WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s employers unleashed a burst of hiring in March, adding 916,000 jobs in a sign that a sustained recovery from the pandemic recession is taking hold as vaccinations accelerate, stimulus checks flow through the economy and businesses increasingly reopen. The March increase — the most since August — was nearly double February’s gain of 468,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate declined from 6.2% to 6%.

Fox News reports the labor market’s recovery from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic gained further momentum in March as states continued to ease restrictions and more people received vaccines, boosting hiring in the leisure and hospitality industry.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, ticked down to 6%, its lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic caused many businesses to at least temporarily close their doors in March of last year. The unemployment rate peaked at a record high of 14.7% in April 2020.

Despite the gains, the U.S. economy has 8.4 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.

"Springtime is here for the economic recovery, as today's jobs report showed the economy growing at its fastest pace since September," said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, a job review website. "After a winter freeze from the third wave of the pandemic and severe weather, the economy is thawing out."

The leisure and hospitality sector added 280,000 jobs last month with food services and drinking places accounting for 176,000 jobs, or about two-thirds of the gains. Arts, entertainment and recreation (+64,000) and accommodation (+40,000)  also saw sizable job growth. Employment in the sector is down 3.1 million from February 2020 levels.

Elsewhere, public and private education added a total of 190,000 jobs as schools resumed in-person learning and other school-related activities, and construction saw an increase of 110,000 jobs.

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