The US added 431,000 jobs in March as the coronavirus pandemic receded and employers went on a hiring spree.
The gain was lower than expected but was also the 11th consecutive month of gains above 400,000, the longest such stretch of growth on record. The unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6%, its lowest level since the pandemic struck the US.
The largest gains were in leisure and hospitality which added 112,000 new jobs in March. But other sectors, including professional and business services, which added 102,000 jobs, also showed strong growth.
The US is experiencing record levels of job openings and the number of people quitting their jobs in search of new work is also at a record high. There were 11.3m job openings in the US in February and the worker shortage is pushing up wages.
Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.6%. While the rise represents strong growth, it is still below the rate of inflation, which climbed to an annual rate of 7.9% in February, a 40-year-high.
“There were no signs that the war in Ukraine or the surge in oil prices had put a temporary hold on hiring in any parts of the economy,” Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to investors. “For all the talk about a permanent drop in the labour force, it is now just 174,000 below its pre-pandemic level, with household employment only 408,000 short of its February 2020 level.”
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