- The March jobs report blew away expectations, adding 916,000 nonfarm payrolls against estimates of 660,000.
- But the US still has about 8.4 million fewer jobs than it did in February 2020.
- At the current rate, employment would recover to that level by January 2022.
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Today’s March jobs report was some of the best economic news the US has seen in recent months, with a net gain of 916,000 jobs, well exceeding economists’ expectations.
But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has blasted such a large hole in the US economy that even at that stunning pace, it could still take several months for the jobs market to recover.
In March and April 2020, the US economy lost a total of about 22.1 million jobs amid the first major wave of the coronavirus’ spread and the subsequent lockdowns in response. Through the rest of 2020, most months saw steady job gains, and by March 2021, there were about 8.4 million fewer nonfarm payroll jobs than February 2020’s prepandemic peak of 152.5 million.
If the economy continues adding jobs at the March rate of 916,000 per month, there will be about 152.4 million in December, just shy of the prepandemic peak. By January 2022, employment would be above that level, with about 153.3 million jobs:
Of course, before the pandemic struck, the US economy was booming, adding around 170,000 jobs a month in 2019. Indeed economist Nick Bunker noted that catching up with that trend would take a little longer, with employment reaching the number of jobs the economy would have had under prepandemic growth rates next summer:
-Nick Bunker (@nick_bunker) April 2, 2021
Whether or not the US economy can keep adding jobs at this pace remains to be seen. The ongoing vaccination campaign should make it safer for more businesses to reopen fully over the next several months, and the Biden administration’s recently passed American Rescue Plan stimulus package and proposed infrastructure bills could provide an extra boost.