Hospitality hiring rises, but so does turnover, new stats show

Restaurants' labor problem is shifting back to retention as much as recruitment.
Photograph: Shutterstock

About 3 of every 50 people employed in the restaurant and lodging industries quit during March, even as overall hirings increased and unfilled positions dropped to the lowest level in at least four months, according to new federal statistics.

The figures suggest the industry’s key labor challenge is shifting back to employee retention rather than an inability to find job candidates. The number of workers hired by hotels and restaurants nearly hit 1.04 million last month, an increase of about 19,000 from the tally of February hires, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

The recruitment lowered the number of positions left unfilled in the hospitality industry to about 1.5 million, or 59,000 fewer than the vacancies recorded at the end of February. Those open jobs account for 9.9% of all the positions that are currently available in hotels and foodservice facilities, compared to the 10.3% rate that was clocked a month earlier.

The number of hospitality employees who quit during March totaled 810,000, an uptick of 14,000 from the prior month and 250,000 from a year ago. The quit rate for industry workers hasn’t been that high since November. 

The number of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs has been so high across many industries that pundits have dubbed the trend The Great Resignation. The departures have been particularly numerous in the restaurant business.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report how many workers who quit end up taking a similar job for another employer. But the increase in both quitting and hiring suggests more movement on a growing base of industry workers.

The findings align with what major chains have been telling investors and the media about the labor situation.

“The fact is, things are improving,” Kris Genck, a McDonald’s owner in Minnesota, told Restaurant Business Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Maze last week. “It’s getting better from a year ago. It’s getting better from six months ago.”

The industry has been struggling to hire enough employees to meet a surge in business that most observers have attributed to pent-up demand among consumers who have been hunkered down at home. Because of those recruitment issues, many operators have cut their hours or days of service, and openings have been delayed to provide more time for recruitment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will report Friday on how many jobs were created in the restaurant and hotel industries during April.

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