Employers likely added jobs at a robust pace for the second
straight month in April, signaling a speedy economic recovery from last year's
Economists expect payrolls grew by one million in April
after rising by 916,000 in March. They project the unemployment rate fell to
5.8%, down from 6% in March and a record-high 14.8% last April when the
Higher vaccination rates, fiscal stimulus and easing
business restrictions are converging to support an economic boom across the
"The pieces are really coming together for a burst in
activity," said Sarah House, senior economist for Wells Fargo's Corporate
and Investment Bank. "We're expecting to see the labor market recovery
shift into an even faster gear with the April jobs report."
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and
services made in the U.S., grew at a 6.4% seasonally adjusted annual rate in
the first quarter. Economists expect households -- many of them vaccinated and
with a recent round of stimulus money -- to further power growth this year by
shelling out money on services.
Businesses are seeking workers to meet the surge in
spending. Job postings on Indeed, a job-search site, were up 24% by the end of
April, compared with February 2020, just before the pandemic took hold in the
One year ago, the jobless rate skyrocketed to 14.8% -- a
record for data tracing back to 1948 -- and payrolls dropped by a historic 20.7
million. Business reopenings last summer helped the economy recoup some of the
lost jobs. But the recovery remained incomplete as Covid-19 continued to
spread, triggering continued restrictions on businesses and heightened caution
among many consumers.
Now vaccinations are allowing the U.S. to contain
coronavirus cases, and jobs in sectors with the steepest losses at the onset of
the pandemic are starting to return. The number of small-business employees
punching in at entertainment firms is now 11% higher than in October 2020,
while employment in hospitality, retail and food services are all up around 2%,
according to Homebase, a scheduling-software company.
Paul Keeler, owner of two barbecue restaurants and a
steakhouse in Arizona, said the businesses are adding workers to meet a
surprising upswing in demand. Sales across the three restaurants surged by 17%
at the start of this year compared with the beginning of 2019, when he said
business was hot.
Many people have traveled to Arizona from nearby states with
tighter restrictions such as California, Oregon and Washington, helping boost
business, Mr. Keeler said. Others are feeling more confident to dine out
because of vaccinations.
"The pent-up demand has been tremendous," Mr.
Keeler said. "Because we've been so busy, we've been interviewing and
hiring every week."
Regions that suffered more from the pandemic and imposed
greater restrictions are showing signs of faster rebounds. For example,
Homebase data indicated that small-business employment in Florida has held
relatively steady since October 2020, compared with steep climbs in New York
and California since January. The number of workers clocking in at New Mexico
small businesses is now up nearly 3% from levels seen last autumn.
Heritage Hotels & Resorts has seen a pickup in customer
bookings in the last month as New Mexico eases restrictions, said Molly
Ryckman, the company's vice president of sales and marketing. Earlier this
week, New Mexico officials lifted hotel occupancy restrictions in counties
where Heritage operates several boutique hotels. Restrictions were relaxed in
the other counties in which it operates a few weeks ago.
Heritage has added hundreds of workers in the last couple of
months, though staffing is still less than half of pre-pandemic levels. The
company currently has 150 open jobs but is struggling to quickly fill the
positions. As a result, it is increasingly looking at candidates without
previous hospitality experience, Ms. Ryckman said.
"Especially in a destination like Santa Fe, when you
shut down every museum and every restaurant and all of those are reopening at
the same time, it makes it a challenge to fully staff and reopen," she
Many employers across the U.S. are reporting they can't find
enough workers, even though millions of people are unemployed. This phenomenon
could restrain economic growth in the coming months.
There are several factors keeping potential workers on the
sidelines. Many Americans aren't working for fear of getting or spreading
Covid-19. Businesses are reopening ahead of schools, leaving some parents
without child care. Some people are receiving more in unemployment benefits
than they would earn in the available jobs.
Economists are concerned that the labor-force participation
rate, or share of people working or seeking work, will recover slowly. The rate
was at 61.5% in March, down from 63.3% in February 2020 before the pandemic
Mercury Marine, a boat-engine manufacturer based in Fond du
Lac, Wis., is seeing a strong appetite for its products, said Chris Drees, the
manufacturing company's president.
"People have found out boating is an awesome way to
social distance and get away a little bit from the lockdowns," Mr. Drees
said. "We've seen a real boom in the boating industry this last year, and
it looks to continue."
The company plans to add 250 manufacturing employees to its
main campus this year. But Fond du Lac's unemployment rate of about 4% is well
below the national average, meaning there are relatively few people in the area
available to work, Mr. Drees said.
Mercury Marine is ramping up overtime hours so it can make
enough engines as it tries to find more workers. But "if we can't get
those employees, it will certainly hinder our ability to produce," Mr.
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