The labor market in the U.S. is likely to accelerate on its path to recovery as employers are expected to have added more jobs in March than they did in February. 

Economists expect the March jobs report to show a boom in employment in a sign of economic rebound, capping a year of job losses in the pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report to be released April 2, is expected to show a substantial increase over February’s gain of 379,000- the strongest since October last year-, possibly exceeding 500,000.

People who were out of work because of childcare issues, workplace safety issues and reduced job availability are also expected to return to the workforce as vaccination programs ramp up, coronavirus restrictions ease and the weather gets warmer.  

“This rocketship is finally taking off,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the online jobsite, ZipRecruiter. “We saw job gains really slow down in the winter and then in February we saw job openings. March really is the month we’ll actually see this recovery really start to blossom and bloom and do great things.”

Businesses in the service-sectors, especially in the leisure and hospitality industry, are expected to have increased hiring in March because of lessening restrictions. Majority of the gains in February were also in the leisure and hospitality industry.  Although analysts suggest that manufacturing jobs could also see an increase because of warmer weather. 

“The big gain in March will be largely the result of rising consumer confidence and renewed interest in spending on items and experiences that have been dormant for almost a year,” said Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  

While the labor market looks to be recovering, the U.S. still has nine million fewer jobs than it did at the start of the pandemic. In addition, the job market has also missed out on about 12 million jobs that may have been created, considering average job growth, if the pandemic had not happened. And although the unemployment rate has decreased to 6.2% last month from its 14.8% pandemic peak last April, it is still far higher than the 3.5%, a year ago. 

Separately, unemployment claims for state benefits decreased by 100,000 last week, a show of a stronger recovery in the labor market. It was the lowest weekly level of initial state claims since the pandemic disrupted the labor market a year ago.

“With the vaccine, we will start to see jobs streaming back in industries that had been totally depressed because of social distancing,” said Heidi Shierholz, director of policy, Economic Policy Institute.

March’s report is expected to further disprove claims that extended unemployment benefits will discourage people from returning to the workforce. January’s report showed that even with the government benefits extended, employment increased as employers added 49,000 jobs. Economists say this shows that labor market conditions are a more accurate indicator of what workers might do and not another source of income. Workers see the benefits as “a safety net, not a salary.”

While increased jobs look promising, millions of workers  still rely on jobless benefits and government assistance for sustenance to get by as the majority of the jobs added are part time. 

Economists say although the labor market is rebounding modestly, it is unlikely that the U.S. will return to its pre-pandemic level of jobs in the next year. 

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