 9.9% in February compared to 8.5% for Hispanics, 5.1% for Asians and 5.6% for whites.
Overall, there are now 9.5 million unemployed nationwide, down from 10.1 million in January—that means a little less than half of the jobs lost as a result of the pandemic have yet to be recovered.
“While Friday’s jobs report showed signs of strength in the labor market in February, there are still millions of people unemployed and the labor market is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels,” James McDonald, the CEO of Los Angeles-based Hercules Investments, said Friday. “Even with trillions of dollars of monetary and fiscal stimulus, it’s going to take time to completely correct the Covid-19-driven unemployment crisis.”
In a virtual event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Powell described a labor market that has a long road to recovery in the coming months after a major slowdown in hiring over the winter months caused by surging cases of the coronavirus. The head of the U.S. central bank said he has yet to see any significant evidence of recovery and added that it’s “not at all likely” that the United States will return to full employment any time this year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Democrats in the Senate continued the process of advancing President Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue bill this week. Democratic leaders have said they are confident the bill will be finalized and signed into law by the president before the current tranche of enhanced federal unemployment benefits expires on March 14. The new bill would increase the federal supplement to $400 per week and extend it through the end of August.
11.4 million. That’s how many workers will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if Congress does not extend them before March 14, according to a recent estimate by the Century Foundation.
‘Not At All Likely’ U.S. Will Reach Maximum Employment This Year: Fed Chair Powell (Forbes)
Senate Readies More Changes To Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill After Eliminating $15 Minimum Wage And Narrowing Stimulus Check Eligibility (Forbes)
Unemployment Claims Remained High Last Week As Labor Market Recovery Stalls (Forbes)
McConnell Says Republicans Will Fight Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill ‘In Every Way That We Can’ (Forbes)