The U.S. unemployment rate fell below last month’s record-high 14.7 percent, which was the highest on record in data going back to 1948. Economists estimate that the unemployment rate reached 25 percent during the Great Depression, although that predated the scientific economy-wide record keeping the government now deploys.
The job gains mark a sudden turnaround from a month earlier, when the economy shed a staggering 20.5 million jobs, by far the worst monthly decline on records back to 1939.
Economists had expected the unemployment rate to rise to nearly 20 percent and the economy to shed an additional 8 million jobs.
The mandatory closures of many businesses and stay-at-home orders slammed what had been a very healthy labor market hard. The economy added jobs for 113 straight weeks through February, a record streak of growth. The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in February. And yet job creation was running very hot, with the economy adding an average of 211,000 new jobs each month.