COVID weighs less and less on the US labor market

April 1 (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic’s grip on the U.S. labor market loosened markedly in March, two years after a state of emergency was declared, as the number of people confined to their homes over COVID-19 concerns hit a new low and fewer people reported having to work remotely.

In all, the government’s benchmark monthly nonfarm payroll report released on Friday showed that according to several metrics, including the total number of unemployed falling below 6 million and an unemployment rate of 3.6%, the market US labor force in the first two months of the pandemic when 22 million people lost their jobs. Read more

The main report and a supplemental survey illustrated the rapid decline in the pandemic’s moderation and dovetailed with recent health data showing the fewest new infections since July and hospitalizations over the past week averaged the lowest level since the surge. initial in March and April 2020.

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“There are still challenges,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in an interview. But “you can almost feel the mood of the country change.”

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A litany of data points painted a job picture reminiscent of February 2020, then heralded as one of the strongest job markets of the post-World War II era. Among them:

* The labor participation rate of women aged 25 to 54, which has seen an uneven recovery, increased to the highest since June 2020, seven tenths of a percentage point. Now, at 76.5%, it is just four-tenths of a point from where it was before the pandemic.

* The broader measure of unemployment that also captures those marginally attached to the labor force or working part-time for economic reasons fell to 6.9%, below the February 2020 level and a fraction of a record low.

* Overall employment rose to just 1% below its pre-pandemic level, but minority groups have more than recovered: Total employment among Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians now exceeds February 2020 levels.

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The report also showed that the disease itself had the least impact on worker behavior since the pandemic began.

Only 874,000 people were reported not looking for work in the previous four weeks due to COVID-19, down from 1.23 million in February and 1.81 million in January, when the Omicron variant carried US infections. .to a record.

In May 2020, the first month that the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its supplemental survey on the effects of the pandemic on the labor market, some 9.7 million people had not looked for a job due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“People feel more comfortable going back to work,” Walsh said. “More people (are) buying. Hospitality and leisure are really benefiting.”

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And just 10% of those with jobs said they were telecommuting or working from home due to COVID-19, a figure that represents about 15.8 million workers. That’s also a pandemic-era low and is about a third of the number reporting a need to work remotely in May 2020.

“I don’t know what the new normal is going to be, but it’s a good sign to bring more people into the workforce,” Walsh said. The challenge in the coming months is that “we’re going to start running out of people,” a fact that, she said, should make efforts to increase immigration a priority.

In conversations with businessmen “no one has told me it’s a bad idea.”

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Information from Dan Burns and Howard Schneider; Edited by Andrea Ricci

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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