Hiring surged in February as U.S. economic activity picked up with Covid-19 cases steadily dropping and vaccine rollouts providing hope for more growth.
The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls jumped by 379,000 for the month and the unemployment rate fell to 6.2%. That compared with expectations of 210,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate holding steady from the 6.3% rate in January.
An alternative measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons was unchanged at 11.1%.
“Today’s jobs report sets an extremely positive tone as we move into warmer months and the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations accelerates,” said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens Bank. “While the labor market still has a lot of ground to make up, we are in a different place than we were a year ago and the economy seems poised for a strong rebound.”
Nearly all the job gains came from the battered leisure and hospitality sector, which saw an increase of 355,000 amid a relaxation of dining restrictions in some areas. Bars and restaurants gained 286,000 jobs while hotel-related hiring totaled 36,000 and amusement, gambling and recreation businesses added 33,000.
Despite the gain, the industry is still 3.5 million short of its employment level from a year ago, just before the worst of the pandemic. The pickup in hiring drove the unemployment rate for the sector down to 13.5% from 15.9% a month ago; the accommodation and…