Bay Area employment nearing pre-COVID levels; inflation outpacing wage growth

Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

Job growth was very strong last month nationally and may be equally as strong in the Bay Area when the numbers are released later this month, a labor economist said.

The U.S. added 431,000 jobs in March, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with changes widespread among industries.

The manufacturing sector added 38,000 jobs while leisure and hospitality added 112,000. Wage growth among all workers has also been strong, but inflation is stronger, eating away purchasing power. Still, inflation offers a bit of a positive aspect.

“It is a sign that demand is strong,” said Amar Mann, a supervisory economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Annual inflation is running at 7.9 percent, while wages grew at a 5.6 percent. That’s solid wage growth, Mann said, but shows that prices are growing faster than wages, Mann said.

Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, is at 6.4 percent, said economist Matt Insco, also with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Energy costs rose by 25.6 percent while gasoline alone is up 38 percent. U.S. President Joseph Biden authorized the release of millions of gallons of oil from the nation’s reserves to try to lower gas prices.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and California representative, lauded her party’s efforts following the release of the job numbers.

“The March jobs report shows that Democrats’ economic strategy continues to power a strong jobs recovery, with Americans coming off the sidelines and getting back to work, Pelosi said in a statement.

“Since President Biden took office, our nation has created 7.9 million new jobs — including nearly half a million manufacturing jobs — and slashed the unemployment rate to near pre-pandemic levels at 3.6 percent with the help of our American Rescue Plan,” Pelosi said. “At the same time American workers’ wages are on the rise, especially among lower wage earners.”

Mann said by most measures the things we’re seeing nationally we are seeing in the Bay Area.

The country is about one million jobs shy of where it was pre-pandemic while that number is about 100,000 in the Bay Area.

Before the pandemic, jobs numbered 2,507,000 in the Bay Area, compared with the most current figure of 2,402,000, Mann said.

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