The Restaurant Industry Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Employment Levels

The Restaurant Industry Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Employment Levels
D. J. Costantino

By D. J. Costantino

Nearly three and a half years after the pandemic rocked the restaurant industry, the total industry workforce has eclipsed its previous peak in February 2020.

According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), eating and drinking places added 60,700 jobs in September.

Number of Employees in the Restaurant Industry from 2013 to 2023
The number of employees in the restaurant industry year over year

We’re seeing the most significant month-to-month surge since January of this year and the 33rd consecutive month of growth, stretching back to January 2021.

In the third quarter of 2023 alone, eating and drinking places have added more than 100,000 jobs—tripling the second quarter’s 36,300.

Last month, we estimated that the restaurant industry would recover and surpass its February 2020 employment levels by the end of the calendar year. And just a few weeks later, we’ve already reached it.

Since April 2020, eating and drinking places* have added more than 6 million jobs. And according to National Restaurant Association chief economist Bruce Grindy, there’s “room to run". Grindy cites the number of open positions in the combined restaurants and accommodations sector as larger relative to the same time in 2019.

It’s still too early to claim the road to recovery is over. Running restaurants today is vastly different than before the pandemic. But the recovery thus far is a testament to the resilience of the special industry.

*Industries in the Food Services and Drinking Places subsector prepare meals, snacks, and beverages to customer orders for immediate on-premises and off-premises consumption. There is a wide range of establishments in these industries. Some provide only food and drink; others provide various seating space combinations, waiter/waitress services, and incidental amenities, such as limited entertainment. The industries in the subsector are grouped based on the type and level of services provided. The industry groups are full-service restaurants, limited-service eating places, special food services, food service contractors, caterers, mobile food services, and drinking places.

**The Accommodation and Food Services sector comprises establishments providing customers with lodging and/or preparing meals, snacks, and beverages for immediate consumption. The sector includes both accommodation and food services establishments because the two activities are often combined at the same establishment.

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D. J. Costantino
D. J. Costantino

Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and have a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!