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Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Good news for your Friday: the economy added a whopping 379,000 jobs in February — far outpacing expectations.

Why it matters: Virus cases eased in recent weeks and states lifted restrictions, helping fuel a hiring surge. It's proof of how much control the pandemic has over the job market.

The clearest signal: The bounce-back was largely driven by hiring in the leisure and hospitality sectors, which came even in the dead of winter.

  • This sector is a key example of one that can't recover until people feel safe eating and drinking out.

Here's the bad news: Job growth peaked with 152.5 million payrolls before the pandemic hit the labor market.

  • Even with today's report — the best jobs growth since October — we're still more than 9 million jobs below that level one year later.
  • And despite the big gains in leisure and hospitality, the sector still has 20% fewer jobs.
  • The number of workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more — 4.1 million — barely budged.

Between the lines: President Biden was handed a labor market hobbled by a pandemic. Its recovery hinges on keeping COVID cases low, succeeding with mass vaccination, and getting hard-hit businesses to return to hiring.

  • "February was OK but at that pace, [it] would take 4 1/2 years to recover. We need more like 1m jobs a month," Jason Furman, a former economic adviser in the Obama administration, tweeted.
  • The jobs figures in January and February also came in the wake of improving case numbers and a $900 billion relief bill passed in December, Furman noted. The Senate is currently debating Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue package.

The bottom line: Economists are penciling in a "Roaring 20s"-like recovery — with eye-popping growth figures to boot! — as vaccines continue to roll out and the economy opens up.

A pessimistic parting shot, courtesy of the Federal Reserve chair: "We have significant ground to cover," Jerome Powell said yesterday, cautioning that a complete job market healing likely won't come this year.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Mar 5, 2021 - Economy & Business

Workers are getting a really bad deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.

Mar 5, 2021 - World

China sets 2021 economic growth target at over 6%

China's Premier Li Keqiang at the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 5. Photo: Leo Ramierz/AFP via Getty Images

China on Friday set its annual economic growth target at "over 6%," and renewed its vow to become a more self-reliant technology leader, AP reports.

Why it matters: Premier Li Keqiang, China's top economic official, made the announcement as the world's second-biggest economy continues its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The latest target also comes "amid tension with Washington and Europe over trade, Hong Kong and human rights," AP notes.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Mar 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.