Job growth in the restaurant industry stalled in August, ending a 7-month period in which employers added nearly 1.4 million jobs. Despite the solid gains in recent months, eating and drinking places* remain nearly 1 million jobs – or 8% – below their pre-pandemic employment peak.

On the state level, restaurant employment was a mixed bag in August, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia added restaurant jobs between July and August, while employment levels in Wyoming were essentially unchanged. 

Twenty-seven states saw restaurant payrolls contract in August, with job losses primarily concentrated in the southeast and northeast regions of the country.

California set the pace with a net gain of 8,600 eating and drinking place jobs in August. New York (4,800), Michigan (3,300), Arizona (3,100) and Kansas (3,000) rounded out of the top 5 for employment growth in August.

On the flip side, Texas shed 23,000 eating and drinking place jobs in August – by far the largest decline in the country. Georgia (-9,000), Florida (-8,400), Pennsylvania (-6,100) and North Carolina (-6,100) were also among the top job-losers in August.

In 46 states and the District of Columbia, restaurant employment in August 2021 remained below the comparable pre-pandemic readings in August 2019. Restaurant employment in four jurisdictions – District of Columbia (-29.0%), Alaska (-25.1%), Hawaii (-22.8%) and New York (-20.9%) – was more than 20% below August 2019 levels.

Only 4 states – South Dakota, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – had more eating and drinking place jobs in August 2021 than they did in August 2019.

As of August 2021, California had 234,800 fewer eating and drinking place jobs than it did in August 2019. Restaurant staffing levels were also well below August 2019 readings in New York (-144,300), Illinois (-73,900), Texas (-59,900) and Pennsylvania (-59,600).

View the employment data for every state. 

*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior the coronavirus outbreak employed 12 million out of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce of 15.6 million.

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.