Hiring picked up last month as states lifted restrictions and stepped up vaccination efforts, with the government reporting on Friday that the American economy added 379,000 jobs last month.
The pace of hiring in February was an unexpectedly large improvement over the gains made in January. It was also the strongest showing since October.
But there are still about 9.5 million fewer jobs today than a year ago. Congress is considering a $1.9 trillion package of pandemic relief intended to carry struggling households and businesses through the coming months.
“What we’re seeing is broad, slow gains,” said Julia Pollak, an economist at the online job site ZipRecruiter. “It’s consistent with a slow reawakening of the labor market after a winter hibernation.”
By Ella Koeze·Seasonally adjusted·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
The unemployment rate in February was 6.2 percent, down from the previous month’s rate of 6.3 percent. But as the Federal Reserve and top administration officials have emphasized, that number understates the extent of the damage.
Most of the February gains came in the leisure and hospitality industries, including restaurant and bars, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. “There’s still a long way to go,” Ms. Pollak said, “but thank goodness it’s moving in the right direction and not continuing to hemorrhage jobs. The industry is a first rung on the ladder and employs so many young people.”
The retail and manufacturing sectors posted small gains. Losses in employment by state and local governments — mostly in education — pared the overall increase, however.
Leisure and hospitality saw gains, but state and local governments lost jobs
Cumulative change in jobs since before the pandemic, by industry
By Ella Koeze·Seasonally adjusted·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
More than four million people have quit the labor force in the last year, including those sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. They are not included in the official jobless count.
The impact has also been uneven. The share of Black women who have left the labor force is more than twice as high as the share of white men.
“We’re still in a pandemic economy,” said Julia Coronado, founder of MacroPolicy Perspectives and a former Federal Reserve economist. “Millions of people are looking for work and willing to work, but they are constrained from working.”
Millions of workers are still relying on unemployment benefits and other government assistance, and first-time jobless claims rose last week, but analysts have offered increasingly optimistic forecasts for growth later in the year.
Recruiting sites have had an increase in job postings in recent weeks. Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a Chicago staffing firm, said the employers he speaks to are “absolutely ready to hire.”
Black and Hispanic workers still have higher unemployment rates
Unemployment rates for Black, Hispanic, Asian and white men
Unemployment rates for Black, Hispanic, Asian and white women
By Ella Koeze·Rates are seasonally adjusted except those for Asian men and women.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
The labor market gained 379,000 jobs in February, yet unemployment rates for Black workers rose, underlining the uneven damage the pandemic continued to inflict.
Unemployment among Black workers climbed to 9.9 percent from 9.2 percent in January. In contrast, joblessness for white workers ticked down to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent in January, and those for workers who identify as either Hispanic or Asian also fell.
Unemployment among Black women over 20 rose to 8.9 percent from 8.5 percent the prior month, while the rate for Black men older than 20 increased to 10.2 percent from 9.4 percent.
The figures can bounce around from month to month, and severe weather across parts of the country may have affected the February data. Still, the picture that emerges is one in which Black workers are making halting progress toward recovering the major job losses they have suffered in the pandemic.
Black people hold 1.5 million fewer jobs than they did a year ago, down nearly 8 percent since the start of the pandemic. White workers, who make up a bigger share of the American population, have lost 6.3 million jobs — down 5 percent.
Economic downturns often have a severe impact on Black workers and hamper their efforts to regain employment afterward. African-Americans had been making strong labor market progress coming into the pandemic, a fact that Federal Reserve officials frequently cite when they talk about their desire to return the economy to the very low unemployment levels that prevailed before the coronavirus struck.
“Over the course of a long expansion, these persistent disparities can decline significantly,” Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said in a recent speech, though he added that “without policies to address their underlying causes, they may increase again when the economy ultimately turns down.”
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark that influences the cost of borrowing for companies and households alike, jumped sharply on Friday morning after the government reported a strong increase in hiring in February.
American employers added 379,000 jobs last month, led by solid gains in leisure and hospitality, which investors seemed to take as a signal that the economy is rebounding. Rates on government bonds have been creeping up since the start of the year as investors bet that big government spending, widespread vaccinations and cheap-money policies from the Federal Reserve would cause the economy to grow more strongly while pushing inflation slightly higher.
The 10-year note rocketed above 1.6 percent shortly after the jobs report, roughly matching its level at the start of the pandemic. That rate had slipped to roughly 0.5 percent last summer.
Fed officials have generally painted the recent increase in bond yields as a sign that investors are growing optimistic, rather than as a problem. The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, said on Thursday that the central bank would be concerned if the move toward higher yields grew messy — as market moves did last year, when trading in key securities became difficult — or if they made credit hard to obtain.
The central bank has been clear that it plans to keep near-zero interest rates in place until it has achieved full employment, stable inflation at 2 percent and an economy headed for a period of slightly faster price gains. Officials have also said they will continue making large-scale bond purchases until the economy has made “substantial further progress.”
