May 21, 2021

Restaurant jobs remain below pre-pandemic levels in 49 states and DC

Restaurant employment continued to trend higher in April, but staffing levels remained well below normal for most operations. Eating and drinking places* added a net 187,000 jobs in April on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

On the state level, job-gainers outnumbered job-losers by a significant margin in April. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia added restaurant jobs between March and April, while only 4 states saw employment levels decline.

California set the pace with a net gain of 44,600 eating and drinking place jobs in April. New York (32,700), Texas (25,000), Illinois (14,600), Washington (12,800) and Massachusetts (12,000) also posted solid employment gains in April.

Overall, restaurant employment in 49 states and the District of Columbia remained below the February 2020 pre-coronavirus level. Only one state – Idaho – had more eating and drinking place jobs in April 2021 than it did in February 2020.

In 5 states and the District of Columbia, restaurant employment was still down more than 20% from February 2020. The District of Columbia (-42%), Vermont (-33%), New York (-26%), Hawaii (-25%), Massachusetts (-23%) and California (-23%) have the largest deficits from their pre-coronavirus staffing levels.

California has 330,600 fewer eating and drinking place jobs than it had in February 2020. Restaurant employment levels are also well below pre-pandemic readings in New York (-169,300), Florida (-104,400), Illinois (-90,200) and Texas (-78,900).

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.