Vaccines, stimulus boost US jobs

Non-farm payrolls increase the most since August as biggest boom in decades looms

Vaccines, stimulus boost US jobs
Construction workers wait in line to do a temperature test to return to the job site after lunch, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Manhattan. Photo: Reuters

(ATF) Americans are going back to work and a boom is on the horizon.

That was the message from Friday’s non-farm payroll data, which showed U.S. economy created the most jobs in seven months in March.

Vaccinations and additional government pandemic relief money helped boost employment, marking the start of what could be the strongest economic performance this year in decades.

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The Labor Department's closely watched employment report suggested the jobs market has finally turned the corner after hitting a ditch in December. All industries added jobs last month and more people rejoined the labor force. A measure of the economy's ability to create employment also improved.

But the road to full recovery remains long. More than four million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months.

"The economy is roaring back to life," said Brian Bethune, professor of practice at Boston College. 

Non-farm payrolls surged by 916,000 jobs last month, the biggest gain since last August. Data for February was revised higher to show 468,000 jobs created instead of the previously reported 379,000. Still, employment remains 8.4 million jobs below its peak in February 2020.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 647,000 jobs in March. 

The 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.

  • Reporting by Reuters