November 06, 2020

The restaurant industry employment recovery slowed in recent months

Restaurant employment levels continued to rise in October, albeit at a much slower pace than during the initial rebound coming out of the spring lockdowns. Eating and drinking places* added a net 192,200 jobs in October on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This followed gains of 99,600 jobs in August and 232,500 jobs in September. In total during the last three months, eating and drinking places added a net 524,300 jobs. That was identical to the net employment gain registered in July alone, and well below the 3 million jobs added in May and June combined.

As a result of the recent slowdown, restaurant staffing levels remain 2.1 million jobs below pre-coronavirus readings. If the current pace of growth continues, a full recovery won’t be seen until late-2021 at the earliest.

[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. Based on surveys of restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 8 million eating and drinking place employees were laid off or furloughed during the peak of the lockdowns.] 

*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior to 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.