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The Line: Hiring Remained Strong in March

Gregory Heym is Chief Economist at Brown Harris Stevens. His weekly series, The Line, covers new developments to the economy, including trends and forecasts. Read on for the latest report and subscribe here to receive The Line in your inbox.

Non-farm payrolls rose by 431,000 last month, the 11th straight month of employment gains over 400,000. Do you know the last time that happened? Try never. The unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, which is only 0.1% higher than before the pandemic.

Here are more highlights from the report:

  • The biggest job gains were in leisure and hospitality (+112,000) and professional and business services (+102,000).

  • Employment in January and February was revised up by 95,000.

  • The U.S. has gained back 99.0% of the jobs lost during thepandemic.

  • Average hourly earnings rose 5.6% from a year ago.

  • The labor force participation rate—the percentage of people 16 years or older either working or looking for work—rose to its highest level since March 2020.

For those who want more highlights, you can find thefull report here.

So, mostly a great report from the Labor Department today. The only negatives to point out are that economists were looking for employment to rise by 490,000, and wages are still growing at a slower pace than inflation.

That said, the U.S. added 1.685 million jobs in the first quarter, an amazing feat considering COVID-19 was still holding growth back. Another key takeaway here is the increase in the participation rate. We’ve all read about how employers can’t find enough workers, leading to over 11 million unfilled jobs. That’s five million more job openings than thenumber of unemployed workers.

As more people return to the workforce, expect hiring to remain strong in the coming months. How can I be so sure? The biggest impediments to job growth over the past two years—COVID-19 obviously being thebiggest one—are waning. Yet another reason to be optimistic is that jobless claims have stayed at incredibly low levels for the past several weeks.

To sum up:

  • Companies are looking to hire 11 million workers.

  • More Americans are looking for jobs.

  • This means hiring and wages will go up.

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