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Upbeat Jobs Report Reveals Ongoing Industry Recovery

While staffing in the leisure and hospitality sector isn’t yet at pre-pandemic levels, it’s trending in the right direction, leading all sectors for growth in January.

How’s staffing at your host hotel? If it’s following national trends, things are looking better and better, though staff numbers might still be below where they were before the pandemic shut down business in early 2020.

The January employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics came out last week with some eye-popping numbers. Payrolls around the country increased by 517,000 jobs, far greater than predictions, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent, the lowest jobless level since May 1969.

Even better news: The strongest gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 128,000 jobs in January (including 15,000 in accommodations). That compares well to an average growth of 89,000 jobs per month for the sector throughout 2022.

But the report also notes that leisure and hospitality staffing is still below February 2020 levels by 495,000 jobs, or 2.9 percent. In particular, restaurants are having the most difficult time in terms of labor shortfall.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman issued a February 3 statement on the January report: “Today’s jobs report—in which 25 percent of all new jobs were added in the leisure and hospitality sector—is further evidence that travel is essential to the U.S. economy. Travel’s success is the nation’s success, and robust travel demand is supercharging our nation’s economic recovery and job growth.”

Even so, the travel industry still has 2 million job openings, Freeman said, making the case for bringing more temporary workers into the country as well as other pro-travel initiatives, such as eliminating the vaccine requirement for international visitors and decreasing travel-visa wait times.

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