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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Expectations are growing for Friday's nonfarm payrolls report to be a big one, with some economists expecting it could show the U.S. added jobs in April at a pace not seen since last year's record-setting hiring spree in May and June.

Why it matters: While it is not expected to match or exceed June's 4.8 million, some economists believe we could see more than 2 million jobs added, compounding the momentum from March when American employers added 916,000 jobs.

By the numbers: Overall, economists are forecasting 977,500 jobs were added in April, per FactSet. But with vaccinations increasing and real-time data showing business openings picking up and hiring taking off, economists are getting more bullish.

  • Last week's initial jobless claims reading marked the third straight week jobless claims were below 600,000, their lowest since early 2020.

What we're hearing: "We added nearly one million jobs in March. Since then vaccinations have risen markedly in the United States. COVID cases and deaths fallen. People are getting back to work safely," Claudia Sahm, senior fellow at the Jain Family Institute, tells Axios.

The increase in bookings at restaurants and bars over the past two months is "reminiscent" of May and June 2020 when leisure and hospitality employment led the way to record readings, Aneta Markowska, chief economist at Jefferies, says in a note to clients.

  • "Other COVID-sensitive sectors, e.g. retail, health and personal services, are likely to enjoy significant increases as well given the easing of distancing restrictions in many states," she adds.
  • "Net, our bottom up estimates put total hiring at 2.1 million."

One level deeper: Adding to the strong trend of hiring, more companies are giving out pay increases.

Yes, but: "Not all will return implying the labor force participation rate may struggle to return to pre-Covid levels," Bank of America chief economist Michelle Meyer said in a recent note to clients.

  • Even after March's strong jobs report, the labor force participation rate remains at its lowest level excluding the pandemic since 1976, and BofA's Meyer estimates that 4.6 million workers remain out of the labor force due to the pandemic.
  • There were still 8.4 million fewer people employed in the U.S. as of March than there were in February 2020.

Go deeper

Small businesses seek better applicants

Data: NFIB; Chart: Axios Visuals

Small businesses aren’t happy with who’s applying for their open jobs.

Driving the news: According to the NFIB’s July Small Business Jobs Report, "labor quality" is the top overall biggest concern, with 26% of survey respondents identifying it as their "single most important problem."

Leisure and hospitality continue to fuel job gains

A sign recruiting workers at a Perkins Restaurant last month. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Workers taking up gigs at bars, restaurants and hotels are a mainstay of the pandemic job market’s healing.

Why it matters: Since the industry shed the most workers when COVID-19 hit, it has the most room to recover.

The post-pandemic economy has already arrived

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With the recession officially ending in April 2020, we're now 16 months into the recovery and the contours of the post-pandemic economy have taken shape.

Why it matters: While the coronavirus continues to infect roughly 100,000 new Americans every day, it's no longer driving the course of the economy.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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