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

outdoor dining
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.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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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