Unemployment rates falls to 6%
Job growth in the U.S. boomed in March, as the Labor Department reported the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 916,000 in March and the nation’s unemployment rate edged down to 6%. Job growth was widespread in March, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, public and private education and construction.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for an increase of 675,000 and an unemployment rate of 6%. The total was the highest since the 1.58 million added in August 2020, according to national media reports.
March’s unemployment rate of 6% is still 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4 million higher than in February 2020.
Among the major work groups, the unemployment rate for Asians rose to 6% in March, following a decline in February 2021. The jobless rate for Hispanics edged down to 7.9% over the month, while the rates for adult men (5.8%), adult women (5.7%), teenages (13%) changed little, the Labor Department reported.
“Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff declined by 203,000 in March to 2.0 million,” read a news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “This measure is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 1.3 million higher than in February 2020. The number of permanent job losers, at 3.4 million, was little changed in March but is 2.1 million
higher than February 2020.”
The number of long-term unemployed, or those who have not had a job for 27 weeks or more, was 4.2 million, up by 3.1 million since February 2020.
In March, the long-term unemployed accounted for nearly 44% of the total unemployed. The number of persons jobless for five to 14 weeks declined by 313,000 to 1.9 million. The number of persons jobless less than five weeks, at 2.2 million, was “essentially unchanged” for March, officials said.
The labor force participation rate of 61.5% was 1.8% lower than February 2020. The employment-population ratio, at 57.8%, was up by 0.2 percentage points over the month, but is 3.3% lower than in February 2020.
“The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 5.8 million, changed little in March but is 1.4 million higher than in February 2020,” officials said. “These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.
“The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was about unchanged at 6.9 million in March but is up by 1.8 million since February 2020. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job.”
Last month, 21% of employed persons worked remotely because of the pandemic, down almost 2% from the prior month.
“In March, 11.4 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic — that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 13.3 million in the previous month. Among those who reported in March that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 10.2 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, little changed from the previous month,” officials said.
As previously reported, California’s unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 8.5% in February, as the state’s employers gained 141,000 jobs, according to the California Employment Development Department.
Locally, the unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County was 7.1% in February, down from a revised 7.8% in January. The February unemployment numbers were released after January’s downward-revised month-over loss of 80,000 jobs. December and January combined for a two-month total of 155,400 jobs lost, but February’s gain recovered nearly 91% of that loss, according to the EDD Labor Market Information Division.
Data for March 2021 will be released on April 16.
In terms of the nationwide job growth, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 280,000. This includes 176,000 jobs in food services and drinking places. Job gains also occurred in arts, entertainment and recreation (up 64,000), and in accommodation (up 40,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.1 million, or 18.5%, since February 2020.
With the return of in-person learning and other school-related activities, employment increased in both public and private education. Employment rose by 76,000 in local government education, by 50,000 in state government education and by 64,000 in private education. Overall, employment is down from February 2020 in local government education (down 594,000), state government education (down 270,000) and private education (down 310,000).
Construction added 110,000 jobs in March, following job losses of 56,000 in February that were believed to be weather-related. Gains of 65,000 were experienced in specialty trade contractors, 27,000 in heavy and civil engineer construction and 18,000 in construction of buildings. Employment in construction is still 182,000 below its pre-pandemic level, officials said.
Other job gains were noted in professional and business services (up 66,000), manufacturing (up 53,000), transportation and warehousing (up 48,000) and other service industries (up 42,000).
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised up by 67,000, and February’s was revised up by 89,000. With the revisions, employment in January and February combined was 156,000 higher than previously reported.
President Joe Biden gave remarks on the March job numbers on Friday, and said the first two months of his administration “has seen more new jobs created than the first two months in any administration in history.
“But we still have a long way to go to get our economy back on track after the worst economic and job crisis in nearly a century,” he said. “But my message to the American people is this: Help is here. Opportunity is coming. And at long last, there’s hope for so many families — so many families. Credit for this progress belongs not to me, but to the American people — hardworking women and men who have struggled through this pandemic, never given up, and are determined to get the country back on track, as well as their families.”
The president touted the passage of the American Rescue Plan, as well as the country’s vaccination efforts which he said have turned into “the envy of the world.”
The U.S. administered 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last week, something President Biden said no other country has come close to doing.
For more information on the March 2021 jobs report, visit www.bls.gov.