The labor market is booming and these jobs are growing the most
As pandemic fears wane, in-person jobs surge, experts said.
As illustrated by that contrast in fortunes, however, the hiring surge hasn't been distributed equally. For waiters and bartenders, job boards are lighting up; for computer programmers, they're relatively dim.
The strong job market stems from an easing of pandemic fears among consumers and workers alike, allowing employers in person-to-person industries to meet growing demand with the expanded payrolls necessary to serve it, experts and business owners told ABC News.
The growth should continue in sectors like leisure and hospitality as well as health care, since they have yet to catch up to where employment stood before the pandemic or where growth would have sent employment if not for the coronavirus interruption, the experts and business owners added.
"It's really in-person services that are the strength of the U.S. labor market right now," Nick Bunker, head of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told ABC News. "The areas of the economy that got hit really hard by the initial shock of the pandemic."
"We're seeing a rebalancing of the economy back toward them," he added. "That's where most of the momentum is."
Here's which jobs are growing the most and why:
Leisure and hospitality
The economy added a staggering 517,000 jobs last month, well above the breakneck pace of some 400,000 monthly jobs added on average last year, according to government data.
Nearly a quarter of the new jobs last month came in leisure and hospitality, making the current hottest job sector a category that comprises restaurants, bars and hotels, among other related businesses.
The surge in hiring in the leisure and hospitality industry owes to a growing shift among consumers back toward a pre-pandemic lifestyle of traveling, eating out and attending events, Wayne Cascio, an industrial-organizational psychologist at the University of Colorado, told ABC News.
"People were stuck for so long during the pandemic and there's this pent up demand," Cascio said. "That demand is fueling employers' needs to hire more people."
Alongside heightened demand, the industry has benefited from workers willing to take jobs that previously posed a grave health threat when the pandemic was raging, he added.
"People didn't want to get into hospitality and serving customers because of the possible exposure to the virus," Cascio said.
Juiceland, a chain of 33 smoothie shops in Texas with 600 employees, hired more than a quarter of those workers over the past month as the company ramps up for higher demand in the spring and summer, CEO Matt Shook told ABC News.
However, the seasonal surge makes up only part of the story, he added, noting that sales have soared about 20% compared to the same period last year, in part because the return of many office workers has helped business recover at stores in metropolitan downtown areas.
"We're seeing more traffic these days," Shook said. "We're back to being busy for sure."
Helping Juiceland stand out in a tight job market, the company guarantees entry-level pay of $15 per hour, including tips, and provides every employee with at least three days of paid time off annually as well as an $11 store credit each day, Shook said.
"Some of our best new hires are our regular customers," he added.
Meanwhile, in response to a spike in travel, the accommodations sector added 15,000 jobs last month, government data showed.
Still, nearly 80% of hotels say they're facing a staffing shortage, according to a survey released on Monday by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, which found that the position in highest demand is housekeeping.
The health care industry has marked another major source of job increases, especially ambulance and nursing home workers, government data last month showed. Overall, the sector accounted for more than 10% of the jobs added last month.
The hiring bump in the industry arrives at the convergence of a long-term rise in health care employment as well as a short-term recovery after a pandemic drawdown in some jobs, said Bunker, of the Indeed Hiring Lab.
While the pandemic brought heightened demand for jobs directly related to the coronavirus fight, it caused a drop in health care employment in areas without direct connection to the outbreak, Bunker said.
The number of employees nationwide in nursing homes and other facilities fell by about 410,000 between February 2020 and November 2021, a Wisconsin Watch analysis of government data showed. Since then, the industry has only recovered about 103,000 jobs, according to the data.
"Some people might say, 'How does that sector of all sectors lose jobs during the pandemic?'" Bunker said. "Health care services that are not directly related to pandemic care ended due to the pandemic itself."
Meanwhile, as the baby boom generation has aged in recent years, a greater share of the U.S. population has risen above the age of 65, in turn requiring more medical care. Currently, nearly 17% of the U.S. population is of retirement age; by 2030, that share is expected to reach 20%, according to the United Health Foundation.
"The demographics are baked in here," Bunker said. "This will continue to fuel strong growth in the health care sector."
The pandemic-induced rise of e-commerce brought a rise in warehouse employment and a decline in retail workers – but the retail sector has rebounded lately.
The sector added 30,000 jobs last month, including more than half of those at general merchandise retailers, government data showed.
Twin Liquors, a Texas-based chain of about 100 liquor stores, has had a much easier time hiring and retaining workers this year than it did during the early months of 2022, David Jabour, the company's president, told ABC News.
Last year it took about a month to fill an open position, while this year it has taken about half as long, Jabour said. Meanwhile, the company has retained 50% of seasonal workers brought in during the peak holiday season as permanent employees, an unusually large share, he added.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus, the company avoided job cuts that pummeled much of the retail sector, Jabour said, noting that Twin Liquors had grown its employees throughout the pandemic.
He said he expects that hiring to continue, despite evidence that U.S. consumption has weakened in recent months.
"The consumer will continue to spend," he said. "They may spend a little less on that bottle of single malt scotch or tequila."