“There’s reason to think that we’ll begin to make more progress, soon,” Mr. Powell said on Thursday. “But even if that happens, as now seems likely, it will take some time to achieve ‘substantial’ further progress.”
Eight years, six legislative sessions and thousands of lawsuits: That’s what it has taken Congress to consider a bill that would provide pregnant women with clearer protections at work. Its prospects for passing into law are now better than ever, Alisha Haridasani Gupta and Alexandra Petri report for The New York Times’s In Her Words newsletter.
The issue has a renewed sense of urgency, as the pandemic pushed millions of women out of work. When the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which was first proposed in 2012, was reintroduced last month, it had 225 sponsors, including 19 Republicans.
The law would clarify the “accommodations” that companies should provide for pregnant employees, which are governed by a patchwork of state laws and ambiguous provisions in a 1978 law that made it illegal for employers to consider pregnancy in hiring, firing and promotion decisions.
Courts usually side with employers in pregnancy discrimination cases, a recent four-year study by the advocacy group A Better Balance found. Some of the accommodations that courts have said workplaces were not required to provide included additional bathroom breaks and stools to sit on.
“It’s just a common-sense piece of legislation to help keep women in the work force,” said Representative John Katko of New York, one of the Republican lawmakers backing the bill. It is expected to pass the House in the coming weeks.
Saks Fifth Avenue said on Friday that it would separate its e-commerce business and fleet of 40 stores into two units, a move that enables the company to devote more time and money to its online presence, which has become increasingly crucial during the pandemic.
Insight Partners, a venture capital firm, made a $500 million minority equity investment in Saks’ e-commerce business, valuing the digital arm at $2 billion, the retailer said in a release.
The stores will operate as their own entity. Hudson’s Bay, the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, said on Friday that as separate but related companies, the businesses “will be better able to appropriately plan for and invest in their respective service models.”
The changes will not be visible to customers, who will still see Saks stores and a Saks website. But it will allow the retailer to make new investments in the digital operation, which will lead marketing and merchandising for the whole business. The e-commerce arm will be run by Marc Metrick, who was previously overseeing both parts of Saks. The company said that the stores “will fulfill the physical functions” of the website, like online pickup, exchanges, returns and alterations, establishing a clear hierarchy.
“By separating the dot-com business, we can show investors its value,” Richard Baker, chief executive of Hudson’s Bay, told The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news first on Friday. “Investors don’t want to put their money in bricks-and-mortar retailers right now,” he said.
Jason Kilar of CNN’s parent WarnerMedia and Fox Corp.’s Lachlan Murdoch made news on Thursday — that’s their business, after all — at a virtual conference held by Morgan Stanley. The shifting strategies of the media giants are in the spotlight as the Trump era fades and the pandemic enters its final stages (hopefully). The DealBook newsletter highlighted some of the media moguls’ noteworthy comments:
On the news cycle:
From a ratings point of view, “the main beneficiary of the Trump administration was MSNBC,” said Mr. Murdoch. “And that’s because they’re in loyal opposition, right? They called out the president when he needed to be called out. That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration.”
For CNN, “it turns out that the pandemic and the way that we can help inform and contextualize the pandemic, it turns out it’s really good for ratings,” said Mr. Kilar. He added that “CNN is killing it.” (Later, he said on Twitter, “I wish I could go back and be more thoughtful about my communication.”)
Mr. Murdoch said there was a “plethora of opportunities” for Fox to make acquisitions, from gaming to streaming and elsewhere. (Fox Sports has the option to buy an 18.5 percent stake in the gambling group FanDuel this summer.) It’s worth noting that the two-year moratorium on deal-making following Fox’s sale of 21st Century to Disney has expired.
WarnerMedia will probably be more of a seller, looking to lighted its debt load like it did when selling a stake in DirecTV to TPG last month. “We will continue to be aggressive and disciplined about our focus,” said Mr. Kilar. “And that may include some things that we bring into the company, but it probably also includes things that are not a part of the company.”
And what about longstanding speculation that the company might sell CNN? Mr. Kilar wasn’t asked about it, and has previously suggested that it wasn’t part of his plans.
Stocks on Wall Street rallied on Friday, rebounding from three consecutive days of losses, after new data showed that the pace of hiring picked up in the United States in February.
The S&P 500 rose 1 percent in early trading. Stocks in Europe pared their earlier losses, with the Stoxx Europe 600 climbing into positive territory.
The gains in the stock market came even as yields on government bonds also jumped. Rising bond yields have spooked stock investors, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed above 1.6 percent soon after the jobs report was released on Friday before pulling back slightly. By the start of trading in the stock market, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.58 percent.
The report from the Labor Department showed that employers added 379,000 positions last month, which was well above forecasts for a gain of about 198,000 jobs.
The gain on Friday comes after the S&P 500 had fallen more than 1 percent through Thursday, in what would be its third-straight week of losses. On Thursday, the Nasdaq index closed on the verge of a correction, which is a 10 percent drop from its recent high, as tech stocks have been hit particularly hard by the recent volatility. The Nasdaq rose 1 percent on Friday.
