Restaurant Employment Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The number of Americans employed in foodservice increased by 61,000 in September.

October 10, 2023

For the first time in three and a half years, U.S. restaurant employment reached pre-pandemic levels in September, reports Reuters. This signals a potentially broader recovery for the leisure and hospitality industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that the number of Americans employed in foodservice increased by 61,000 over the month. The report also shows that foodservice and hospitality workers accounted for the majority of jobs added in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 96,000 jobs last month.

According to Reuters, the gain in restaurant and bar employment in September was almost double the average of 37,000 jobs added monthly over the last year.

The pandemic impacted foodservice employment severely, as the industry lost six million workers in March and April of 2020 as customers dined at home due to quarantine restrictions, reports Reuters. As restrictions have eased, the industry has struggled to regain frontline workers.

“It took some time, but we made it,” said acting Labor Secretary Julie Su. “People have returned to normal..., [and] workers are making enough money that they can spend it” and sustain continued job growth even in an industry hit hardest at the onset of the pandemic, Su noted.

Axios provides additional context, noting that, the industry was growing at an exceptional pace before the pandemic, and that “were it not for the pandemic, employment would be more than one million higher,” in the industry.