The U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in the month of December, the unemployment rate fell to 3.5% and within those numbers, leisure and hospitality added 67,000 jobs while the unemployment rate fell to 5.4% in the sector.
Since December 2021, the U.S. economy has added 4.5 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For full-year 2022, employers in the leisure and hospitality sector—which includes restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions—added 946,000 jobs, or about one in five total net jobs gained last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“With significant gains in health care, leisure and hospitality and construction jobs, we rounded out 2022 with more of the steady, stable growth that helped our workforce recover from the COVID pandemic and has empowered workers to take on new opportunities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “We begin 2023 positioned to sustain this worker-centered progress, as the administration’s infrastructure investments and the resurgence of American manufacturing continue to create good jobs across the country.”
To put the leisure and hospitality sector into context, while the tech-heavy information sector makes up about 2% of the 154 million workers on U.S. payrolls, about 10% are employed in leisure and hospitality jobs.
Though the addition of jobs in the sector is propitious news, the number of job openings is still far off pre-pandemic number, with still more than 1.3 million job openings that haven’t been filled. A tight labor market and inflation have had an impact on wages, with hotel owners now paying employees more. In December, hourly wages for all employees hit $20.64, which was 14 cents higher than the previous month and around $4 higher than the same time in 2019. For workers in non-supervisory positions, the hourly wage hit $18.33, around $4 higher than the same time in 2019 and 12 cents higher than last month.
According to U.S. Travel, jobs in leisure and hospitality grew on average by 2.5% in the five years prior to the pandemic. If this growth would have continued, there should have been 17.9 million jobs as of October 2022, but there were 15.9 million, a difference of 2 million jobs. In other words, leisure and hospitality employment remained 11.4% below where it should have been in October 2022.
WHAT THE PROS SAY
Labor has been the number one concern for hoteliers in the wake of the pandemic—filling roles and retaining staff. HOTELS spoke with a group of hotel owners and operators for their advice on how to deal with the shortage.
“As travel demand has returned, we’ve employed scheduling technology to maximize labor efficiencies based on each hotel’s varying business needs and patterns,” said Barry Dawson, SVP of finance, Aimbridge EMEA. “It is now our standard practice for all hotels to have a rolling five weeks of schedules, which enables our general managers to identify any gaps and address accordingly.
“Another effective tool in our talent strategy has been in pay. We found that by increasing pay above minimum wage, staff retention has increased and thereby reducing the higher costs associated with recruiting and onboarding new team members. It has also helped to reduce our requirements for agency staff in the business.”
Chris Green, divisional president of Remington Hotels, said the management company’s most effective strategy has been technology, specifically “the pairing of multiple technologies to alleviate noise in the servicing process of our properties—whether that’s advanced ordering systems in food and beverage, AI communications to guests’ most frequent needs, or demand- and location-based labor allocations.”