USTA: Latest jobs data hints at uneven recovery for hospitality sector

AAHOA plans to continue advocating for continuing federal aid

In September, the U.S. hospitality sector added 74,000 jobs, better than some segments but worse than its performance in previous months, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

THE LATEST EMPLOYMENT analysis points to an uneven recovery for the leisure and hospitality sector, according to industry organizations.  The sector added more jobs than some others but still well below previous months.

The U.S. added 194,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those, the hospitality sector saw relatively few jobs added, just 74,000, compared to earlier months “where hundreds of thousands of jobs were recovered,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association.

According to the report, fewer jobs were gained than expected but the unemployment rate dropped by more than analysts predicted. The U.S. Department of Labor reported employment was rising in the leisure and hospitality sector that had been hard hit by COVID-19, but declining in public education.

“These uneven gains are largely attributed to the virus variant that affected travel at summer’s end. There remains a great need for Congress to provide additional federal relief and incentives to sustain travel-dependent businesses until a complete recovery can take hold – which will require the return of business travel as well as international inbound travel,” Barnes said.

Though the sector added 74,000 positions in September, food and drinking establishments — one of the most vulnerable industries to COVID-19 outbreaks — added almost zero jobs for the second straight month, as compared to the average of 197,000 added each month between January and July, as per the latest jobs data.

While the economy has created 17.4 million jobs since the nadir of the COVID-19 downturn in April 2020, the data showed the U.S. is still short five million positions it had before the pandemic, with job growth averaging 561,000 per-month in 2021.

AAHOA plans to continue lobbying Congress and other U.S. government agencies for supplementary federal relief funds and incentives for travel-dependent businesses until the pandemic is over, said Ken Greene, AAHOA president and CEO.

“Business travel, nationally and internationally, is currently unable to sustain the usual numbers that keep our industry flourishing. The September jobs report indicates a fluctuating recovery for the hospitality industry,” Greene said. “Employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 1.6 million, or 9.4 percent, since February 2020. Economic assistance such as EIDL and employee retention tax credits are necessary lifelines for hoteliers.”

In June, USTA already pointed out that uneven reopening was slowing business travel recovery and urged to take action.