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Restaurant Workers Are Quitting More Than They Ever Have, And They're Not Coming Back


The food, beverage and hospitality sectors haven't experienced the same recovery as the rest of the U.S. economy, primarily because they can't fill anything close to the number of job openings they currently have.

Around 5.3% of leisure and hospitality workers quit their jobs in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released on Wednesday. That is a record rate, Axios reports, more than double the overall national quit rate, and it represents a record-high 80% of all separations in the industry for the month, Yahoo Finance reports.

Overall, about 764,000 restaurant and hospitality workers quit their jobs in May, compared to 1.34 million hires, Axios reports. The new hires represented less than half of the demand for employees, as over 1.4 million job openings remained by the end of the month.

Compounding the quitting issue is that such decisions appear to be sticking. Over half of former restaurant workers surveyed by job search platform Joblist said they will never return to their old jobs, and over a third are done with the industry altogether, Bloomberg reports. The most commonly cited reason for not wanting to return was the physically demanding work environment, followed by the higher pay and better benefits offered by other industries.

Though some industry groups continue to blame expanded federal unemployment benefits for the lack of new hires, plenty of employers are responding to the shortage by increasing pay, as the industry has raised wages by 15% on an annualized basis, Axios reports. The desperation from employers comes from a need to capitalize on a surge to 2019 levels of demand from consumers. 

The struggle to adequately staff restaurants is beginning to affect the pace of their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic nadir, Bloomberg reports. The Institute for Supply Management's service index fell to 60 in June from a record high of 64 in May, on a scale in which 50 is the demarcation between expansion and contraction. The employment-specific service index fell to 49.3 in June.