Restaurant industry employment is still slow to recover

The restaurant industry’s employment numbers are still slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, with food and beverage businesses adding 41,000 jobs in June, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

However, the hospitality and entertainment industry has still been one of the slowest industries to recover from the employment downturn as job numbers are still down 7.8% since Feb. 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The overall U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged from last month at 3.6%.

As restaurants still struggle to maintain staffing and prevent high turnover rates, the good news is that hospitality industry unemployment rates have halved on a year-over-year basis. From June 2021 to June 2022, the hospitality unemployment rate fell from 10.9% to 5.2%.

Overall, while the restaurant industry’s job numbers continue to improve, the recovery is still very slow. Since June 2021, the number of workers employed by the foodservice industry grew 8.9%, and since June 2020, grew 27%, but has not reached the job levels of pre-2020 numbers as workers continue to leave the foodservice industry. As of June 2022, there are 11,938,000 workers employed by the foodservice industry.

As the hospitality industry continues to struggle with employment rates, non-franchised operators have woken up to union labor movements in their stores, like the major unionization movement that has taken over Starbucks.

Restaurants are using multiple tactics to solve the slow return to work, including higher minimum wages and flexible scheduling.  

“There is no silver bullet, one answer for everybody,” Rona Lascano, director of training at A&W Restaurants told Nation’s Restaurant News in May. “[…] What we can influence is what the labor force today is looking for and how the expectations have changed and really shifting toward a more team-member-centric approach to recruiting and retention.”

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