A strong jobs report defied recession alarms. Here are the industries hiring workers

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(NEW YORK) — A better-than-expected jobs report on Friday defied interest rate hikes that aim to slash inflation by cooling the economy.

Instead, the U.S. added 253,000 jobs in April, marking a slight decline from an average of 290,000 over the previous six months. The unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, matching a 54-year low, government data showed.

The job gains, however, did not accrue evenly across sectors. Some industries posted blockbuster expansions while others lagged far behind.

“There are good signs and there’s broad growth,” William Spriggs, chief economist for the labor federation AFL-CIO, told ABC News. “But many of the sectors didn’t do very much.”

Here’s what to know about which industries are seeing jobs grow the fastest and why:

Business and professional services: 43,000 jobs added

The sector that featured the most job gains covers a wide-reaching set of positions referred to as business and professional services, which includes highly trained employees such as attorneys, accountants, managers and computer engineers, among others.

The sector added 43,000 jobs last month, nearly doubling an average of 25,000 jobs gained over the previous six months.

The major expansion arrives despite high-profile layoffs last month in the media and tech industries, with some cuts involving management at companies such as Disney, Vice Media and Lyft.

The layoffs elsewhere may have driven some of the job growth in this sector, since companies across the economy depend on tech professionals but often face difficulty attracting them, Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, told ABC News.

“Their contraction is a boon to the rest of the economy, which almost had no chance recruiting top software engineers before,” Pollak said. “Finally, it stands a chance.”

Health care: 40,000 jobs added

Health care, an industry that has shown strong job growth in recent months, continued at a blistering pace in April.

The performance in this industry owes in large part to the aging U.S. population, Pollak said.

Roughly 17% of Americans are 65 years of age or older, according to a report released in February by the Administration of Aging, a government agency. That share of the population, which counts 55.7 million people, has grown nearly 40% since 2010, the report said.

Employment at nursing and residential care facilities made up almost a quarter of the jobs added in the sector last month, government data showed.

“This is an industry with tremendous long-term prospects,” Pollak said. “Where labor can’t easily be replaced by ChatGPT.”

Despite a bright future, the sector faced major difficulties during the pandemic when an overwhelming need for care led to staffing shortages and burnout, Spriggs said.

“We know that the sector was hurt deeply by the COVID crisis,” he said. “I think this is a very good sign that it’s on its way to recovery.”

Leisure and hospitality: 31,000 jobs added

Leisure and hospitality, an industry decimated by the pandemic, sustained strong growth in April as it continued to climb back toward pre-pandemic employment levels.

More than 80% of the job gains in the sector took place at food service and drinking establishments, which have benefited from the return of dining out and nightlife as coronavirus cases have waned.

But employment in the industry remains 2.4% below the employment level in February 2020, government data showed.

The shortfall of workers leaves room for growth in the sector, no matter how the wider economy fares, said Jeffrey Roach, chief economist at Charlotte-based investment firm LPL Financial.

“We should expect continued job gains in these industries even if the broader economy shrinks,” Roach said.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

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