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Restaurant hiring accelerates sharply in January

Restaurants and hotels led all economic segments in job creation last month, yet still came up about half a million jobs short of where their payrolls were pre-pandemic, according to new federal statistics.
Restaurant and bar jobs
Restaurant hiring accelerated in January. / Photo: Shutterstock

Restaurants and bars led all U.S. economic sectors in job creation during January with the addition of 98,600 positions, signaling strength for the business but a tougher recruitment environment for restaurant employers, according to new federal data.

Last month’s increase compares with the addition of 31,600 jobs during December, the numbers show.

Hiring numbers released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also show an upswing in hiring by hotels, with 14,800 jobs added.

Still, total employment within the leisure and hospitality segment remains about 495,000 jobs short of where that category was in Feb. 2020, a decline of 2.9%, BLS reported. Restaurants and bars employed a total of about 12.2 million workers by the end of last month, the agency noted.

That compares with a workforce of more than 12.3 million in February 2020, before the pandemic and closures of dine-in services led to widespread layoffs. Restaurants are now less than 200,000 jobs short of a full employment recovery. 

The numbers show that restaurants outstripped such traditional competitors for recruits as retailing and healthcare in January. The former added 30,000 jobs, after basically holding steady in December, while healthcare hired another 58,000 employees.

Overall, the economy continues to add jobs. Employers added 517,000 workers in January and the unemployment rate was 3.4%. 

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