Restaurants have regained half of their lost jobs

The industry added about 1.5 million new jobs last month but remain far off pre-pandemic levels.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants added nearly 1.5 million jobs last month as states reopened dining rooms across the country and operators brought back furloughed employees, according to new federal data released on Friday.

Since restaurant employment bottomed out at 6.3 million jobs in April, the industry has brought back 2.9 million workers, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Food services and drinking places now employ nearly 9.2 million Americans. Yet that remains far off their pre-pandemic peak. In February, before closures of restaurants across the country led to mass layoffs, the industry employed 12.3 million workers. Restaurants have added back nearly half of the jobs they lost.

Restaurant hiring the past two months has largely led the overall economy, which added 4.8 million jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell to 11.1%. That means nearly one out of every three workers who got jobs last month started working at a restaurant.

Still, the concern at this point is the state of the pandemic and whether it prevents further hiring as states pause reopening plans. Several states have paused their reopening plans, and Wednesday’s announced reclosure of restaurants in 19 California counties are huge: Those counties alone represent nearly 10% of U.S. restaurant sales, according to one estimate, larger than any other state.

In addition, with tourism slow to return along with business travel, the industry could take some time to regain those remaining jobs.

Still, the industry is in recovery mode after the pandemic shutdown. Black Box Intelligence said this week that the week ended June 21 was the strongest for restaurants since the pandemic started.

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