Restaurant industry job losses mount during pandemic year

Nearly 20K jobs lost during January

The restaurant industry is looking at a tough recovery due the number of job losses in the past year. The pandemic has been challenging and eating and drinking places lost 19,400 net jobs in January on a seasonally-adjusted basis reported the National Restaurant Association, using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

In the past three months, nearly 450,000 restaurant jobs were lost. These losses were about 10 percent of the number of jobs that have been recovered the first six months following the spring lockdowns. Based on restaurant surveys, the Association estimates that total job losses during the peak of the lockdowns totaled about 8M, which includes layoffs and furloughs.


(The BLS monthly data sets capture payroll periods that include the 12th of each month and may miss impacts during the last weeks of the month, which can be significant.)

By-segment data supports some of the conclusions that the National Restaurant Association has articulated. All major restaurant segments have added jobs during the rebound period from the spring lockdowns, but their employment levels remain below pre-coronavirus levels.

Full-service restaurants increased payroll numbers by 2.3 million heads since April—a number that is 1 million greater than any other segment. Regardless, the full-service segment ended 2020 1.3 million jobs under pre-coronavirus levels. (By-segment data lags by one month so December is the last month for which data is available.)


Limited-service restaurants, which have been more resilient due to their knack for providing off-premises business, added almost 750,00 jobs between April and December. However, they lost nearly 1 million jobs around the time of the lockdowns.

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