Reflections on the March 2021 BLS Report


We've officially passed the one-year mark of our time affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Though economic recovery has not been linear (or easy), substantial progress in the earlier months paired with "the end' being in sight, has kept our economy sustained in its recovery efforts, even despite slower growth throughout some recent months.

March actually saw the best jobs report in months, with the fastest pace of economic growth since last August. While economic recovery slowed significantly in the winter, multiple factors like increased knowledge about the spread of Covid, a stronger vaccination course and plan for many Americans, and industries hardest hit by the pandemic starting to make a comeback, have converged to give March a strong showing.

The unemployment rate decreased slightly, from 6.2% to 6.0%, and total nonfarm payroll increased by 916,000, almost triple the gain from February. Here is where we're at now:

Screen Shot 2021-04-02 at 10.04.59 AMGraphs from BLS Employment Situation Report

Although 9.7 million Americans are still unemployed, the addition of 916,000 jobs this month marks a substantial improvement, and a faster one than seen in recent months. The 6% unemployment rate we see today is down significantly from the unemployment high of almost 15% seen last April, and even down from the 2008 economic recession high of 8.4%. However, there's still much improvement to be made, as we are 5.5% below the pre-pandemic (February 2020) unemployment level.

Job gains for the month of March were widespread, largely occurring in leisure & hospitality (280,000), public & private education (76,000 and 64,000, respectively), and construction (110,000). Leisure & hospitality, though not quite in full-swing like it used to be, is sure to make a comeback as the pandemic winds down. Almost two-thirds of the increase in jobs seen there were in food and drink services, with gains also being seen in arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation. Education employment grew as more states and districts have shifted to in-person learning. Finally, construction is coming back in a big way, with jobs in building construction, civil engineering, and speciality trade (especially for in-home services while people are staying in), all increasing.

Other job gains were seen in:

  • Professional & business services (66,000, though still down 685,000 since last February)
  • Manufacturing (53,000) in both durable and nondurable goods
  • Transportation and warehousing (48,000, up 23% since last February)
  • Social assistance (25,000)
  • Wholesale trade (24,000) and retail trade (23,000)
  • Mining (21,000)
  • Repair and maintenance (18,000)
  • Financial activities (16,000)

Related: Why are blue collar jobs returning to, and even exceeding, pre-pandemic levels?

This month's household survey data showed that:

  • 21% of employed people worked from home in some fashion due to the pandemic, down slightly from February, and following a trend we have seen for a few months now as more non-work-from-home-eligible jobs return to the economy.
  • 11.4 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. This number is 1.9 million lower than in February.
  • March saw the number of people not in the labor force who were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic fall to 3.7 million people, down from 4.2 million in February.
  • The number of people on "temporary layoff" decreased by 203,000 to 2.0 million. This is still much higher than in February 2020 (700,000), but again, significantly lower than April of 2020 (18.0 million).

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We anticipate continued growth in the next few months, and will continue to research and report on how the economy is doing, especially in this period of accelerating economic recovery. Read more of our research, resources, and reflections over the past year. 

Topics: Recruiting Industry

Updated April 2, 2021