The January jobs report exceeded expectations across the board, with unemployment rates dropping to 3.4% - the lowest level since May 1969, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed the leisure and hospitality segment as the biggest winner, with an increase of 128,000 jobs in January. Food and drinking places made up 99,000 jobs on the month, while accommodation was up by nearly 15,000.
By comparison, business services increased by 82,000, while healthcare increased by 58,000.
January’s labor flow in leisure and hospitality was the strongest in the segment in months. In December, for instance, eating and drinking places added just over 26,000 jobs, while the sector added 59,400 jobs in November and just over 36,000 in October. The category's January report also bucks the trend in other categories, like technology and retail.
That said, the category overall remains below its pre-pandemic level by nearly 500,000 jobs, or nearly 3%.
Still, this progress is likely welcomed news for restaurant operators who have been struggling with significant labor shortages for nearly three years. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Business Conditions Survey, released in December, 62% of operators said their restaurant doesn’t have enough employees to support existing demand, while 79% said their restaurant has job openings that are difficult to fill. Nearly 90% of operators plan to hire additional employees during the next six-to-12 months.
The report also noted that average hourly wages were up by 10 cents in January, marking a 4.4% increase year-over-year.
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]