Restaurants and bars led the nonfarm sector of the economy in rehiring during July, according to just-released government figures, with 502,000 individuals added to payrolls as dining rooms reopened and to-go sales remained strong.
Eating and drinking places accounted for nearly one of every three jobs (28.5%) created outside of the agriculture industry during the month. The foodservice industry rolled into August with roughly 9.7 million employees on a seasonably adjusted basis, keeping its distinction as the nation’s second- largest employer, behind healthcare.
In contrast, supermarkets lost nearly 19,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis.
Still, figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show 2.4 million fewer people were working in restaurants and bars than the 12 million who were employed a year ago, a 19.7% decline.
The findings will likely serve as ammunition for industry lobbyists as negotiations continue in Washington, D.C., over a new COVID relief and stimulus package. They argue that restaurants have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic but could still play an outsized roll in the nation’s economic recovery by quickly restoring jobs.
"Another month has gone by with more people unemployed, more bills piled up, more permanently closed businesses, and no plan from Congress to save our restaurants," the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a trade group representing that market sector, said in a statement. "One in four of your neighbors, friends, and family unemployed during the pandemic worked in restaurants and bars. We are one of the only industries being asked to limit capacity or remain closed for the indefinite future in many states, yet neither Congress nor the White House has a plan to help us get through this."
Overall, job creation slowed on a national basis during July, with 1.8 million people hired versus 4.8 million in June. Economists had expected the deceleration because of the surge in new coronavirus infections in many states, which in turn led to a second wave of commercial restrictions or a delay in business re-openings in some hard-hit areas.
The unemployment rate dipped during the month to 10.2%, a figure closely watched by many in the restaurant business as a gauge of both consumers’ spending power and how difficult it might be to recruit employees. Operators in some areas have complained that rehiring back of house employees has been particularly difficult because of safety concerns.