The Unemployment Rate Just Dropped to 6.0%, But Millions Remain Out of Work. Here’s What They Should Know

In a news photo, a man grabs a sign during a rally in Denver Wednesday in support of the THRIVE act, an economic recovery package supporters say would create millions of new jobs. Michael Ciaglo / Getty Images
A man grabs a sign during a rally in Denver Wednesday in support of the THRIVE act, an economic recovery package supporters say would create millions of new jobs.
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The U.S. economy added 916,000 new jobs in March, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest number of new jobs since last August and well above predictions.

These new jobs bring the American unemployment rate to 6.0% — down from 6.2% in February and from last April’s 14.8% high, but still 2.5 percentage points over the 3.5% pre-pandemic unemployment rate in February 2020. 

While these numbers are encouraging, they’re small consolation for the 9.7 million Americans still out of work. 

Black and Hispanic Americans continue to face the highest levels of job loss, with an unemployment rate approaching 10%, much higher than that of the overall population. Long-term unemployed workers now make up 43.4% of the total, and last week, 719,000 people filed for unemployment for the first time. That’s the lowest four-week moving average of new claims since March 14, 2020, but it’s an unexpected increase over the previous week’s 658,000 new claims.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re unemployed, and what the latest jobs report can tell us about ongoing economic recovery:

What To Do if You’re Unemployed

Whether you’re newly unemployed or dealing with long-term job loss, there are financial resources and aid available.

The first thing you should do after losing work is file for unemployment insurance. You may be eligible for standard state unemployment benefits as well as extended benefits under federal programs in response to the pandemic. Most recently, the American Rescue Plan extended an additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits through September. Once you begin receiving benefits, make sure you continue recertifying your claim each week to stay active with your state unemployment office. 

The national eviction moratorium was also recently extended until June by the CDC. Protection isn’t automatic; you’ll need to file a declaration form with your landlord to qualify. If you’re struggling to pay rent, you may also be eligible for additional state or local rental assistance.

If you haven’t already filed your 2020 tax return and you’re expecting a refund, file now. Look into whether you qualify for additional credits and deductions based on your 2020 income and claim a Recovery Rebate Credit you may be owed for stimulus payments you haven’t yet received. And if you were unemployed in 2020, claim the new unemployment benefits tax exemption.

Here are more unemployment resources and advice:

Positive Job Growth Amid Continued Unemployment Concerns

March’s job growth marks three months of sustained improvement in the job market, and more than doubles February’s 379,000 added jobs. It’s also in line with the latest Employment Report from ADP, which on Wednesday showed 517,000 jobs added through the month, the strongest gain since last September.

The BLS attributes much of this month’s growth to eased pandemic-related restrictions across the country, as well as a return to in-school learning. 

But even as we see signs of recovery, there’s still a long road before employment returns to pre-pandemic levels.

In addition to an uptick in new jobless claims this week, the long-term unemployment rate is on the rise. The number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or longer make up 43.4% of the total number of unemployed workers. That percentage has steadily grown over the past several months and is up by 3.1 million since before the pandemic.

Some industries are faring better than others. Service jobs, specifically in leisure and hospitality, saw the most growth this month, according to the report. That reflects ADP’s findings, too. But for jobless workers in some industries, recovery could still be far away.

“[The service] sector has the most opportunity to improve as the economy continues to gradually reopen and the vaccine is made more widely available,” Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are continuing to keep a close watch on the hardest hit sectors, but the groundwork is being laid for a further boost in the monthly pace of hiring in the months ahead.”