Even with the blowout March jobs report, many industries have a long way to go to fully recover

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A server brings food to a table in the outside dining area for Kimmie’s Coffee Cup in Orange, California, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

  • The March jobs report showed big monthly gains in some industries, including leisure and hospitality.
  • However, some industries are still far below pre-pandemic employment.
  • This includes accommodation and motion picture and sound recording.
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Despite the postive jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, some industries are still far below their level of employment before the pandemic.

Nonfarm payroll employment grew by 916,000 in March, and leisure and hospitality made up about a third of those gains. If employment gains continue at this rate, it could take until January 2022 to get back to the pre-pandemic employment level.

Although the March jobs report shows employment is continuing to rise as more people could be eligible to get a vaccine soon and industries that were hard hit last spring are starting to recover, it still could take some time for some of the harder-hit subsectors to get back to where they were before the pandemic.

“It’s great to see progress there, but I think you look at that list and it’s very clear that the big constraint there is the virus, the pandemic,” Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed, told Insider about industries that are still below pre-pandemic levels. “Movie theaters and hotels aren’t going to be able to get back to any semblance of health until we have this pandemic under control.”

He added that for those industries, it really depends on how quickly people can get the coronavirus vaccine and when some of the industries that have had constraints throughout the pandemic, like movie theaters, can safely fully reopen.

The following chart highlights the percent change in employment from February 2020 to March 2021 across industries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics along its vertical axis. We also included median hourly wage data as of May 2020 from the BLS’ National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates program along the horizontal axis.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, many low-wage industries have seen bigger hits to employment, while most high-paying subsectors are near or even above their pre-pandemic employment levels:

As seen in the chart, motion picture and sound recording industries are one of the groups that are still far below where it was before the pandemic. With only 2,900 more jobs added last month, that industry was still 40.3% below February 2020 employment in March 2021.

Although leisure and hospitality saw employment increase by 280,000 last month, the industries that make up this sector are still below their pre-pandemic level of employment. Accommodation and food services is still 16.8% below February 2020 employment and arts, entertainment, and recreation is down 28.3%.

Within accommodation and food services, food services and drinking places saw a monthly gain of 175,800, but is 14.7% below February 2020 employment. Accommodation, which includes businesses like hotels, has even further to go before it recovers, with employment 29.5% below its February 2020 employment level of 2.1 million.

Even though several industries are still slowly recovering, others are actually seeing gains. With a total of over 1 million jobs in March, couriers and messengers are 23.3% above February 2020 employment of 882,800.

Bunker said the question is whether these industries that have supported the work from home economy, like couriers and messengers, will continue to do well once people start to return to work, people are vaccinated, and people feel that it’s safe to go on vacations or eat in-person at restaurants.

“So I guess the question is, are we all going to keep enjoying, keep wanting to buy, like, at-home workout equipment, or are we going to want to go back to classes?” Bunker said as an example. “Are we fine with delivery services or are people really excited to get out to restaurants, and how much do we shift away from some of the things we’ve been doing since March of 2020? “

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10-year Treasury yield nears highest in a year as recovery prospects strengthen

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  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was nearning 1.374%, which would mark the highest level since February 2020. 
  • Yields have been surging as investors sell off bonds on expectations that recovery in the US economy will lead to higher inflation. 
  • Bonds are looking undervalued against stocks, says Bank of America 
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The 10-year Treasury yield pushed close to its highest level in a year on Monday, as the outlook for economic recovery prompted investors to continue selling bonds and search for higher-yielding assets.

The yield hit 1.352%, just shy of a 12-month high of 1.374% logged on Feb. 24, 2020.

The yield on the note has climbed about 43 basis points since the start of the year when it was at 0.92%. Yields rise when prices fall.

The move is part of a broader rise in global bond yields that reflects expectations for further economic recovery and a related pickup in inflation as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

The latest signal of growth in the US economy arrived Monday from the Conference Board. The business think-think said its Leading Economic Index rose by 0.5% in January to 110.3, better than the 0.3% consensus estimate from Economy.

“As the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 accelerates, labor markets and overall growth are likely to continue improving through the rest of this year as well,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, the Conference Board’s senior director of economic research, in a statement. The group now expects the US economy to expand by 4.4% in 2021 following its contraction of 3.5% in 2020.

The 10-year breakeven inflation rate, which measures the market’s inflation expectations, was at 2.14% and recently hit its highest level since 2014, according to Bloomberg data. The breakeven rate is the difference in yield between 10-year Treasuries and 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS. 

Bank of America on Monday said US yields have already reached its year-ahead targets, including the 10-year surpassing 1.30% and the 30-year bond yield above 2.16%.

“This is now realized, but it is over? The biggest risks to current trends include the long-term support levels nearby (yield resistance),” the investment bank said in a note Monday. As well, weekly resistance strength indexes are “starting to flash oversold” signs and bonds are looking undervalued against small-cap stocks “similar to the dot com and [Global Financial Crisis] era,” it said.

