Following a strong month of job gains in September in which restaurants and bars finally returned to pre-pandemic employment levels, the industry lost about 7,500 jobs in October. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the national unemployment rate remains at 3.9%, with all employers adding 150,000 jobs on the month.
The total employment in the restaurants and bars sector is now at 12.3 million, about 41,000 versus this time last year. Overall, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector changed little in October, at plus 19,000. This is compared to the average of 52,000 jobs added per month over the past 12 months.
The restaurant industry has been grappling with employment gaps since the pandemic, which has impacted operating hours and service as off-premises business remains elevated. That said, several restaurant companies have reported during their Q3 earnings that staffing is back to full force. Domino’s CEO Russell Weiner said his company is back to 2019 service levels, “which is a big deal.”
Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said staffing and turnover is back to or better than pre-pandemic levels, which has contributed to higher throughput. Texas Roadhouse’s head of investor relations, Michael Bailen, said his company’s staffing level is at a point “we feel very good” about to manage higher traffic levels. And, BJ’s CEO Greg Levin said his company’s staffing levels continue to improve and the gap is narrowing to pre-pandemic levels.
“In fact, our team retention rate in September matched our pre-COVID level, illustrating our improving operating environment, which has enabled us to execute at even higher levels of service and efficiency,” he said.
Still, and evidenced by October’s dip, there is room for more workforce expansion. According to the National Restaurant Association, job openings in the sector topped 1 million at the end of August, and those openings remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]