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Labor shortfall eased for restaurants in February, new stats show

Eating and drinking places added 123,700 jobs, bringing their total workforce to within 800,000 of the pre-pandemic level.
February restaurant jobs
Photograph: Shutterstock

Eating and drinking places continued last month to outpace the rest of the U.S. private sector in adding jobs, accelerating their hiring with the addition of 123,700 positions, according to just-released data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

With the February additions, restaurants and bars raised their total workforce to 11.8 million people, the closest they’ve come to hitting their collective pre-pandemic headcount, but still 800,000 positions short. The industry has been steadily adding jobs every month, even through dual spikes from the delta and then the omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

The foodservice industry’s contribution to job growth was part of a strong rebound in hiring economywide in February, according to the BLS data. Overall, 678,000 non-farm jobs were added during the month, driving down the national unemployment rate to 3.8%.

Nearly 1 of every 5 of the new positions was in a restaurant or bar.

The figures attest that hiring rebounded last month despite the impact of the omicron surge. That spike in COVID-19 infections started to crest during the month but didn’t flatten until the tail end.

The numbers also show a rise in the percentage of Americans who have returned to work. Participation in the labor force still trailed the pre-pandemic level, but marked a reversal of what’s been dubbed The Great Resignation, or a dramatic acceleration in the number of workers who quit their jobs. The labor force participation rate rose to 62.3% in February. 

Food services and drinking places jobs

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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