Restaurants continued to add more jobs last month
Restaurant companies added 187,000 jobs in April, according to new federal data released Friday, continuing their hiring streak this year as dining rooms reopened and customers flock to their doors.
But the industry still employs far fewer people than before the pandemic, even though many restaurant companies are seeing sales above their pre-pandemic levels. The industry employs 10.6 million people – 4.3 million more workers than a year ago – but still 1.7 million fewer people than in February 2020, before the pandemic resulted in general closings and closings of food services.
The big economy also saw a slower-than-expected rate of job growth in April, which can only fuel concerns that stimulus payments are preventing Americans from taking jobs. The economy added just 266,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate reached 6.1%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Economists expected much more – human resources firm ADP earlier in the week said private employers added 742,000 jobs during the month, for example.
The participation rate in April was 61.7%, 1.6 percentage points lower than it was in February 2020. There were 6.6 million inactive people who wanted a job but did not were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work last month.
Leisure and hospitality activities, including restaurants, added a solid level of growth. They added 330,000 jobs – more than the 237,000 reported this week by ADP.
Businesses like hotels, performing arts centers, and museums have created jobs as people began to emerge from the pandemic and states began to ease restrictions that kept these facilities closed for more than a year.
Restaurants have also opened. States have eased restrictions on food service and consumers are stepping out, causing a scramble for employees that has created a labor shortage. Restaurants raised workers’ wages and used signing bonuses, improved perks, and even interview bonuses to get people in.
“The combination of COVID, strong sales, the reopening of the economy as a whole and the high level of government stimulus creates one of the most challenging staffing environments we have seen in a long time,” said the week last Domino’s Pizza CEO Ritch Allison.
Still, the industry apparently remains smaller overall than it was before the pandemic, at least based on employment figures.
Another interesting note for restaurants: fewer people are working from home. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said 18.3% of employees telecommuted due to the pandemic, up from 21% the previous month.