It’s no coincidence that the blowout jobs report for March arrived Friday, the same day as new government guidance that Americans vaccinated for Covid-19 can travel safely. As vaccination spreads, millions of Americans are returning to normal commercial and social interaction, and even the most lockdown-loving governors are being forced to ease their restrictions. The U.S. economy is surging back to life right on time.
That was the welcome message from the March gain of 916,000 jobs, plus an upward revision of another 156,000 for January and February. The March gains came across most industries but especially in those most vulnerable to the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality gained 280,000 jobs, nearly two-thirds of that in food services and bars. Hiring also surged in state and local government education (126,000) as more schools reopened.
Our contributor Donald Luskin’s TrendMacro firm reports that the share of the population unable to work due to businesses affected by the pandemic fell to 4.4% in March. Last July it was still 12%. The TrendMacro social distancing index based on cell-phone mobility is also down close to pre-pandemic levels.
The economy is still 7.9 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic peak, but the roaring job gains should continue as the vaccination pace accelerates. The jobless rate fell to 6%, and gains were especially strong for Americans over age 25 without a high-school diploma (to 8.2% from 10.1% in February). This makes sense since they were the workers most vulnerable to pandemic layoffs.
Politicians take credit for sunny days, so it’s no surprise they claim the job gains are the result of the $1.9 trillion bill that became law on March 11. “If the American Rescue Plan could lead to these numbers, imagine what the even bigger, bolder American Jobs Plan will do for our recovery,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.