Foodservice and bar employment grew by 108,000 jobs in January, but leisure and hospitality employment remained down 1.8 million, or 10.3%, since pre-pandemic February 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The bureau said the January 2022 unemployment rate hovered at 4%, little changed from the 3.9% reported in December.
Both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons, at 6.5 million, changed little in January, the agency said.
Over the year, the unemployment rate is down by 2.4 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 3.7 million. In February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5% and the number of unemployed was 5.7 million.
Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the National Restaurant Association, said in his monthly commentary that “while January’s gain was a positive sign, it wasn’t enough to put a significant dent in the 1.5 million hospitality job openings on the last business day of December.”
The January increases were the 13th consecutive month of eating and drinking place employment gains, he said, which translated to nearly 1.7 million jobs being restored to payrolls.
Grindy added that concern over the omicron coronavirus variant led to a decline in business conditions for many restaurants in January, with 88% of 4,200 operators surveyed Jan. 6-18 reporting a decline in customer demand for indoor on-premises dining. That led 51% of respondents to reduce hours of operation and 10% to offer only off-premises sales for a period of time.
Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, issued a statement Friday, saying: “When people working in leisure and hospitality are more than twice as likely to be unemployed, it’s hard to argue the economy is thriving.”
The coalition said the unemployment rate for leisure and hospitality works is 8.2%, about double the economy-wide rate.
“More than 90,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic, taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them,” Polmar said.
The coalition is urging Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless