U.S. Employers Add 379,000 Jobs in February as Economy Rebounds

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February, most of which were in the leisure and hospitality industry.
  • The unemployment rate dropped to 6.2%, from 6.3% in January
  • The unemployment rate for Blacks rose in February, while it dropped for all other races

U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February as employers gained confidence in the economic recovery and started bringing more workers onto their payrolls. It was the second straight month of job gains, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 6.2% from 6.3% in January. The unemployment rate is well below the 14.8% level it hit at the height of the pandemic last April, but millions of Americans have also dropped out of the labor force.

The job gains were concentrated in the leisure and hospitality sector, where 355,000 jobs were added. That sector was hit the hardest amid the pandemic, and the National Restaurant Association estimates that 30% of restaurant jobs were lost in 2020. According to the Labor Department, bars and restaurants gained 286,000 jobs, while hotel-related hiring totaled 36,000 and amusement, gambling, and recreation businesses added 33,000. Despite the gain, the hospitality industry is still 3.5 million short of its employment level from a year ago, just before the pandemic was officially declared and economies were forced to close.

Unemployment by race continues to show an uneven recovery in February. The unemployment rate for Blacks rose to 9.9% from 9.2% in January, while it fell slightly for Hispanics, from 8.6% to 8.5%. Asian unemployment fell to 5.1% from 6.6%, and white unemployment fell to 5.5% from 5.6% last month.

While hiring is accelerating and January’s job gains were revised higher, the U.S. still had 9.5 million fewer jobs last month compared with a year earlier — just before the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. The Senate is now debating the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. The bill proposed extending the extra pandemic unemployment insurance benefits to the end of September, in addition to other measures. Those were set to expire at the end of next week.