In February 2021, a year into the pandemic recession, the U.S. economy remained down 9.5 million jobs from February 2020, the last month before the economic effect of COVID-19 began. Repairing employment levels requires more than regaining those 9.5 million lost jobs; we must also consider how many jobs would have been created since February 2020. During the 12 months prior to the pandemic recession, job growth averaged 202,000 new jobs per month. Absent the COVID-19-driven recession, an estimated 2.4 million additional jobs could have been created. Adding these to the actual job losses since February 2020 implies that the U.S. labor market in February 2021 was short 11.9 million jobs (Gould 2021).
Between February 2020 and February 2021, employment losses were largest among workers in the leisure and hospitality, government, and education and health services industries. Even with a partial bounceback last summer after losing more than 8 million jobs last spring, the leisure and hospitality sector still faces the largest shortfall, with nearly 3.5 million fewer jobs in February 2021 than a year prior.Low-wage, low-hours workers were hit hardest in the COVID-19 recession: The State of Working America 2020 employment report | Economic Policy Institute