Restaurants added a lot of jobs last month, fueled by stimulus payments and the opening of dining rooms, and generated most of the economy’s employment growth in February, according to data released on Friday.
The industry added 285,900 jobs in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By contrast, the overall economy added 379,000 jobs—meaning that three out of every four jobs created last month were at a restaurant.
It was the strongest rate of job growth for restaurants since July.
Much of that job growth likely came from stimulus payments to consumers, many of whom turned around and spent them at restaurants, fueling sales growth across industry sectors—chains from McDonald’s and Burger King to Brinker International’s Chili’s reported strong sales in January and into February.
At the same time, more states reopened dining rooms after they were closed or restricted in December amid a renewed surge in COVID-19.
Still, the industry has a long way to go. Restaurants currently employ 10.3 million people, but that was lower than the levels in October and November. It is also down more than 2 million jobs since last February, the industry’s peak level of employment before COVID hit in March, leading to widespread closures of restaurants and massive jobs cuts.
Overall, the unemployment rate remained largely unchanged in February at 6.2%.