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Restaurant hiring slowed to a trickle in November, feds say

Only 17,580 hospitality workers were hired last month in the hospitality industry, leaving employers in the leisure sector with a 7.9% shortfall in labor. But some sectors of the supply chain showed more marked improvement.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants and hotels barely narrowed the gaping hole in their workforce last month with just 17,580 new hires, leaving leisure industries still about 1.3 million workers shy of pre-pandemic levels, according to new government figures.

But the jobs update showed “notable” gains in hiring within the nation’s supply chain, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), providing some positive news for the hospitality industry.

Overall, 220,000 U.S. jobs were created during November, according to BLS, or far fewer than economists had forecast. Yet the national unemployment rate also proved a surprise, falling by 0.4 points to 4.2%. That compares with a figure of 6.7% at the end of 2020. Many economists had expected the November rate to fall by just 0.1 point.

The data suggests that restaurant margins may continue to be squeezed by rising labor costs as employers try to outbid one another for a limited number of available hires.

The 17,580 jobs filled by the hospitality industry shows hiring nearly stalled for restaurants and hotels last month. Those employers added 170,000 and 108,000 jobs in October and September, respectively, according to BLS.

Leisure-industry businesses ended the month with 7.9% fewer workers than they had in February 2020.

Restaurants had been outstripping most other fields in its hiring pace. The new BLS numbers show that transportation and warehouse employers proved frontrunners in November, with that sector hiring 50,000 workers. The sector now employs 210,000 more people than it did in February 2020.

Manufacturing jobs increased by 31,000 positions. Included in that tally were 8,000 new hires by metal fabricators, the companies that combine metal components into products like kitchen equipment.

BLS numbers on where Americans worked during November also provided some positive news for restaurants. The number of employees performing their job functions at home slipped by 0.3 percentage points, to 11.3% of the workforce. Many restaurant concepts that derive much of their sales from office workers have felt the loss of that customer base, a result of people working at home to avoid contracting the coronavirus

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously included the employment tallies for leisure businesses in the figures for the hospitality industries.  The reported trends were unchanged by the removal of those counts.

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