Sep 4, 2021 - Economy

Restaurant recovery’s screeching halt

A person walking past COVID-19 signs.

A restaurant window. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bars and restaurants went from powering America’s jobs comeback to slowing it down.

Why it matters: The industry is a proxy for how the labor market and economy are faring amid the pandemic.

  • What we learned from Friday’s jobs report: There’s a Delta variant speed bump.

By the numbers: The 42,000 jobs shed at restaurants and bars last month helped offset the gains elsewhere in the leisure and hospitality sector.

The intrigue: For the first time since the Great Reopening revved up, the sector may have a supply problem stemming from more than just worker shortages.

  • Businesses “paused hiring in the face of weaker [customer] demand and uncertainty about the future while workers withdrew due to health concerns,” Bank of America economists wrote Friday.

The backdrop: OpenTable’s restaurant reservations are a near real-time indicator of dining out demand.

  • “We see a pronounced decline in late July and August,” OpenTable CEO Debby Soo told the Los Angeles Times.

What to watch: “[T]he rise of the Delta variant delaying return to office plans and weighing on social activity. Could be a long Fall...,” economist Julia Coronado tweeted in part.

Go deeper