After rising sharply in the immediate aftermath of the lockdowns, restaurant job growth slowed significantly in recent months. As a result, eating and drinking place* employment still remained 2.3 million jobs below February’s pre-coronavirus peak.

On the state level, job-losers outnumbered job-gainers by a wide margin in September. Thirty-two states experienced a net decline in restaurant jobs between August and September, while only 18 states and the District of Columbia saw employment levels rise.

While the approaching cooler weather was likely a driver of some staffing reductions in the northern states in September, the trends were not uniform. Indeed, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined to add more than 20,000 restaurant jobs in September. At the same time, some states in the south were among the jurisdictions that lost restaurant jobs in September.

Massachusetts lost a net 7,900 eating and drinking place jobs in September – tops among the 32 states that saw employment declines. Florida (-4,600), Maine (-3,800), Virginia (-3,400) and Minnesota (-3,300) also registered sizable restaurant job losses in September.

Overall, restaurant employment in 47 states and the District of Columbia remained below February’s pre-coronavirus level. In Hawaii, there were 46% fewer eating and drinking places jobs in September than there were in February. Restaurant employment in Vermont and the District of Columbia was still down more than 30% from February’s levels.

Only three states – Indiana, Idaho and Mississippi – had more eating and drinking place jobs in September 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.