A continued torrent of consumer demand, paired with an emerging atmosphere of normalcy as coronavirus caseload and health restrictions fade away, led to a burst of new jobs last month, reasoning giving for optimism despite the year’s uncertain economic outlook.
US employers added 431,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday, beating expectations and keeping pace with the average gain in recent months. The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, down from 3.8 percent a month earlier and just a touch higher than its levels right before the pandemic. Job openings and the number of workers voluntarily leaving their positions remain near record levels, among the measures showing that demand for workers is the highest in the decades.
“It’s all about the virus, the virus, the virus — and the virus’s grip on the American psyche seems to have loosened and we may be moving toward the idea that ‘the Covid era’ of the US economy is done,” said Austan Goolsbee. , a professor at the University of Chicago and a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama.
More urban office workers appear to be headed back their desks, giving a boost to hard-hit downtown tourism, and the drop in coronavirus cases has prompted many people to resume and in-person entertainment.
The economy has recuperated more than 90 percent of the 22 million jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic’s impact on the economy in the spring of 2020 — a far swifter rebound thaners initially expected.
But while business growth, wage growth and high spending signal a robust recovery, price increases are casting a door shadow. Inflation, the highest in the decades, is being compounded by international events: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is pushing up commodity prices, and Covid-19 outbreaks at supply centers in Asia.
“For consumers, most of whom are either workers or reliant on so-called breadwinners, the state of the job market provides a solid underpinning for household finances,” said Mark Hamrick, the senior economic analyst at the financial website Bankrate.com. “These same households are being tested by inflation, which will flash further into the red with forthcoming readings, aggravated by impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” effectively serving as a tax on savings, which improved for many during the pandemic.
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