According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers added 916,000 jobs to payrolls in March, the most of any month since August of last year. The unemployment rate fell from 6.2% in February to 6%.
Total employment remained down by 8.4 million jobs or 6% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while the unemployment rate was 2.5 percentage points higher.
Amid continuing vaccinations, warmer weather, and loosening COVID-19 restrictions, the leisure and hospitality industry added 280,000 jobs in March — the most of any industry. Almost two-thirds of those positions were at restaurants and bars. Still, the sector remains the hardest hit by the pandemic. Total leisure and hospitality employment was down by 3.1 million jobs or 19% compared to February 2020.
Public and private education added 190,000 jobs in March, the second-largest increase. The BLS attributed this to “the continued resumption of in-person learning and other school-related activities in many parts of the country.” Construction added 110,000 jobs after facing February job losses that the BLS says “were likely weather-related.”
There were 9.7 million unemployed Americans in March. Over 43% of them had been out of work for 27 weeks or more — past the coverage limit of most state unemployment insurance benefits. Long-term unemployed Americans who have exhausted state benefits can receive Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which the American Rescue Plan Act extended through September. The program now offers benefits to unemployed Americans for 53 weeks after their state unemployment insurance ends.
There were 8.2 million Americans without high school degrees working in March, down 10% compared to February of last year. Thirty-two million Americans who graduated high school but never attended college were working in March, down almost 9% compared to before the pandemic. Meanwhile, 58.6 million Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher worked that month, down just 0.3% from February 2020.
There were 9% fewer Black women and 7% fewer Hispanic women employed in March compared to February of last year. Hispanic men, Black men, white women, and white men all reported declines of around 5%. That reflects an improvement for Black and Hispanic men compared to spring and summer 2020, when white men and women alone fared better than other groups.
The BLS does not report seasonally adjusted employment figures by gender for Asian Americans and other racial and ethnic groups. While the unemployment rate fell for Black, Hispanic, and white Americans in March, it rose for Asian Americans — from 5.1% to 6%. At 9.6%, Black Americans had the highest unemployment rate, followed by Hispanic Americans at 7.0%.
For more information on progress against the pandemic and its effects, track vaccinations or explore the COVID-19 Impact and Recovery Hub.
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