NEW YORK – The recovery of jobs in the United States gained momentum last month, driven by the fast pace of vaccinations and a new injection of federal aid.
916 thousand jobs were created in March, compared to 416 thousand jobs in February. It is the highest number since August 2020. The unemployment rate fell to 6%, 0.2 percentage point below that registered in February.
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The report released on Friday by the Department of Labor came a year after the pandemic hit the US labor market hard. The American economy lost 1.7 million jobs in March 2020 and more than 20 million in April, when the unemployment rate peaked at almost 15%.
At first, the labor market recovered quickly, but progress began to slow as Covid-19 cases increased and states imposed restrictions on companies.
During the winter months (September to December), the recovery stalled, with employers cutting more than 300,000 jobs in December.
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Biden celebrates, but remains cautious
United States President Joe Biden celebrated data on the largest number of jobs in seven months, but warned Americans that the progress of the economy and the fight against coronavirus could be reversed.
“We still have a long way to go,” Biden told reporters.
And he added:
– In light of this great news, I also need to make this statement clear and direct to the American people: the progress we have worked so hard to achieve can be reversed.
Economists said the latest data marks a turning point. March was the third consecutive month of acceleration in hiring, and even greater gains are likely in the coming months.
March data was collected earlier this month, before most states expanded access to the vaccine and before most Americans started receiving checks for $ 1,400 from the federal government as part of the most recent aid package announced. by President Joe Biden.
“The tide is turning,” said Michelle Meyer, chief economist at Bank of America for the United States.
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The report, she said, “reaffirms the idea that the economy is accelerating significantly in the spring.”
The United States still has millions of jobs less than before the pandemic. Even if employers continued to hire at the pace of March, it would take months to fill that gap.
Covid cases increase again
In addition, the virus remains a risk. Covid-19 cases have increased again in much of the country, as states have begun to ease restrictions.
If this trend turns into a new wave of infections, it may force some states to retreat, preventing the recovery of the labor market and the economy in general.
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Some economists believe a repeat of what happened at the end of last year, when a peak in Covid-19 cases pushed the recovery back.
However, more than a quarter of American adults have received at least one dose of one of the available vaccines against the coronavirus and more than two million people a day are being vaccinated. This should allow economic activity to continue to recover.
– This time is different, and this is because of the vaccines – says Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the website ZipRecruiter. – It’s real this time.
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