Major Hiring Surges in March, 916,000 Jobs Added

April 2, 2021

The U.S. recovered 916,000 jobs in March, showing signs of employment growth acceleration and optimism for what could be the biggest hiring wave the country has seen.

March’s reported job gain was up significantly from February (468,000) and at its highest since August 2020 (1.6 million). Based on forecasts by LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy, the pace of employment growth was previously projected to increase as spring approached, and that’s what we are seeing. The current hiring wave indicates more businesses are getting back on their feet, just one year after the pandemic began.

National Jobs Report_March2021

In February, the Leisure and Hospitality industry dominated hiring numbers as restrictions have eased and with patrons yearning for a return to normal. For March, restaurants continued to capture a large share of jobs added back to the economy. The trend should persist as warmer months approach, especially in metros where the virus counts remain controlled.

Consumer confidence has reached its highest level since the pandemic began, home-buying purchases remain strong, and more industries across the U.S. have reason for hope. March’s employment gains suggest talent acquisition professionals will have their work cut out for them as we progress through the remainder of 2021, a year in which upwards of 73 million hires could take place.

Recovery Optimism

Last month’s analysis of the national job numbers noted growing optimism of a stronger recovery for 2021 due to progress in controlling the virus. While cases remain suppressed at the national level, relative to the spikes during the winter months, counts are on the rise in many states. It is unclear what impact the increase will have, but it adds uncertainty to what has otherwise been significant momentum over the past two months.

The good news is the vaccine distribution continues at a much faster pace than the initial rollout. As of publish date, the trailing seven-day average number of vaccines administered in the U.S was more than 2.3 million per day. Approximately 100 million people have already received at least one dose, with more than half of that total fully vaccinated. Twenty-eight states have made vaccines available to all adults or plan to within the next two weeks.

With an aggressive rollout of the vaccine and warmer weather ahead, improvements in the labor market could remain at a robust pace for an extended period. Still, even if the labor market sustains March’s pace of job gain, it would take approximately 11 more months to recover all the jobs lost across the nation. Although, certain locations, industries and types of jobs will recover sooner.

The Talent Demand

With many locations easing restrictions, unemployment rates should continue to decline, particularly for some of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Face-to-face services are returning, albeit with masks and social distancing in place for most establishments. And additional workers returning to the office throughout the year will bring back occupations such as building and grounds maintenance.

While the national unemployment rate declined to 6.0% in March, the rate varies dramatically across occupations. Unemployment rates for service roles in Food Preparation and Serving Related (14.0%), as well as Personal Care and Service (9.3%) remain elevated due to social distancing restrictions. Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance occupations (9.9%) are, in part, impacted by fewer people traveling or going into the office. For states rolling back restrictions, unemployment rates in these categories could drop faster, resulting in increased hiring demands for talent acquisition professionals.

Computer and Mathematical (1.9%), Community and Social Service (1.8%), Legal (2.3%), and Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations (1.8%) remain in extreme demand. The role of talent acquisition professionals remains vital and will be challenging as the supply of talent in those fields is very tight, and candidates are more hesitant to switch jobs during uncertain times.

Unemployment rates by occupation are not seasonally adjusted.

The Outlook | Why It Matters

LaborIQ projects a significant acceleration of job growth in the second half of 2021, especially relative to late 2020 and early 2021. Any unfavorable changes to the decline in virus counts will likely influence the recovery, in certain metros.

Spring will be marked by the rollout of the vaccine to newly eligible segments of our population. Barring a major resurgence in virus counts, continued economic expansion is the base case for the second half of the year. For business planning, knowing which locations and industries will accelerate first will be key, especially for those with flexibility on where, and to whom, they sell.

Top Job Markets

The level of job recovery varies across the nation. The table below shows which U.S. locations recovered the most total jobs in the first two months of 2021. As a note, data by metro through March will be available on April 16.

Year-to-Date Job Gain for 2021 through February

These cities were also among the hardest hit at the onset of the pandemic-induced economic fallout. In April 2020, New York alone lost nearly 1.9 million jobs. These cities range from 5% to 11% under their pre-pandemic employment levels. While there is still much ground to cover, it is good to see these locations at the top of the list. Further, each industry will recover based on varying economic influences. As a result, each city will be impacted differently.

Read more here to understand what industries are expanding and poised for recovery. LaborIQ also provides an industry outlook that will help you understand the economic drivers your clients are considering as they ramp up hiring and business development.


LaborIQ by ThinkWhy reports, forecasts and advises on employment conditions and the impact to jobs, industries and businesses across all U.S. cities.