The U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 3.8% in February with the addition of 678,000 jobs, according to the Labor Department‘s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.

February saw the biggest monthly growth since last July, with the unemployment rate inching closer to where it was before the pandemic. Economists had predicted 400,000 new jobs ahead of last month, and while employment levels still miss pre-Covid numbers by 1.14 million, labor market numbers should continue trending upwards as it recovers and pandemic measures are lifted.

Leisure and hospitality added the most workers to the labor force, with 179,000 in February. The job gap is also the largest in comparison to pre-pandemic since it was hit the hardest with COVID restrictions.

After inflation increased by an alarming 5.8% last year, wages remained steady in February, increasing by just 0.03% instead of the estimated 0.5% gain, signaling optimism even in the midst of fears rising over inflation in connection to the Russia-Ukraine war.

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