Following the trend of the last few months before it, February’s contribution to overall job recovery was slow but continued in a positive direction. The unemployment rate decreased slightly, from 6.3% to 6.2%, and total nonfarm payroll increased by 379,000, leaving right around 10 million people unemployed.
Though those numbers are worlds above the lows seen in April of 2020, we still have a long way to go to get near last February’s standing. In February of 2020, the last month Americans experienced without stay-at-home orders and serious COVID worries, unemployment was at 3.5% and unemployment was 5.7 million. Here’s what this month looked like:
Graphs from BLS Employment Situation Report
February saw 379,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy. Job gains for the month mostly occurred in leisure & hospitality, a sector that has suffered through much of the pandemic. As COVID-related restrictions are starting to be rolled back in some states, 286,000 (of the 355,000 jobs added to leisure & hospitality) was in food and drink services – restaurants and bars. Temporary help services added 53,000 jobs, healthcare added 46,000 (after the blow to employment seen in January), retail added 41,000, and manufacturing added 21,000.
As for job losses, education suffered the most this month. Though partially a reflection of skewed employment trends for a sector with seasonal hiring and firing patterns, nonetheless, 69,000 jobs were lost. Construction employment also fell, by 61,000, clearly affected by the severe weather and winter storms seen across the nation.
This month’s household survey data showed that:
- 22.7 percent of employed people worked from home in some fashion due to the pandemic, down slightly from January.
- 13.3 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. This number is 1.5 million lower than in January.
- The number of people not in the labor force in February who were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic fell to 4.2 million people.
Job growth is expected to increase in the months to come as vaccinations gain speed, businesses open their doors wider, and more industries find ways to meet current consumer demand.