Foodservice and drinking places added about 124,000 jobs in February, and the overall U.S. unemployment rate slipped to 3.8%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
“Restaurant industry job growth settled into a remarkably consistent trend in recent months,” wrote Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the Nation’s Restaurant Association, in his analysis of the latest statistics.
Leisure and hospitality positions provided more than a quarter of the job growth in February, a month in which total non-farm payroll employment rose by 678,000, the bureau said.
Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to increase, with a gain of 179,000 in February. In addition to the 124,00 jobs added in foodservice establishments and drinking places, the accommodation sector added 28,000.
Overall employment in the leisure and hospitality sector has not returned to pre-COVID pandemic levels.
“Since February 2020, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 1.5 million, or 9%,” the bureau noted in its monthly report.
Grindy of the restaurant association said February represented the sector’s fourth consecutive month with job growth in the 125,000-position range and 14th consecutive month of employment gains overall.
“In total during the last 14 months, eating and drinking places added a net 1.8 million jobs,” Grindy said.
“Despite the steady gains in recent months, eating and drinking places remained 824,000 jobs – or 6.7% – below their February 2020 pre-pandemic employment peak,” he said.
Segment-level data, which lag the overall jobless numbers by a month, for January indicate staffing levels have rebounded but not reached pre-pandemic numbers.
“The full-service segment suffered the most job losses during the initial months of the pandemic – and still has the longest path to recovery,” Grindy noted. “As of January 2022, full-service restaurant staffing levels were over 650,000 jobs (or 12%) below pre-coronavirus readings in February 2020.”
Job losses in the limited-service segments were less severe during the early months of the pandemic.
“As of January 2022, staffing levels at snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars – including coffee, doughnut and ice cream shops – were 68,000 jobs (or 8%) above February 2020 readings,” Grindy said.
The quick-service and fast-casual segments remained 81,000 jobs (or 2%) below pre-pandemic levels, he said.
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