The number of jobs hired in the US in February exceeded expectations thanks to a sharp recovery in restaurant and hospitality attitudes that had passed out all winter.
The Labor Department reported Friday that non-farm workers rose 379,000 in February 2021 as leisure and hospitality companies hired workers in droves. The unemployment rate fell to 6.2%.
The total employment surge was better than the Dow Jones polled economic profit of 210,000.
CNBC examined the net changes in industry for February jobs based on the data included in the employment report.
The ailing leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels, museums, resorts, restaurants and amusement parks, posted by far the largest net income of the month, adding 355,000 jobs. Although some people were hired at entertainment venues such as galleries and casinos, the catering service made the largest contribution to profits with a net hire of 285,900.
This sub-industry, which includes waiters, cooks, and bartenders, has seen some of the most volatile employment changes in the past 12 months as Covid-19.
A waiter wears a face mask at a restaurant on the Upper West Side as the city continues reopening efforts after restrictions were imposed in New York City on November 10, 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
Given the accelerating use of coronavirus vaccines and warmer weather along the way, some economists said February’s job report was enough to be more optimistic about the US economy.
“Today’s employment report exceeded expectations. This was a welcome change in events for a depressed labor market as we begin to turn and reopen in a sluggish economy.” Charlie Ripley, a senior investment strategist at Allianz Investment Management, wrote in an email.
“Looking ahead, the ship seems to be pointing in the right direction, and the added incentive of Congress should be the wind in the sails to get the economy going again,” he added.
Still, many noted that the labor market still had a long way to go before it reached the same employment levels as it did before the Covid-19 recession.
And despite the strength seen in restaurants and bars over the past month, other industries saw far more modest numbers or even declined. For example, government and construction lost 86,000 and 61,000 net positions, respectively.
Although both numbers are expected to recover when the economy recovers – and better weather allows for more construction – Glassdoor economist Daniel Zhao writes that the economy should create nearly 1 million jobs per month for the remainder of 2021, to return to pre-crisis levels by the end of the year.
“This recovery rate is a major challenge at this point in the pandemic, but is out of the question once the economy can be safely and fully reopened,” he wrote on Friday morning. “While the pace of the February report is viewed as an above-average prepandemic, it feels tarnished by the deep hole of 9.5 million jobs left in the middle of the economy.”
The manufacturing sector created 21,000 jobs and the retail sector grew by 41,100. Health and social care scored 45,600 points, and professional and business services increased by 63,000.
– CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to the coverage.