The U.S. labor market surprised to the upside yet again in February, powered by continued strength in the service sectors of the economy.
The leisure and hospitality sector added 105,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department, accounting for roughly a third of the total 311,000 jobs gain.
The health care and social assistance segment was another large contributor, adding nearly 63,000 jobs.
Leisure and hospitality has been consistently one of the strongest sectors as the U.S. economy has recovered from the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw bars and restaurants close in large numbers across the country. Food and drink businesses accounted for 70,000 job gains last month.
However, the sector is still 2.4% below its pre-pandemic employment level, according to the Labor Department.
“We’re still short,” said Steve Rick, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group. “We still don’t have the same amount of people working at hotels and restaurants as we did in 2019. So that’s why we’re still adding jobs at a pretty feverish pace in those areas.”
However, there are some weaknesses in other parts of the economy. The 25,000-job decline in information technology shows the impact of layoffs at tech companies, while transportation and manufacturing jobs also retreated.
Transportation and warehousing jobs are now down 42,000 since October, according to the Labor Department.
“We’re seeing a bifurcation of the economy between the goods and services sector,” Rick said.