The gains accounted for nearly a third of overall job growth. (iStock)

The gains accounted for nearly a third of overall job growth. (iStock)

The leisure and hospitality industry bounced back in March, adding 280,000 jobs to the economy as hotels, restaurants and bars continued to reopen across the country.

Bars and restaurants saw the majority of job gains last month, as 175,000 individuals were brought back to work, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hotels added back 40,000 positions.

The gains accounted for nearly a third of overall job growth, according to the bureau, which noted that March saw the largest jump in employment since last fall.

Construction also roared ahead last month with 110,000 new hirings, overcoming weather-related losses in February.

Overall, the economy added 916,000 jobs in March, beating economists’ predictions. The unemployment rate is now at 6 percent, a slight decrease from 6.2 percent in February.

“We fully expect that this pace of job gains will continue for months,” said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, adding that the unemployment rate could fall below 5 percent before the end of the year.

“With the job growth and bright outlook for the remainder of the year, housing demand will remain quite strong, even if mortgage rates increase above 3.5 percent, as we expect,” Fratantoni said.

The recovery, while encouraging, remains uneven; 8.4 million fewer people are employed today compared to before the pandemic, and states like New York are lagging. While U.S. job postings through mid-March were 2 percent lower than before the pandemic, New York state’s declined 13.7 percent over the same period, according to Russell Weaver, director of research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

“Low wage workers, workers of color, and women have shouldered the largest burdens of the pandemic both in New York and throughout the nation,” said  Weaver.

About 1 percent of New York’s labor force made new unemployment insurance claims each week in March, said Weaver, approximately 1.5 times the national average.

Real estate servicers added 11,600 jobs in March. Retail added 22,500 jobs last month, about half the gains it posted in February.

The number of remote workers declined in March, down to 21 percent of the workforce from 23.2 percent in January, suggesting a return to the office will occur gradually.