March jobs numbers beat expectations, with leisure and hospitality leading the way

ORLANDO, Fla. — New numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics show unemployment in the United States dropping from 6.2% in February to 6% in March, with significant gains in leisure and hospitality services leading the way.

“COVID-19, this whole pandemic has really driven this business cycle,” said Dr. Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida. “There is pent-up demand that is being released, and these March numbers reflect that demand, and that includes what we saw with the numbers out of Orlando International Airport last month.”

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In March, the US economy added 916,000 jobs, with 280,000 of those jobs coming from leisure and hospitality, followed by construction (110,000), and then education and health services (101,000).

“As we see a decreasing risk from COVID 19 I think we will see continued growth in the tourism sector,” Snaith said.

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For economists, the March numbers reflect a confluence of several factors including vaccine distribution, which has accelerated since the first of the year.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have millions of Americans getting vaccinated every day,” says Jonathan Bydlak, the Director of Fiscal and Budget Policy for the R-Street Institute. “The stock market is reflecting a lack of uncertainty, which is much different than what we saw this time last year. And the jobs numbers tend to be a lagging indicator, and they reflect other things that are happening in the economy. And if the economy is strong and consumer demand is strong, there will be a need to hire workers, and that’s what we’re seeing now.”

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Florida’s most recent unemployment rate came in at 4.7% for February. State-specific data is expected to be released on April 16.