As springtime blooms in year two of pandemic life, the U.S. economy is showing signs of green. The Labor Department reported Friday that job growth blew past expectations in March, with employers adding 916,000 new workers to their payrolls—far more than the 675,000 increase that economists had forecast.
The numbers represent the largest job gain in seven months, signaling an economic revival after a winter slump. The rise was led by the leisure and hospitality sectors, which produced 280,000 new jobs as multiple vaccines were rolled out to the public and recreation gradually resumed. The dining and restaurant industry added 176,000 jobs, and arts and entertainment added 64,000 jobs.
Education hiring also swelled last month, with local, state, and private schools adding 190,000 workers as students headed back to the classroom, and construction businesses boomed with 110,000 new jobs as winter weather let up.
Payroll gains have tugged down the unemployment rate from 6.2% in February to 6% today, but the coronavirus recession is not over yet—that figure is still well above the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%, and the country has yet to recoup 8.4 million jobs lost during the nationwide shutdowns. According to analysts, continued vaccinations will be key to ending lockdowns for good and pushing economic recovery into full swing; the U.S. is currently administering three million doses per day, and more than 25% of adults have already received one shot.
Stock futures rose following the news early Friday; the Dow Jones traded up 153 points, the Nasdaq up 28 points, and the S&P up 17 points.