Latin girl student wearing face mask studying on laptop. Hispanic professional woman employee in facemask working sitting at table in modern office coworking space keeping safe social distance.

Compared to recent months, March provided some much-needed hope for job recovery, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonfarm payroll employment gained 916,000 jobs in March, nearly triple the 379,000 jobs added in February of this year, but still 8.4 million jobs behind February 2020 levels.

The unemployment rate fell from 6.2% to 6.0%, still 2.5% higher than it was in February 2020. Roughly 9.7 million Americans were unemployed in March — 4 million more than before the pandemic.

Unemployment rates declined steadily for most groups

Unemployment rates improved for most of the major worker groups in March, with the exception of Asian workers, who saw a jump from 5.1% to 6.0%. 

  • Adult men: 5.8% (6.0% in February)
  • Adult women: 5.7% (5.9% in February)
  • Teenagers: 13.0% (13.9% in February)
  • Black/African American: 9.6% (9.9% in February)
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7.9% (8.5% in February)
  • Asian: 6.0% (5.1% in February)
  • White: 5.4% (5.6% in February)

Small improvements in pandemic-related job loss

Long-term unemployment (jobless for six months or more) continued to grow and accounted for 4.2 million people in March, or 43.4% of the total unemployed. This count is 3.1 million higher than it was in February 2020. On the opposite end, the number of those who’ve been jobless for less than five weeks changed little and included 2.2 million people last month. 

For job seekers not currently in the labor force, not much changed in March. This group contained 6.9 million people for the month, 1.8 million more than in February 2020. The labor participation rate also changed little, inching up to 61.5%.

The number of teleworking employees is steadily dropping, this time from 22.7% to 21%. Pandemic-related business closures left 11.4 million people out of work in March, but that’s down from 13.3 million people in February. Also down is the number of people who couldn’t look for work due to the pandemic, falling from 4.2 million to 3.7 million. 

Job gains widespread across industries

After adding 355,000 jobs in February, the leisure and hospitality industry gained back another 280,000 jobs in March. Most of those jobs were, again, in food services and drinking places. But it will take another 3.1 million jobs for the industry to reach its pre-pandemic employment status. 

Other notable gains included: 

  • Public and private education: 76,000 jobs in local government education, 50,000 jobs in state government education, and 64,000 jobs in private education
  • Construction: 110,000 jobs
  • Professional and business services: 66,000 jobs
  • Manufacturing: 53,000 jobs
  • Transportation and warehousing: 48,000 jobs

None of the major industries experienced significant losses for the month.

With vaccinations rolling out and warmer weather rolling in, job counts will hopefully continue their climb toward pre-COVID levels.