July 02, 2020

Restaurants added 1.5 million jobs for the second consecutive month

The restaurant industry expanded payrolls for the second consecutive month in June, as local economies across the country continued the gradual process of reopening. Eating and drinking places* added a net 1.5 million jobs in June on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The healthy June increase followed a nearly identical gain in May, and represented a significant chunk of the 7.5 million net jobs added to the overall economy during the last two months. However, the nearly 3 million jobs added to payrolls didn’t even represent half of the total restaurant jobs lost at the depth of the coronavirus lockdowns.

To be sure, while a two-month employment bounce of 3 million jobs is impressive, it only marks the beginning of a long road to recovery for the restaurant industry. Indeed, restaurants were hit harder than any other industry during the pandemic, and still have the longest climb back to pre-coronavirus employment levels.

[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.]  

Employment recovery will vary by state and segment

The initial impact of the coronavirus was most significant in the northeast, with several states losing more than 60 percent of their restaurant jobs.

Job losses also varied significantly by industry segment, and so to will the recovery period. [Note that the segment-level employment figures are lagged by one month, so May is the most current data available.]

The fullservice segment saw the largest job losses during the coronavirus-induced lockdowns. More than 3.6 million fullservice restaurant jobs were lost between February and April, according to BLS. The segment added back nearly 1 million jobs in May. 

Limited-service segments fared comparatively better during the lockdowns, as most of these operations were already well-equipped to handle off-premises traffic – the only option available for several weeks. Staffing levels at quickservice and fast casual establishments declined by more than 977,000 between February and April, with 364,000 of these jobs returning in May.

Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars – including coffee, donut and ice cream shops – added 146,800 jobs in May. This followed a loss of more than 400,000 jobs during the previous two months.  

Among the major restaurant segments, only food service contractors continued to shed jobs in May, according to BLS. 

*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.