March Jobs Report: Job Growth Amidst Fears of a New Recession

Nationwide—The unemployment rate in March was 3.6%, a decline of 0.2 percentage points from February’s rate, according to the monthly jobs report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 430,000 jobs were produced, and 6.0 million workers were unemployed. Unemployment fell for workers of all races and ethnicities tracked in the monthly report, yet the unemployment rate for Black workers (6.2%) remained nearly twice as high as the rate for white workers (3.2%). These disparities are a result of structural racism embedded in the U.S. labor market.

“Today’s job numbers show continuing recovery, but with the Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy, global conflict rising, a new COVID variant looming, and supply chain shortages continuing, there is no guarantee that job growth will be sustained,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Politicians are eager to declare that the economic crisis is over, but we cannot ignore the workers who continue to be excluded from the recovery. Leaders must focus on building a robust unemployment insurance system with strong national standards—one that will center the needs of Black workers, who are still disproportionately shut out of the recovery, and that will be available to all workers during the next economic downturn.”

With the nation’s economic recovery still at risk, policymakers must implement permanent, structural reform of the unemployment insurance system.

Some economic analysts worry that a planned series of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve could increase unemployment and even send the economy into another recession. Overall, nonfarm payroll employment is still down by 1.6 million, or 1.0%, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

Job creation in March benefitted a broad range of workers: the unemployment rate for Black workers fell from 6.6% in February to 6.2% in March, and the unemployment rate for Latinx workers fell from 4.4% in February to 4.2% in March. Asian and white workers also experienced declining unemployment.

The biggest area of job growth was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 112,000 jobs in March. Leisure and hospitality employment includes restaurant and hotel jobs that frequently underpay workers and have higher concentrations of women and people of color as a result of occupational segregation. A recent report by the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau identified factors contributing to occupational segregation, including workplace discrimination, harassment, social norms and stereotypes, uneven family caregiving responsibilities, a lack of mentors and networks in some higher-paid fields, and educational attainment, sorting, and training gaps. While it is encouraging to see robust job growth in leisure and hospitality, jobs must offer better pay, sustainable schedules, and benefits.

With the nation’s economic recovery still at risk, policymakers must implement permanent, structural reform of the unemployment insurance system. President Biden’s recent budget proposal recognizes the urgency, making crucial investments in unemployment insurance and detailing a larger vision for comprehensive reform that centers racial equity. In Congress, Senator Ron Wyden’s Unemployment Insurance Improvement Act would also begin to address some significant ways the unemployment insurance system disproportionately excludes Black and Latinx workers, women workers, and workers with disabilities. It does so by providing at least 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, increasing coverage for part-time workers, and expanding eligibility by requiring states to consider workers’ most recent earnings and standardizing earning requirements. These reforms lay the groundwork for transforming our unemployment insurance system and enabling all workers to thrive.


Related to

The Latest News

All news