When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. economy with full force in March 2020, causing stock markets and economic indicators to plummet and erasing nearly 20 million jobs in a matter of weeks, many had hoped that this crisis would go away as quickly as it had arrived. And while some sectors recovered relatively quickly once restrictions had been eased and businesses were allowed to reopen, we are now 20 months into the crisis and the U.S. labor market is still more than 4 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.
As the following chart shows, the vast majority of those lost jobs are service-sector jobs, with the leisure and hospitality industry alone accounting for 1.38 million of the total 3.75 million lost service sector jobs. Job losses in education, health services and government are also lingering, while at the other end of the spectrum jobs lost in utilities, transportation and warehousing and the financial sector have largely been recovered.
According to the latest jobs report, the U.S. labor market continued its recovery in October, adding 531,000 jobs as the unemployment rate edged down to 4.6 percent, the lowest since March 2020. The largest gains were once again registered in the leisure and hospitality sector (+164,000 jobs), with notable gains also occurring in in professional and business services, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing.