If we see more numbers like this moving forward, we can be optimistic about this year. Employment is growing at a strong rate and joblessness is getting closer and closer to pre-pandemic levels. Still, in these uncertain times, we cannot take anything for granted. But if the recovery can keep up its current tempo, several key indicators of labor market health will hit pre-pandemic levels this summer.
Jobs are now being added by an average of 582,000 jobs a month. At this rate, payrolls will get back to their pre-pandemic level by June 2022. Similarly, the prime-age employment rate is also on a strong trajectory. It’s gone up by an average of 0.2 percentage points the past three months and will hit its February 2020 level in July 2022. If there are no road bumps, this could be a very good summer.
The report shows a quickly growing labor market, but there are some flies in this soup. One negative in this report is the gender breakdown for the labor force participation rate. The gap for prime-age workers has recently closed but it reopened in February. Hopefully this gap is just a deviation from an underlying positive trend.
Two years have passed since the last pre-pandemic jobs report. Over that time we have seen dramatic swings as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs, millions were recalled to old jobs, and wages have surged to entice others to take new positions. Now heading into spring of 2022, the labor market is set to return to a semblance of what we were seeing back in February 2020. That’s something to celebrate, even if there is more work to be done.