David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics at the U.S. Travel Association, analyzes the latest employment and trade data released by federal agencies Friday:
"The travel sector added 10,500 jobs in February, according to the Department of Labor's monthly report—continuing a strong and steady growth trend even through an unusually harsh winter.
"But not every metric withstood the chilling effect of the recent weather. While other U.S. exports rebounded in January after a dismal performance in December, today's Commerce Department trade report showed that travel exports (inbound international travel to the United States) began 2014 on a softer note, edging down by $0.2 billion to $15.8 billion in January.
"While some of the softening in travel trade was a natural correction following very strong growth at the end of last year, the impact of weather-related delays and cancellations on international travel likely curtailed travel spending in the U.S. by international visitors.
"We can't eliminate all the effects of weather on our economy, but modernizing our infrastructure to reduce flight delays and cancellations could mitigate the harm inclement weather can inflict upon both domestic and international travel.
"Still, over the past 12 months, travel exports increased 6.8 percent, or 2.5 times faster than the rise of other U.S. exports of goods and services.
"On the employment side, the travel industry continues to lead the way in U.S. economic growth and recovery, now employing 62,000 more workers than the pre-recession employment peak set in February 2008. While travel industry employment is now more than fully recovered—13 percent higher since the start of the Great Recession in early 2010—the rest of the economy is only 92 percent recovered. Travel has added jobs at an 18 percent faster rate than the rest of the economy since early 2010, creating 531,000 jobs.
"One of the main reasons our sector has been outperforming the rest of the economy in job growth is that travel exports, which support more than a million jobs, have been growing much faster than other U.S. exports of goods and services over the past 12 months.
"It is essential to put the right policies in place such as the JOLT Act, to make it easier for international visitors to come to the U.S. and spend thousands of dollars, generating solid, middle-class jobs."