After posting six consecutive monthly gains following the spring lockdowns, the restaurant industry’s employment recovery stalled in November. The job losses were not surprising, as restaurant sales declined in both October and November. As a result, the restaurant industry remains 2.1 million jobs below its pre-coronavirus level.

On the state level, job-losers outnumbered job-gainers by a wide margin in November. Thirty-six states lost restaurant jobs between October and November, while only 14 states and the District of Columbia saw employment levels rise.

Illinois lost a net 31,100 eating and drinking place jobs in November, which was easily the highest among the 36 states that experienced employment declines. Michigan (-9,900), Minnesota (-9,100), New York (-7,200), Indiana (-6,800), New Jersey (-6,800), Massachusetts (-6,600) and Colorado (-6,400) also registered sizable restaurant job losses in November.

Overall, restaurant employment in 47 states and the District of Columbia remained below February’s pre-coronavirus level. In 16 states, restaurant employment was still down more than 20% from February. This group was led by Vermont, which had 40% fewer eating and drinking places jobs in November than it did in February.

Only three states – Oklahoma, Mississippi and Idaho – had more eating and drinking place jobs in November than they did in February.

View the employment data for every state.

[It’s important to note that the BLS monthly employment reports count 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.