December 02, 2022

Restaurant workforce recovery continued in November

November marked the 23rd consecutive month of employment growth, but the industry was still 462,000 jobs below pre-pandemic levels.

The restaurant industry’s workforce recovery continued at a steady pace in November. Eating and drinking places* added a net 62,100 jobs in November on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The solid November increase came on the heels of upward-revised gains in both September (79,500) and October (36,300) – and marked the 23rd consecutive month of restaurant job growth.  

In total during the last 23 months, eating and drinking places added nearly 2.2 million jobs. That’s 400,000 more jobs than the next closest industry added during the last 23 months (professional and business services – 1.8 million jobs). 

Despite the healthy gains in recent months, eating and drinking places remain 462,000 jobs (or 3.7%) below their pre-pandemic peak – tops among all U.S. industries.

Workforce recovery remains uneven across segments

Although staffing levels rebounded from pandemic lows in each of the major restaurant segments, overall employment remains below pre-coronavirus readings in most categories. [Note that the segment-level employment figures are lagged by one month, so October is the most current data available.]

The fullservice segment suffered the most job losses during the initial months of the pandemic – and still has the longest path to recovery. As of October 2022, fullservice restaurant staffing levels were nearly 413,000 jobs (or 7%) below pre-coronavirus readings in February 2020. 

Job losses in the limited-service segments were somewhat less severe during the initial months of the pandemic, as these operations were more likely to retain staff to support their existing off-premises business. As of October 2022, staffing levels at snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars – including coffee, donut and ice cream shops – were 107,000 jobs (or 13%) above February 2020 readings.

Meanwhile, the quickservice and fast casual segments were nearly 54,000 jobs (or 1%) above pre-pandemic levels.

Other segments have a longer road to reach pre-pandemic staffing levels. Employment counts in the cafeterias/grill buffets/buffets segment (-34%), foodservice contractor segment (-16%), catering and mobile foodservice segment (-9%) and bars and taverns segment (-6%) are still well below their February 2020 levels.

*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.