As Covid restrictions eased, rebounds in the leisure and hospitality and business sectors helped to drive a strong March jobs report.
The U.S. economy added more than 400,000 jobs in the final month of the first quarter, the Labor Department said Friday.
Leisure and hospitality, which includes hotels, restaurants and amusement parks, added a net 112,000 jobs in the third month of 2022. Within the industry, restaurants and bars added 61,000 jobs, hotels and other lodging businesses tacked on 25,000 and amusement, gambling and other recreation climbed 16,400.
The industry, one of the hardest-hit during the worst of Covid-19 and government business shutdowns, has posted 15 straight months of net job gains of at least 100,000. Still, employment in leisure and hospitality has fallen by 1.5 million, or 8.7%, since February 2020.
The wide-ranging professional and business services sector also posted a robust March with a net addition of 102,000 positions. Accountants and other bookkeeping staff had a particularly strong month, with a climb of 18,000.
Computer system designers and management consultants, both of which fall under business services, added 12,300 and 15,100 jobs, respectively. Building services employees, including pest control and landscaping workers, added 22,100.
A top economic advisor to the White House welcomed the March report and said that the print underscores the “incredible resilience” of the labor market as it recovers from the pandemic.
“We’re seeing about 560,000 jobs a month over the last quarter, and that’s been consistent over the last year,” Brian Deese, the director of President Joe Biden’s National Economic Council, told “Squawk on the Street” following the report.
“Importantly, we’re seeing that in broad breadth. And, of course, we’re seeing the unemployment rate now down to 3.6%,” he added. “There’s only been three months in the last 50 years that the United States has had an unemployment rate lower than 3.6%.”
Retail had a decent month with a gain of 49,000, thanks to healthy hiring at grocery stores (+17,800) and warehouse clubs and supercenters (+21,400). Gas station employment rose by nearly 3,000, and motor vehicle and parts dealers added 5,100 to payrolls.
Stores that sell furniture, electronics and building materials all saw minimal losses.
Transportation and warehousing, an industry scrutinized for potential supply chain relief, saw little change over the month, with a loss of 500 jobs. Within the sector, couriers and messengers that deliver mail and packages added 6,700 jobs while truck transportation shed almost 5,000 workers.
The broad health and social services sector added more than 30,000 to payrolls, thanks in large part to unusual hiring for social services workers, which include child-care workers, community food and housing staff and vocational rehabilitation employees.
Social assistance alone added 25,000 jobs last month on top of February’s gain of 30,400. February’s addition was the subsector’s best one-month gain since September 2020.