Here’s when jobs could get back to their prepandemic level if March’s blowout growth rate continues

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  • The March jobs report blew away expectations, adding 916,000 nonfarm payrolls on estimates of 660,000.
  • But the US still has about 8.4 million fewer jobs than it had in February 2020.
  • At the current rate, employment would recover to that level by January 2022.
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The March jobs report released on Friday was some of the best economic news for the US in recent months, with a net gain of 916,000 jobs that well exceeded economists’ expectations of 660,000 additions.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has blasted such a large hole in the US economy that even at that stunning pace, it could still take several months for the jobs market to recover.

In March and April 2020, the US economy lost a total of about 22.1 million jobs amid the first major wave of coronavirus cases and subsequent lockdowns. Through the rest of 2020, there were steady gains in most months, and by this March there were about 8.4 million fewer nonfarm payroll jobs than the 152.5 million in February 2020.

If the economy continued to add 916,000 jobs a month, there would be about 152.4 million in December, just shy of the prepandemic peak. By January 2022, employment would be above that level, with about 153.3 million jobs.

Of course, before the pandemic, the US economy was booming, adding about 170,000 jobs a month in 2019. Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, noted that catching up with that trend would take a little longer, with employment reaching the number of jobs the economy would have had under prepandemic growth rates next summer.

-Nick Bunker (@nick_bunker) April 2, 2021

Whether the US economy can keep adding jobs at this pace remains to be seen. The vaccination campaign should make it safer for more businesses to reopen fully over the next several months, and the Biden administration’s recently enacted stimulus package and proposed infrastructure bills could provide a boost.