Investors ditching bonds have been putting money broadly into equities, fueling a 15% year-to-date surge in the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks.

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One in 3 COVID survivors may suffer from symptoms even after recovery. Researchers don’t yet know how long it could last.

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People with lingering symptoms may experience brain fog, pain, or debilitating fatigue.

  • About one in three people retain symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, says scientist Stephanie LaVergne.
  • Patients with both severe and mild cases are susceptible to lingering symptoms.
  • Researchers are still trying to determine why some symptoms remain and how long they will persist.
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A few months ago, a young athletic guy came into my clinic where I’m an infectious disease physician and COVID-19 immunology researcher. He felt tired all the time, and, importantly to him, was having difficulty mountain biking. Three months earlier, he had tested positive for COVID-19. He is the kind of person you might expect to have a few days of mild symptoms before recovering fully. But when he walked into my clinic, he was still experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and he could not mountain bike at the level he was able to before.

Tens of millions of Americans have been infected with and survived COVID-19. Thankfully, many survivors get back to normal health within two weeks of getting sick, but for some COVID-19 survivors – including my patient – symptoms can persist for months. These survivors are sometimes dubbed long-haulers, and the disease process is termed “long COVID” or post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. A long-hauler is anyone who has continued symptoms after an initial bout of COVID-19.

Numerous studies over the past few months have shown that about one in three people with COVID-19 will have symptoms that last longer than the typical two weeks. These symptoms affect not only people who were very sick and hospitalized with COVID-19, but also those with milder cases.

Long COVID is similar to COVID-19

Many long-haulers experience the same symptoms they had during their initial fight with COVID-19, such as fatigue, cognitive impairment (or brain fog), difficulty breathing, headaches, difficulty exercising, depression, sleep difficulty and loss of the sense of taste or smell. In my experience, patients’ symptoms seem to be less severe than when they were initially sick.

Some long-haulers develop new symptoms as well. These can vary widely person to person, and there are reports of everything from hair loss to rapid heart rates to anxiety.

Despite persistent symptoms, SARS-CoV-2 – the virus itself – is not detectable in most long-haulers. And without an active infection, they can’t spread the virus to others.

Who are the long-haulers?

Patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 are the most likely to have persistent long-term symptoms.

In a study published in July 2020, Italian researchers followed 147 patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 and found that 87% still had symptoms 60 days after they were discharged from the hospital. A more recent study, published in January, found that 76% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China, were still experiencing symptoms six months after first getting sick.

This Wuhan study was particularly interesting because the researchers used objective measures to evaluate the people reporting lingering symptoms. People in the study were still reporting persistent breathing problems six months after getting sick. When researchers performed CT scans to look at the patients’ lungs, many of the scans showed splotches called ground-glass opacities. These likely represent inflammation where SARS-CoV-2 had caused viral pneumonia. Additionally, the people in this study who had severe COVID-19 could not walk as fast as those whose illnesses were less severe – these lung problems reduced how much oxygen was moving from their lungs into their bloodstream. And remember, this was all measured six months after infection.

Other researchers have found similar objective health effects. One study found evidence of ongoing viral pneumonia three months after patients left the hospital. Another study of 100 German COVID-19 patients found that 60% had heart inflammation two to three months after initial infection. These German patients were relatively young and healthy – the average age was 49, and many had not needed hospitalization when they had COVID-19.

The sickest COVID-19 patients are not the only ones to suffer from long COVID. Patients who had a milder initial case that didn’t result in hospitalization can also have persistent symptoms.

According to a recent survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35% of nonhospitalized patients who had mild COVID-19 cases did not return to baseline health 14 to 21 days after their symptoms started. And this wasn’t just in older people or people with underlying health conditions. Twenty percent of previously healthy 18-to-34-year-olds had ongoing symptoms. Overall, research shows as many as one-third of individuals who had COVID-19 and weren’t hospitalized will still be experiencing symptoms up to three months later.

To put these numbers in context, only 10% of people who get the flu are still sick after 14 days.

Long-term symptoms, long-term effects

The medical community still does not know just how long these symptoms will persist or why they occur.

According to recent research that has yet to be peer-reviewed, many long-haulers cannot return to work or do normal activities because of brain fog, pain, or debilitating fatigue. Before my patient got sick, he would bike up a mountain in our Colorado town almost every day. It took him four months to recover to the point where he could climb it again.

SARS-CoV-2 hurts people in more ways than the medical community originally recognized. At Colorado State University, my colleagues and I are studying long-haulers and exploring whether immune system imbalances play a part in their disease process. Our team and many others are diligently working to identify long-haulers, to better understand why symptoms persist and, importantly, to figure out how the medical community can help.

Stephanie LaVergne, research scientist, Colorado State University

The Conversation
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