Strong Job Gains in March Keep a Flame Under the Recovery

on Apr3
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The Lobby, a brunch-focused restaurant in a tall yet homey late-19th-century building in downtown Denver, almost went out of business in 2020 before being rescued largely by emergency federal aid to small companies. Now, on any given weekend, it offers the sights, smells and sounds of an economic revival starting to get fully comfortable: a packed house of diners chatting away, leaning into each others’ ears in a way unimaginable 18 months ago.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Christian Batizy, is in a bullish mood about his business and the local economy overall. “We’re probably currently 25 percent above our best year,” said Mr. Batizy, who opened the spot in 2009.

“Those of us that made it through the pandemic have come out to an economy where people are a little more willing to spend money out,” he said, adding: “The gap between restaurant prices and cooking at home is closing with grocery store prices having gone up so much.” The cost of food at home increased faster last year than the cost of dining out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consumer prices, which increased by 7.9 percent in the 12 months through February, the largest increase since 1982, have become deeply politicized. Republicans blame Mr. Biden for rising prices, a message that is expected to heat up as the midterm elections near.

“Wages just can’t keep up with President Biden’s raging inflation, which is accelerating,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement on Friday. “Americans should brace for even higher prices ahead.”

Frustration with inflation, in spite of plentiful jobs, cuts across backgrounds, income levels and worldviews. Much of the hiring in the coming months “will be for lower-wage service workers,” said Robert Frick, an economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Unfortunately, those workers are hurt most by high inflation, especially for necessities like gas and food.”

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