That volatility had been set off by the bond market. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes have climbed for five straight weeks as inflation expectations have risen.
Investors are betting that a robust economic recovery accompanied by a large stimulus plan might lead to higher prices. After a long stretch of low inflation, there are worries that if high inflation re-emerged, central banks would struggle to control it. This would be bad for bonds, and they have been sold off over the past few weeks.
But the pace of the sell-off and rise in yields has caught many by surprise. Higher rates can be a drag on the stock market’s performance because they make owning bonds more attractive, coaxing at least some dollars out of the stock market. Higher rates can also make borrowing more expensive for companies, especially smaller ones that have potential but lack a track record of profitability.
Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, has repeatedly tried to reassure markets that the central bank does not intend to pull back monetary stimulus soon. On Thursday, he said that the Fed would communicate “well in advance” if it planned to slow the pace of its bond-buying program.
Still, his message of patience went unheeded and bonds and stocks dropped on Thursday. Mr. Powell said the Fed was watching the market fluctuations and the rise in yields was “notable.”
Oil futures prices hit their highest levels in more than a year on Friday, rising more than 2.5 percent a day after OPEC and its allies surprised markets by agreeing to hold production mainly steady in April.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, reached as high as $68.50 a barrel, while the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, sold for as much as $65.36.
The OPEC Plus group decided not to pump more oil despite rising prices and forecasts of growing demand.
“OPEC’s decision tightens an already tight market,” wrote analysts at Morgan Stanley in a note to clients after the meeting.
The investment bank estimated that the market would be undersupplied by as much as 1.9 million barrels a day later this year. The analysts said that with restrictions intended to curb the pandemic easing, global oil demand could grow by more than one million barrels a day, or about 1 percent, each month for several months in a row later this year.
Even before the meeting, forecasts were predicting oil prices would rise. Goldman Sachs has forecast that Brent crude would sell for $75 a barrel in the third quarter, and Morgan Stanley says that Brent could go as high as $80 a barrel later this year.
Several factors could blunt the upward momentum. OPEC, Russia and other producers are keeping several million barrels a day off the market and may become increasingly impatient at restraining output. Higher prices may also lead shale producers in the United States to step up production.
The world’s most popular internet message board is thinking about going public.
Reddit, the social network and online bulletin, said on Thursday that it had appointed its first chief financial officer, Drew Vollero, in a move toward tidying up the company’s books before an eventual public offering of its stock.
Mr. Vollero, 55, previously ran financial operations for Mattel, Snap and Allied Universal. His task at Reddit will be building out the financial, audit and accounting functions and leading the company through the process of going public.
“Is Reddit going public?” Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We’re thinking about it. We’re working toward that moment.”
Mr. Huffman said Reddit did not have a timeline, but Mr. Vollero’s appointment indicated that the 15-year-old company was developing its financial operations to be more similar to those of publicly traded peers like Twitter and Facebook. More than 52 million people visit Reddit every day, and it is home to more than 100,000 topic-based communities, or subforums.
For years, Reddit represented a kind of return to the message board era of the internet, where people gathered to discuss topics as varied as makeup and video games. It dabbled in different models and occasionally generated controversy, such as over its role in easing online bullying and the spread of hateful content.
Mr. Huffman, one of Reddit’s co-founders, returned to run the site in 2015. He has changed many parts of the business, working to rein in hate speech and digital abuse and developing the company’s advertising and direct-to-consumer product business. Reddit has revamped its terms of service to outlaw the noxious content that filled some of its subforums in its earlier days.
Reddit has also added to its executive ranks in recent months, hiring a head of security and appointing a new member to its board. In December, the company acquired Dubsmash, a video-focused social app that competes with TikTok. Last month, Reddit raised $250 million in new capital, its largest venture round, valuing the company at $6 billion.
Reddit plans to use the funding to expand its business, including its financial team, Mr. Huffman said. He also wants to make Reddit more mainstream by improving the product or making other investments, he said.
“Reddit can be hard to get at first,” Mr. Huffman said. “It takes a little time. We want to shorten that time.”
Newsmax, the conservative news outlet trying to compete with Fox News in a post-Trump era for viewers skeptical of mainstream media and the Democratic administration in Washington, has a new on-air talent: Andrew H. Giuliani, son of Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The younger Mr. Giuliani, who worked as an aide for former President Donald J. Trump, started this week as a political analyst and correspondent, he said Thursday on a radio show hosted by his father.
“When you walk out of the White House for the last time,” the 35-year-old son said, you wonder “if you’re ever going to do anything in your life that’s going to have the meaning of that.” The Newsmax job is, he added, “obviously a way to continue the meaning that I had found.”
His father, working as a lawyer for Mr. Trump, helped promote the debunked claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. The elder Mr. Giuliani has been targeted in defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems and another voting technology company, Smartmatic.
Newsmax already employs Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s first White House press secretary, as well as the pro-Trump social media stars Diamond and Silk. One of Mr. Spicer’s successors as press secretary under Mr. Trump, Kayleigh McEnany, has appeared recently on Fox News as a commentator.