Businesses Remain Resilient: Strong Hiring Continues Across the U.S.

April 1, 2022
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Author: Mallory Vachon, Ph.D., Sr. Economist

The economy added an impressive 431,000 jobs in March, continuing a long stretch of growth. The economy has added an average of 560,000 jobs each month since January 2021 and is on track to recover all jobs lost to the pandemic this year.

National Job Gains | March 2022

In March, the U.S. economy added 431,000 jobs, in line with economists’ expectations. And numbers for January and February were revised upward by a total of 95,000. Last month the economy added a surprising 750,000 jobs, surpassing expectations as coronavirus cases subsided.

2022 began with an incredibly strong start to hiring in the U.S. – job gains for January, February and March totaled 1.7 million. Before the pandemic, annual job gains averaged just over two million, so job gains for the first three months are equivalent to roughly nine months’ job gains in pre-pandemic times.

Despite the very positive trends, the U.S. labor market remains tight, and the available pool of workers who are unemployed and looking for work is shrinking – the number of unemployed workers fell below six million for the first time since the pandemic began. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% from 3.8% in February. We are approaching the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.5% percent. The demand for talent has been strong in recent months and shows no signs of letting up.

In February, there were 11.3 million job openings but there are only 5.95 million unemployed workers available to fill those open roles. The good news is that more than 400,000 workers joined the labor force in March, but there are still around 175,000 fewer workers in the labor force now, compared to February 2020.

Going forward, as job gains and growth stabilize, there will likely be a shift away from comparisons to pre-pandemic employment. The focus will be on the tight labor market as businesses struggle to find and retain talent.

A Look Ahead: 2022 Still Promises Strong Recovery

The economy lost 22 million jobs in the early months of the pandemic, and around 1.6 million jobs remain unfilled. The economy has added an average of 560,000 jobs each month since January 2021. At that pace, we will reach pre-pandemic employment levels by this summer – much more quickly than many expected just a year ago.

2022 is poised to be a strong year for hiring and recovery, but challenges abroad have the potential to disrupt progress. These data were collected in mid-March – a few weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has contributed to more uncertainty in the global financial and economic system. Given the strong growth in March, U.S. businesses have proven resilient and continue to hire despite challenges.

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