Grocery Hiring Accelerated as Unemployment Fell to 3.6% in March

Food and beverage stores added 17,800 jobs in the month
Walmart checkout lines
Photograph: Shutterstock

The U.S. unemployment rate fell again in March, edging down 0.2 percentage points to 3.6%—almost at the 3.5% prepandemic low recorded in February 2020.

U.S. employers added 431,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a performance not quite as strong as analysts were predicting (estimates were around 478,000) and well below February's significantly better-than-expected jobs tally. However, the unemployment rate for adult women fell during the month to 3.3%, and the number of people who said they had lost work from their employer because of the COVID-19 pandemic or that they were prevented from looking for work during the month because of the pandemic declined, as well. Both are positive signs as U.S. employers continue to face challenges finding and keeping new workers. 

"Notable job gains continued in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade and manufacturing," the BLS noted in its monthly report.

Food and beverage stores added 17,800 jobs in March after adding 4,400 jobs in February. Warehouse clubs, supercenters and other general merchandise stores added 21,400 jobs in the month, more than reversing February's loss of 10,000 jobs. Overall, retailers added 49,000 jobs in March, the BLS reported.

Hiring slowed at restaurants and bars in March after a couple of strong months of recovery, but the sector still added more than 61,000 jobs in the month.

The BLS also revised upward its job tallies for January and February, with employers adding 23,000 more jobs in January and 72,000 more jobs in February than originally reported. February's upward revision brings the number of jobs added in that month to 750,000.

Average hourly earnings for all private-sector, nonfarm employees rose 13 cents in March to $31.73 after inching up just a penny in February. For production and nonsupervisory workers, hourly wages in March rose 11 cents to $27.06, after rising 8 cents in February. Wages for all employees were up 5.6% year over year in March. By comparison, consumer prices in February (the most recently reported month) were up 7.9% over the previous 12 months.


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