March Jobs Report Shows Biggest Losses in Food Services, Restaurants and Bars

The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4%, from a 50-year low in February of 3.5%

A person putting up paper in front of a large window
Food services and drinking places take the biggest hit according to the Labor Department's March jobs report. Getty Images
Headshot of Kathryn Lundstrom

The United States lost 701,000 jobs in March, according to the Labor Department’s monthly job report released today, halting a decade-long record of growth. The unemployment rate rose from 3.5% in February to 4.4% in March, the highest monthly increase since 1975.

And those numbers don’t tell the full jobless picture. The March numbers don’t account for the 9.9 million jobless claims filed over the last two weeks because the data for the March jobs report was collected prior to March 14.

That was before many of the coronavirus-related shutdowns took effect and millions of layoffs and furloughs were announced. The losses from the second half of the month will show in the April report, due out May 1.

Two-thirds of March job losses came from the leisure and hospitality industries, mostly from food services, bars and restaurants, which reported a loss of 417,000 jobs. Employment in professional and business services dropped 52,000, the majority of which was attributed to temporary help services, but also included 7,000 in travel arrangement and reservation services.

Employment in retail trade dropped by 46,000, due mostly to losses among clothing, furniture, sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. Construction lost 29,000 jobs.

Industries mostly unaffected so far include wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information and financial activities.

@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.