Almost 200,000 new jobs were added last month, according to the latest release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Although this figure falls below what many analysts forecasted, it still represents forward progress in the economic recovery; of course, the speed of that progress may be slower than ideal, but it’s important to keep in mind that the pace of recovery is moving significantly faster than in any other recent economic crisis. 

Given how closely the jobs report and economic outlook are tied to pandemic-related conditions, it’s interesting to note how case numbers and job numbers are linked. Viewed from this perspective, while the number of new jobs added month-to-month may have decreased by about 17.5%, the number of new, daily COVID infections in the U.S. went down by 30% over the same time period.

In terms of positive milestones, the nation’s unemployment rate dropped below 5% for the first time since the first pandemic wave hit the country back in the spring of 2020. The .4% reduction that occurred this month brings the unemployment rate to 4.8% (down from 5.2% the month prior), which seems to be an encouraging trend. That said, there is still a fair amount of ground to be made up in order for the unemployment rate to return to pre-pandemic levels (at 3.5% in February of 2020). 

The most noteworthy negative indicator, on the other hand, is the number of former workers who are trying to re-enter the job market. This figure went down by almost 200,000 last month after having grown the month before. 

Still, the percentage of employees working remotely because of the pandemic began to slow in recent months, and it may have found equilibrium for the time being with a small month-to-month change at 13.1%.

Approximately 5 million people reported being unable to work last month due to business lost from the pandemic. This number is down from 5.6 million the month prior, representing a significant return to business as usual in many places. Those returns, however, were not experienced across all industries or areas of the country.

The leisure and hospitality industries led the field with 74,000 new jobs, with restaurant traffic picking up again after adding no jobs the month prior. In total, the vast majority of industries surveyed experienced modest growth last month, with professional services, retail, and transportation and warehousing falling in line behind leisure and hospitality, with 60K, 56K and 47K new jobs, respectively. 

Interestingly, among the few industries that lost jobs over the last month, the public education sector (at both the local and state level) tops the list, losing about 150,000 employees as virus-related policy debates rage on. Meanwhile the private education sector remained considerably more stable, losing only 19,000 jobs. 

Similarly, the healthcare sector remained stable, losing only 18K workers last month. However, there are still 524,000 fewer healthcare workers on the job than there were before the pandemic; this data not only underscores the incredible toll those jobs continue to take on frontline workers, but also serves as a reminder that healthcare workers are in high demand. 

Mployer Advisor’s Take: 

All in all, recovery continues. It may not be happening quickly, but no economic recovery can ever happen quickly enough. In situations like these, there is a good argument to be made that slow and steady is the best path forward. If the next couple of months continue to line up with current trends, then we’ll hope that argument holds water.