The economy added a whopping 379,000 jobs in February, a major improvement from the 49,000 jobs added the previous month and more than double the 175,000 economists predicted.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent from 6.3 percent last month, and the number of unemployed people remained similar at 10 million.
The unemployment crisis has hit some groups harder than others. While the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent for whites, it remained at 9.9 percent for Blacks and 8.5 percent for Hispanics.
The latest jobs data — covering the first full months of the Biden presidency — points to early signs of improvement for an economy still struggling to dig itself out of a deep hole amid the coronavirus pandemic. The number of unemployed people remained similar at 10 million.
The positive report could add ammunition to opponents of President BidenJoe BidenSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Ex-Trump appointee arrested in Capitol riot complains he won’t be able to sleep in jail Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE‘s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, expected to pass in the Senate over the weekend. Critics say the stimulus is too large and risks overheating the economy.
But supporters of the bill noted that even at the high rate of job creation seen in February, it would take a long time to fill the void created by the pandemic recession.
“If you think today’s jobs report is “good enough,” then know that at this pace (+379,000 jobs/month), it would take until April 2023 to get back to where we were in February 2020,” White House Chief of Staff Ron KlainRon KlainWhite House downplays surprising February jobs gain, warns US far from recovery The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by ExxonMobil – Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage Economy adds 379K jobs in first report of Biden presidency MORE Tweeted.
Still, the report was seen as positive news.
“The first jobs report of the Biden Administration shows the US economy is starting to heat up. There is [now] a strong possibility of rapid economic acceleration this spring and summer,” said Josh Lipsky, director of the GeoEconomics Center at the Atlantic Council.
“But the hopes for growth and job gains could quickly get blown back off course if virus variants spread and limit vaccine effectiveness,” he added, saying the relief measure could ensure a smoother recovery.
Most of the job gains came from leisure and hospitality — the sector hit hardest by the pandemic — while improvements in temporary help, health care, retail and manufacturing were smaller.
The sectors that lost jobs included state and local government, education, construction and mining.
The Biden coronavirus relief bill includes $350 billion for state and local governments, though critics say many states have already recovered financially and the aid should be more targeted.
The report found significant drops in temporary layoffs, which fell by 517,000, but that the number of people who have been unemployed for longer periods remained relatively stable, an indication of the more persistent problems likely to plague the jobs market in the coming months.
Updated at 10:23 a.m.