CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — U.S. employers added a robust 916,000 jobs in March, spurred by increased vaccinations and more pandemic relief money from the government, a sign that the economy is strengthening.
The March increase — the most since August — was nearly double February’s gain of 468,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate declined from 6.2% to 6%.
Even with last month’s robust increase, the economy remains more than 8 million jobs short of the number it had before the pandemic erupted a little over a year ago. But with the recovery widely expected to strengthen, many forecasters predict enough hiring in the coming months to recover nearly all those lost jobs by year’s end.
“The bottom line is this, today’s report is good news,” President Joe Biden said during remarks Friday. “It shows what the country can do when we work together. There’s still a long way to go, but we will get there.”
The closely watched employment report marked a painful anniversary for the labor market. The March 2020 employment report was the first to reflect the mandatory closures of non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars and gyms to slow the onset of the just-emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 1.7 million jobs were lost that month, and another 20.7 million would vanish in April. Economists estimate it could take at least two years to recoup the more than 22 million jobs lost during the pandemic.
“It is remarkable to think how a year ago we were almost drowning in downbeat and discouraging news about the trajectories of the economy and pandemic,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com‘s senior economic analyst. “Now, as confirmed by the latest employment report we are uplifted by improving trends being seen broadly and the prospect of better news ahead.”
Economists expect job growth will average at least 700,000 per month in the second and third quarters. That, combined with the fiscal stimulus and about $19 trillion in excess savings accumulated by households during the pandemic, is expected to unleash a powerful wave of pent-up demand.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.