The U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs last month, as coronavirus vaccine distribution improved, Congress approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and states across the country lifted restrictions on businesses.

The unemployment rate edged down to 6 percent from 6.2 percent in February, according to the monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report comes a year after the pandemic threw the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

The labor market recovered about 12 million of the 22 million jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic by October. But the pace of the recovery had slowed drastically by then, and it churned sluggishly through winter as the virus surged through the holidays and into the New Year.

The March data — showing the largest number of jobs added since August and the third-straight month of growth — may signal a turning point. The survey was taken the week of March 12th, the same week that the stimulus package passed by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate was signed into law by President Biden.

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“This is a wonderful report. Hopefully, we have many more months like it ahead,” said Nick Bunker, the economic research director at Indeed, a jobs-listing service. “It’s fantastic to see the big bounce back in job gains.”

This data also showed a reversal of a trend troubling economists: Women driven out of the workforce by the disproportionate impact of pandemic restrictions on female-dominated industries and the lack of school and adequate child-care options.

In March, 492,000 women reentered the workforce as schools reopened for in-person learning, while 144,000 men left it, bringing the number of men and women who have left the workforce into roughly equal proportions, according to Labor Department data.

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In February, about 56 percent of the people who had left the workforce over the last year were women. Now, women represent less than half of those displaced workers. If that trend continues, it could calm concerns that women wouldn’t return to the workforce, slowing the pace of the economic recovery.

“It’s the beginning of the end of the she-cession,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “The minute schools reopened, and jobs were there, they came back.”

The increase was driven by gains in industries that have been among the hardest-hit by the pandemic.

The leisure and hospitality sectors added 280,000 jobs last month, as coronavirus restrictions eased around the country. Most of that increase, about 176,000 jobs, came from hiring at restaurants, bars, and other food service establishments. Arts, entertainment, and recreation facilities gained 64,000 jobs, and hotels gained about 40,000.

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The sector still remains about 3 million jobs short of where it was before the pandemic.

Elsewhere, employment rose 126,000 in public education at the state and local levels, and 64,000 in private education. Construction added 110,000 jobs after reporting a disappointing decline in February.

Transportation and warehousing added 48,000 jobs, and retail added 23,000 jobs, driven by growth in clothing stores, motor vehicle and parts dealers, and furniture and home furnishing stores.

There is much work to be done before the economy returns to its pre-pandemic strength. There are still about 8.5 million fewer jobs now than in February 2020, and that doesn’t include the growth in the labor market that would have probably occurred over the last year under normal circumstances.

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At the current rate of job growth, it would take until June 2022 to return the economy to where it would have been had the pandemic not occurred, Bunker said.

And some economists warn that the unemployment rate is misleadingly low, noting that the nearly 4 million people who have left the labor force in the last year are not included in the calculation.

The dollar and the yield on the benchmark Treasury note edged higher in light trading on Friday after data showing a surge in the hiring of Americans in March pointed to a U.S. economic recovery that is poised to be the strongest in decades.

FILE PHOTO: American flags hang from the facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building after the start of Thursday's trading session in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Equity markets were closed in observance of Good Friday in the Americas, Europe, and elsewhere but it is not a U.S. government holiday and the Labor Department released the closely watched non-farm payrolls report.

The U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs in March, more than economists’ forecast of 647,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.0% from the previous month’s 6.2%. Jobs numbers for February were revised upwards according to the jobs report.

Futures for the S&P 500 stock index extended gains to 0.43% after the report.

Despite the strong numbers the data will not alter the Federal Reserve’s stance on monetary policy, said Steven Ricchiuto, U.S. chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA in New York.

“The economy’s bouncing back, but it’s not producing the things that are going to change the direction of monetary policy,” Ricchiuto said. “We’re going to test the 1.77% level (in the 10-year Treasury note), but I’m not sure it’s going to break (through) on this number.”

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 3.9 basis points to yield 1.7179%, but this was still below a 14-month high of 1.776 hits on Tuesday. [US/]

Treasury yields have spiked on the economic outlook spurred by U.S. President Joe Biden’s plans for $2.3 trillion in infrastructure spending and the accelerating rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The March labor market report is the first of what are likely to be several very strong jobs reports over the next few months, said Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial Services Inc in Troy, Michigan.

“The outlook looks very good,” Price said. But “in my mind, the biggest constraint could be the ability of the supply side of the economy to fulfill consumer wishes.”

Asian markets overnight rose as optimism over a global economic recovery lifted equity markets in Japan, China, and South Korea.

The Nikkei in Tokyo hit a two-week high, with semiconductor-related shares leading the market as the industry looks to boost manufacturing amid a global shortage of chips.

Biden’s spending plan includes $50 billion for chip manufacturing and other technology research, said Fumio Matsumoto, chief strategist at Okasan Securities.

China stocks posted a second weekly gain as recent data pointed to a solid recovery in the world’s second-largest economy. Both the CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index closed at an almost four-week high.

Chinese steel rebar and hot-rolled coil prices closed at record highs after China on Thursday announced a nationwide investigation into steel capacity cuts launched in 2016 as part of efforts to ensure output falls this year.

South Korean shares closed higher to clock their biggest weekly gain in nearly two months as optimism about a stimulus-fueled economic recovery lifted equities.

Stocks rose on Wall Street on Thursday, with the S&P 500 index hitting a fresh peak as it scaled the 4,000 marks and the benchmark Deutsche Boerse DAX index in Germany setting a new high. Equities rose on reports of the strongest manufacturing data in decades around the world.

The dollar index rose 0.127%, with the euro down 0.14% to $1.1759. The Japanese yen weakened 0.07% versus the greenback at 110.67 per dollar.

Spot gold prices fell 0.08% to $1,728.84 an ounce.

Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can enjoy again, according to new U.S. guidance issued Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.

Previously, the agency had cautioned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people but noted that it would update its guidance as more people got vaccinated and evidence mounted about the protection the shots provide.

”Every day you get more data, and you change your guidance based on the existing data,” said Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska’s College of Public Health.

Khan said the update reinforces the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines and is another incentive for people to get vaccinated.

According to the CDC, nearly 100 million people in the U.S. — or about 30% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.

Unvaccinated people are still advised to avoid unnecessary travel.

The new guidance says:

— Fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining. People should still wear a mask, socially distance, and avoid crowds, the agency says.

— For international travel, the agency says vaccinated people do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, though some destinations may require it.

— Vaccinated people should still get a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the U.S., and be tested three to five days after returning. They do not need to quarantine. The agency noted the potential introduction of virus variants and differences in vaccine coverage around the world for the cautious guidance on overseas travel.

The CDC cited recent research on the real-world effects of the vaccines for its updated guidance. Already, the agency had said fully vaccinated people could visit with each other indoors without wearing masks or social distancing. It also said vaccinated people could visit with unvaccinated people from a single household under similar conditions, as long as the unvaccinated individuals were at low risk for severe illness if infected.

The U.S. began its vaccine rollout in mid-December. The first vaccines — from Pfizer and Moderna — require two doses taken a few weeks apart. A one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson was given the green light by regulators at the end of February.