by David Klemt

Leisure and Hospitality Adds 96,000 Jobs

by David Klemt

"Optimist" graffiti

Update: The figure of 61,000 restaurant and bar jobs was adjusted to 48,300 after revisions.

The latest report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the outlook looks promising for hospitality.

Put together, leisure and hospitality added 96,000 jobs in September. However, hospitality certainly leads the way according to the most recent report.

In particular, the news is wonderful for the restaurant and bar sector. Adding 61,000 jobs in September, “food services and drinking places” are back to February 2020 levels.

Put more simply, restaurants and bars are back to pre-pandemic employment numbers. It has taken more than three years, but we can finally breathe a collective (but cautious) sign of relief.

In fact, one in five jobs created in September was in a restaurant or bar. That’s incredible growth and welcome news.

But reaching this point hasn’t been easy. Operators, along with restaurant and bar workers, have clawed their way through the past several years.

The industry has changed, and operators need to avoid the temptation of regressing. Yes, employment levels are back to where they were before the pandemic. Worker and guest expectations will not return to where they were before February 2020. The changes are here to stay.


Unfortunately, not every sector of hospitality is back to pre-pandemic employment levels.

First, the positive news. Lodging (or accommodation, if you prefer) did add jobs in September. Whereas restaurants and bars rose 61,000 jobs, lodging is up 16,000.

That’s good growth and reason to be optimistic regarding that sector. That’s where the good news ends when it comes to hard employment numbers.

On the negative side, lodging hasn’t yet returned to pre-pandemic employment levels. In fact, the sector is remains down by 217,000 jobs when compared to February 2020.

Should lodging/accommodation continue to add jobs at this pace, we could see a full recovery in Q4 2024.

However, the past few years have been an eyeopener for many lodging and accommodation operators. Many hotels, for example, have reduced the sizes of their teams.

It’s possible that as long as guest feedback remains positive, hotels and resorts will continue to operate with smaller teams. Indeed, technological innovations have made it simpler for mid- and large-scale properties to pare back labor.


While returning to pre-pandemic employment levels in restaurants and bars is great news, we must still be cautious.

This is a delicate situation, and one month of growth isn’t enough to shout, “We’re back!” There’s reason to be optimistic, to be sure, but adding jobs is just one part of an equation that features many variables.

For example, the unemployment level in the US remains unchanged at 3.8 percent.

So, be optimistic. Allow yourself to feel some hope. But be cautious. Continue to work toward empowering your teams, increasing traffic and revenue, mastering the guest experience, and achieving short- and long-term goals.

Image: George Pagan III on Unsplash

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