The jobs market appears to be on the upswing after hitting a historic low for much of last year. According to the latest reports, the U.S. economy added 916,000 new jobs during the month of March, the most workers hired in seven months. Analysts say the accelerated employment signals a new period of rapid economic expansion, but as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Michigan, the economy could hinge on whether pandemic restrictions are re-implemented to deal with the surge.
Listen: Does a surge in jobs mean economic recovery is imminent?
Charles Ballard is a professor of economics at Michigan State University. He says the report released last week by the Labor Department defied even optimistic expectations by a quarter of a million jobs. “This does suggest that the economy is heating back up after a horrendous couple of months,” says Ballard on the jobs report. According to Ballard, stimulus checks and an increase in vaccinations are to thank for the surge in jobs. Ballard says the leisure and hospitality industry, in particular, is showing substantial growth after being hit hard in the early months of the pandemic. Manufacturing and construction are also among industries experiencing job expansion after a tough year.
While cautiously optimistic that vaccinations can beat out a fourth wave of COVID-19, Ballard warns that economic growth will not be consistent. “The economy can’t just turn on a dime. It’s going to be a bumpy expansion in the next couple of months. There will be some bright spots, but there will be some areas where the supply chains aren’t quite back to normal,” says Ballard. He also points out that job loss during the pandemic has been cut down economic, racial and gender lines and that exacerbated inequality will need to be addressed moving forward.