The United States restaurant industry has achieved a significant milestone, rebounding to pre-pandemic employment levels in September, as confirmed by a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as part of its monthly U.S. employment report.
This development augurs well for a potential broader resurgence in the leisure and hospitality sector. In a noteworthy surge, the number of Americans employed in the food service industry spiked by 61,000 in September compared to the preceding month. This figure constituted the lion’s share of the jobs added in the wider leisure and hospitality arena, which experienced a commendable upswing of 96,000 jobs last month. This robust expansion in restaurant and bar employment nearly doubled the average monthly increase of 37,000 jobs recorded over the past year.
September saw a commendable overall job addition of 336,000 positions across various industries, maintaining the unemployment rate at 3.8%, a figure identical to the previous month. This stability can be attributed, in part, to the extraordinary impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food service employment. A staggering 6 million workers were lost within the sector in March and April of 2020 alone, as consumers resorted to stockpiling groceries while adhering to quarantine restrictions.
Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su underscored that the surge in wages, particularly among lower-paid workers, has significantly bolstered economic recovery. This resurgence has enabled restaurant and bar employees to generate sufficient income, fostering sustained job growth even in an industry that bore the brunt of the pandemic’s initial onslaught.
However, despite the remarkable strides made in the food industry, the leisure and hospitality sector at large is yet to witness a substantial recovery. Notably, employment in hotel accommodations and amusement and gambling services remains below the levels recorded in February 2020. The performing arts and spectator sports sector has exhibited the most notable recovery, with a 5% surge beyond February 2020 employment levels.
While the upswing in restaurant employment is a promising indicator for the hospitality and leisure industry, it is evident that there remains substantial ground to cover before a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is realized. The path ahead demands continued efforts and vigilance in order to restore the sector to its pre-pandemic vitality.