Unemployment Drops to 3.8 Percent as Americans Get Back to Spending

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 4 percent down to 3.8 percent in February, signaling further economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic-driven recession. The Department of Labor also said Friday that employers in the U.S. added 678,000 jobs in February.

The gains highlight a rise in consumer spending at restaurants, shops and hotels, places that are all now seeing higher traffic after the latest Omicron variant surge drove Americans back indoors for a period of time, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, hourly wages have increased 5.1 percent in the past year as companies try to acquire and then keep workers, and many businesses are raising their prices to account for the change. This, in turn, has spurred consumer inflation in the U.S., which has reached its highest level in 40 years.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said that the job gains and the drop in the unemployment rate show that "my plan to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out is working to get America back to work."

"While we must tackle head on the challenge families are facing with rising costs, today's report underscores that the United States is uniquely well positioned to deal with the challenge that inflation has posed across the world as we recover from the pandemic," the statement read.

The newest drop in the unemployment rate edges it closer to pre-pandemic levels. The rate in February 2020 was 3.5 percent and there were 5.7 million unemployed people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In February 2022, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent, with 6.3 million people out of work, the bureau said.

U.S. Unemployment
The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 4 percent down to 3.8 percent in February, the Labor Department reported Friday. Above, for sale and hiring signs are displayed at an Armani Exchange store in Miami on January 21. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Even with the price rises, job growth and the economy at large are expected to continue improving as Omicron cases continue falling after their January peak.

Americans are saying that they're less worried about contracting COVID-19, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey found that just 24 percent of respondents are either "extremely" or "very" worried about getting sick.

The 24 percent who gave this response was 12 percentage points lower than in January and December.

Around 34 percent of poll respondents said that they're somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19.

These statistics, considered in conjunction with changes like the ending of mask mandates and a return to in-person work, signal that Americans are becoming more and more comfortable in public places and will continue the high consumer spending that's aiding the economic recovery.

Late last month, the number of diners seated at restaurants was higher than levels from before the pandemic, according to data from restaurant reservation company OpenTable. Figures from the Transportation Security Administration indicate that more people are comfortable traveling on airplanes, the AP reported.

Update 03/04/22, 11:30 a.m. ET: This story was updated with comments from President Joe Biden.