The US has now regained all the jobs it lost in the pandemic
- The US has recouped all of the jobs it lost during the coronavirus recession.
- The rebound took 29 months, nearly three times faster than the recovery from the Great Recession.
After 29 months of economic recovery, the US has recouped every job lost during the coronavirus recession.
The US added 528,000 nonfarm payrolls in July, marking the largest one-month gain since February 2022 and more than doubling the average forecast. The economy now boasts roughly 152,536,000 jobs, according to the Friday report. That's 32,000 more payrolls than in February 2020, which marked the labor market's peak before the coronavirus pandemic erased roughly 22 million jobs in just two months.
The unemployment rate also returned to its pre-pandemic record, sliding through July to 3.5% from 3.6%.
That means the US is back to a record-high number of jobs. The achievement is the latest to mark the extraordinary pace of the pandemic recovery. Massive government stimulus, vaccine rollouts, and the swift reopening of the economy all contributed to a superlative rebound over the past two years. While some data shows the pace of improvement easing, the latest jobs data caps one of the fastest labor market recoveries in modern history.
The rebound is particularly impressive when stacked up against the one that preceded it. Where it took 29 months for the US to return to pre-pandemic employment levels, it took 76 months to stage the same recovery after the Great Recession. Put another way, in the amount of time it took for the labor market to fully rebound from the coronavirus, the post-2008 labor market had only just started to heal.
The coronavirus recession also included the steepest post-war drop in employment. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7% at the start of the pandemic as lockdowns prompted widespread layoffs. That job growth quickly accelerated and the unemployment rate plummeted nearly as quickly as it surged underscores the unique and fast-paced nature of the economic reopening.
To be sure, the labor market is far from completely healed. Several sectors such as leisure and hospitality and the government remain below their pre-pandemic job counts. Labor force participation — the share of Americans either working or actively looking for jobs — has staged a much slower recovery and remains far from pre-crisis levels. That's also played a role in driving the unemployment rate to five-decade lows, as the measure only tracks active job seekers, and doesn't include those who have opted out of looking for work.
Further, the jobs market is likely still millions of jobs shy of where it would have been absent the pandemic. The recovery only brings the US to its pre-crisis employment level, meaning there are 29 months of job creation that would've taken place had the pandemic not occurred.
In the year before the pandemic hit in February 2020, the US added an average of about 200,000 jobs a month, and if it had kept up that pace over the last two and a half years the country would have added nearly six million more jobs. It will take several more months, if not years, to make up for that lost growth, though the larger-than-expected July gain suggests the US will continue to add payrolls at a healthy clip through 2022.
For now, Americans can celebrate a key accomplishment in the country's recovery. But as inflation charges forward and growth slows, obstacles remain in the path to a fully healed economy.
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