The restaurant industry’s labor market remained challenged across most states in January, based on an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Forty states and the District of Columbia lost restaurant jobs between December and January, while only 10 states saw staffing levels rise.

California lost a net 71,200 eating and drinking place jobs in January, which was easily the largest decline among the states that shed jobs. It also represented the state’s third consecutive monthly employment decline, which totaled 151,000 lost jobs.

New York (-25,300), Texas (-15,900), Georgia (-9,800), South Carolina (-9,600) and Massachusetts (-8,500) also registered sizable restaurant job losses in January.

With the release of the January 2021 state-level employment data, BLS incorporated its annual benchmark revisions. As a result of these revisions, restaurant employment is now below the February 2020 pre-coronavirus level in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In 11 states, restaurant employment was still down at least 30% from the February 2020 level. This group was led by the District of Columbia, which had 54% fewer eating and drinking places jobs in January 2021 than it did in February 2020.

New York (-38%), Michigan (-36%), California (-35%) and Oregon (-35%) also have significant deficits from their pre-coronavirus staffing levels.

In raw numbers, California leads the way with 511,200 fewer eating and drinking place jobs than it had in February 2020. Restaurant staffing levels are also well below pre-pandemic levels in New York (-246,900), Illinois (-145,200), Florida (-140,100) and Texas (-135,600).

View the employment data for every state.

[Note: The BLS monthly employment dataset measures jobs during the payroll period that includes the 12th of each month. Changes in restaurant staffing levels – both negative and positive – have occurred rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, as restaurants quickly adjust their operating status in response to evolving regulatory and economic conditions. As a result, significant changes likely occurred during the weeks between each measurement period, and the monthly data may not fully capture the total job losses experienced during the coronavirus lockdowns. Still, the figures are a useful indication of the extent to which restaurant employment is recovering in each 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.