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Employment Summary for February 2021

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today reported total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 379,000 in February, significantly above consensus estimates. Unemployment rate fell 6.2% or 10 million unemployed persons.

Most of the job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, with smaller gains in temporary help services, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing.

The BLS reported 22.7 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 23.2 percent in January. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last four weeks specifically because of the pandemic.

As reported by the BLS, in February, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by a robust 355,000, as pandemic-related restrictions eased in some parts of the country. About four-fifths of the increase was in food services and drinking places (+286,000). Employment also rose in accommodation (+36,000) and in amusements, gambling, and recreation (+33,000).

Within professional and business services, temporary help services added 53,000 jobs in February.

Employment in healthcare and social assistance increased by 46,000 in February. Healthcare employment increased by 20,000, following a large decline in the prior month (-85,000). In February, job gains in ambulatory healthcare services (+29,000) were partially offset by losses in nursing care facilities (-12,000).

Retail trade added 41,000 jobs in February. Job growth was widespread in the industry, with the largest gains occurring in general merchandise stores (+14,000), health and personal care stores (+12,000), and food and beverage stores (+10,000). These gains were partially offset by a loss in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-20,000). The retail sector has added 2 million jobs from May 2020 through February 2021.

Manufacturing employment increased by 21,000 over the month, led by a gain in transportation equipment (+10,000).

In February, employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and other services.

Employment decreases were noted in local government education (-37,000) and state government education (-32,000).

Severe winter weather across much of the country likely held down employment in construction where jobs fell by 61,000 in February, largely reflecting declines in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-37,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-21,000).

Of note, the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised up by 117,000, from the previously reported 49,000 increase in January. While recovery efforts may feel slow, all indicators are showing that 2021 is going to be the year for meaningful recovery. With the impending signing of the most recent Covid relief bill, spending and job growth will start to increase, particularly in the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. The stimulus the relief bill will provide will also overlap with an increased roll out of the vaccine causing a spring and summer recovery that should see considerable improvement over the first quarter of 2021.

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