The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today reported total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 379,000 in February, significantly above consensus estimates. Unemployment rate fell 6.2% or 10 million unemployed persons.
Most of the job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, with smaller gains in temporary help services, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing.
“We continue to be very encouraged by the recovery of the U.S. labor market as reflected in today’s BLS Employment Situation Report, as well as in the rapid search activity growth we’re seeing in our Network of over 300 executive recruitment offices,” said Bert Miller, President and CEO of MRI. “MRINetwork reported double digit month-over-month growth in January, thanks to major bounce backs across our practices in construction, consumer, healthcare, and more.”
The BLS reported 22.7 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 23.2 percent in January. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last four weeks specifically because of the pandemic.
Analysts are growing more optimistic that hiring will continue to accelerate in coming months.
“The labor force will begin a meaningful recovery in mid-2021 as extensive vaccine distribution will push toward herd immunity, reducing health concerns and allowing for a more complete recovery of some hard-hit industries,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Reflecting a similar tone, Nela Richardson, a Ph.D. economist at human-resources software firm Automatic Data Processing Inc. noted, “As we reopen the economy, inch-by-inch, that will unleash consumer spending and drive job growth, especially industries that have been most severely affected by the pandemic.”
As reported by the BLS, in February, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by a robust 355,000, as pandemic-related restrictions eased in some parts of the country. About four-fifths of the increase was in food services and drinking places (+286,000). Employment also rose in accommodation (+36,000) and in amusements, gambling, and recreation (+33,000).
Within professional and business services, temporary help services added 53,000 jobs in February.
Employment in healthcare and social assistance increased by 46,000 in February. Healthcare employment increased by 20,000, following a large decline in the prior month (-85,000). In February, job gains in ambulatory healthcare services (+29,000) were partially offset by losses in nursing care facilities (-12,000).
Retail trade added 41,000 jobs in February. Job growth was widespread in the industry, with the largest gains occurring in general merchandise stores (+14,000), health and personal care stores (+12,000), and food and beverage stores (+10,000). These gains were partially offset by a loss in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-20,000). The retail sector has added 2 million jobs from May 2020 through February 2021.
Manufacturing employment increased by 21,000 over the month, led by a gain in transportation equipment (+10,000).
In February, employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and other services.
Employment decreases were noted in local government education (-37,000) and state government education (-32,000).
Severe winter weather across much of the country likely held down employment in construction where jobs fell by 61,000 in February, largely reflecting declines in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-37,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-21,000).
Of note, the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised up by 117,000, from the previously reported 49,000 increase in January.
“As job growth momentum accelerates in 2021, we are guiding our clients to develop comprehensive flexible workforce solutions that are not simply a “one-size-fits-all” work from home policy. Instead, we recommend that future models incorporate best practices from the virtual environment into a hybrid setup. We do believe that in time the workforce will largely return to in-person collaboration. In the meantime, we are consulting with our clients on the total talent access solutions available to them as they look to regrow their workforce, including contract staffing solutions that fit into an increasingly flexible world of work,” noted Miller.