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US jobs come roaring back, surprising employers and economists

Michael Sasso and Leslie Patton, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

A resurgent job market is creating more opportunities at a faster clip than many economists and employers expected.

What’s more, too few people are applying for positions that are reopening, and that’s setting up a battle for talent. Restaurants and hotels are raising wages, offering bonuses for worker referrals or luring people from other states to cope with the shortage.

Many data watchers have been caught off guard as improving weather, stimulus and a surge in vaccinations converge to boost the economy. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 916,000 last month, blowing away economists’ median estimate of a 660,000-job gain. Meanwhile, a measure of service-industry activity released this week saw the fastest growth on record in March, exceeding the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

On Florida’s Captiva Island, Doug Babcock is considering hiring a temporary labor firm to fill roles at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort and Spa and other resorts on neighboring Sanibel Island. Historically, workers have willingly driven up to an hour from the mainland for the promise of year-round work. This year, applicants are grilling him about drive times and taking jobs closer to home.

“It’s almost like the staff is interviewing you,” said Babcock, who’s boosted starting pay for dishwashers by $2 to $3 recently.

Next Phase

 

Economic data are rebounding better than expected because of a “superfecta” of positives colliding at once, Michael Skordeles, a senior U.S. macro strategist at Truist Financial Corp., said in an April 2 note.

“The resulting horsepower lifting the economy is unparalleled, particularly for jobs in the coming months,” he wrote.

Economists like Skordeles point to improving weather, more states lifting business restrictions, the vaccine roll-out and President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill as drivers.

Even before states like Texas and Mississippi reopened last month, job openings were surging — hitting a two-year high in February, data showed Tuesday.

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