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US economy adds 916,000 jobs as COVID recovery gains steam

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The US economy added 916,000 jobs in March — a stronger-than-expected gain adding fuel to the labor market’s accelerating recovery from the coronavirus crisis, the feds said Friday.

The strongest job growth since August came as more Americans got vaccinated against the deadly virus while businesses continued to emerge from the winter’s pandemic lockdowns.

The nonfarm payroll gain marked a robust bounce from February’s revised total of 468,000 and shattered economists’ expectations for 635,000.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 6 percent, inching closer to the 50-year low that it reached before COVID-19 gutted the American economy a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ closely watched jobs report.

Economists expect hiring to continue apace through the spring and into the summer as vaccines help consumers — armed with cash from last month’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill — get back to spending money at hard-hit establishments.

“The heady pace of hiring evident in the March jobs report should persist for the next several months as vaccination progress enables broader economic reopening,” Bloomberg economists Carl Riccadonna and Yelena Shulyatyeva said in a commentary.

Employers have now added back nearly 14 million, or 62 percent, of the 22.4 million jobs lost in the spring of 2020 as the COVID-19 crisis shuttered businesses across the country.

Workers are also starting to get more optimistic — the share of Americans reporting pay cuts or fears of losing their jobs has declined since January, according to Morning Consult data.

“Pay loss expectations and outcomes both fell in February and continued to decline in March, indicating that this month’s jobs report is just a first taste of the good news to follow,” said Morning Consult economist John Leer.

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