Aug 6, 2021 - Economy

Leisure and hospitality continue to fuel job gains

Photo of a sign that says "Join our team! Earn extra $$$"

A sign recruiting workers at a Perkins Restaurant last month. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Workers taking up gigs at bars, restaurants and hotels are a mainstay of the pandemic job market’s healing.

Why it matters: Since the industry shed the most workers when COVID-19 hit, it has the most room to recover.

  • It’s also been a proxy for the state of America’s reopening — and the hurdles that come along with it, like worker shortages.

By the numbers: For yet another month, the sector delivered the bulk (+380,000) of job gains, with two-thirds of that hiring happening at restaurants and bars.

The big picture: Leisure and hospitality has added a whopping 2.1 million payrolls since the beginning of the year — a big chunk of the total 4 million the economy has gained since then.

  • The sector has 1.7 million fewer jobs than when the pandemic hit.
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

A big part of the comeback story: bosses raising pay like mad to lure the staff they need to meet reopening demand.

  • Wages rose another 1.4% on a monthly basis for non-managers in the sector. (Compare that to the overall 0.4% gain for employees.)

What to watch: How much the sector remains at the pandemic’s mercy — with the presence of vaccines — as infections surge.

  • “The risk is new mask mandates and other COVID restrictions weaken the pace of recovery as returning to the office stalls and caution starts to creep back in,” ING economist James Knightley says.
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