The numbers: The U.S. created 379,000 new jobs in February — the biggest gain in four months — in what’s likely to be a preview of a surge in hiring in the months ahead as most people get vaccinated and the economy fully reopens.
The increase in hiring last month was concentrated at businesses such as restaurants, retailers, hotels and entertainment venues as states eased restrictions on customer limits and public gatherings. Most other industries also added workers.
Hiring was also much stronger in January than initially reported.
The official unemployment rate, meanwhile, slipped to 6.2% from 6.3%, although economists widely believe the real rate is much higher.
Federal Reserve officials peg the jobless rate at closer to 10% after adjusting the data for distortions caused by the pandemic.
The rebound in job creation in February is likely the start of a major new cycle of hiring. Warmer weather, falling coronavirus cases, rising vaccinations and another massive increase in federal stimulus are likely to act as jet fuel for the economy in the spring and summer, Wall Street pros and Fed officials say.
The increase in new jobs easily exceeded Wall Street expectations. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast 210,000 new jobs. Stocks rose in premarket trading.
What happened: New jobs in leisure and hospitality — restaurants, hotels, casinos, theaters and the like — surged by 355,000 last month to account for most of the hiring in February.
These companies had lost more than 500,000 jobs in December and January after coronavirus cases reached a crescendo and the weather turned cold.
Hiring is likely to spring back even stronger in the months ahead as the weather warms and Americans fell more confident traveling, dining out, going to a game or visiting a museum or amusement park.
Professional firms also added 63,000 employees — though most were temporary — while health-care providers and retailers both filled 40,000-plus jobs. Manufacturers chipped in with 21,000 new hires