Stock Groups

The evolving post-COVID U.S. job market in five charts -Breaking


© Reuters. An advertisement for a job is displayed in front of Qdoba, Louisville, Kentucky. This sign was placed because many restaurants are facing staff shortages. REUTERS/Amira Kazoud

By Jonnelle Marte

(Reuters) – The labor market has recovered much faster than many expected in the 2 years following the COVID-19 Pandemic that decimated the U.S. Economy. In just two months, 22 million jobs had been lost in the spring 2020.

Although the rebound was remarkable, it is not evenly distributed among industries or demographic groups. For example, restaurant employment remains in decline while Black women are still able to find jobs.

Below are some examples of how the labor market has changed in the past 2 years.


The labor market recovery in each industry shows how consumer preferences and worker preferences changed. It also shows how certain industries were more affected by health restrictions.

The pandemic caused a plunge in employment for hospitality and leisure businesses. It is currently 9% lower than it was at February 2020. Friday’s data, from the Labor Department’s February nonfarm payrolls report showed that this number.

This is an indication that the demand for dining out and travel hasn’t fully recovered. Employers are struggling to find workers to fill those service positions, even though health restrictions have been eased.

The hiring of transportation workers and warehousing business owners rose quickly as people began to use online food ordering and shopping. These gains are continuing, as industry employment is now 10% higher than pre-pandemic levels. This sector has seen far greater growth than any other.


Black Americans were equal in number to white workers, in January and February, according to the labor force participation rates.

The participation gap between these two races tends to narrow late in economic expansions, when labor markets become tighter and companies are more competitive for workers.


Black women still have more work to do to save their jobs, despite having suffered substantial job losses in the wake of the pandemic.

The employment-to-population ratio for Black women, or the share of the population that is working, is still 2.9 percentage points below where it was in February 2020 after it dropped last month. This is almost twice the 1.5 percentage point gap all women face and nearly three times as large for men, compared with pre-pandemic levels.

However, Black workers and Hispanics have experienced strong employment recovery over the last year. They are now seeing their growth outpace white workers. It should continue this trend, which could help to close the racial gap.


Another sign that the labor marketplace is providing more job opportunities to workers at the margins was the drop in unemployment rates for those with less than high school diplomas last month. This marks the lowest level since 1992, when the Labor Department began tracking them.

All in all, 388,000 adults aged 25 or over who have not finished high school had no job in February. This is roughly one fifth of those out of work for April 2020. It is almost 100,000 lower than September 2019, when it was at its lowest point.


In the year to date, there have been an average of more than 550,000 workers added to companies’ payrolls, which was unprecedented prior to the epidemic. The breadth and depth of the hiring pool is also as broad as in over two decades.

According to the Labor Department, the diffusion indexes are a measure of the extent to which there has been hiring across both the private and manufacturing sectors. They show that more companies have added staff in the past 12 months than any other time since 1998. These numbers are also significantly higher than they were before the pandemic.

The question now is whether these gains, which are near their peak in the past with the diffusion indexes, will be as wide-based this year as the recovery in employment.