Steady job growth is a good thing, of course, but hotels are still facing a huge shortfall of workers. Summer vacation season is just around the corner and it could bring chaos if hotels don’t confront the continuing scarcity.
Mary Ann Ha
U.S. hotels added 25,000 jobs in March, a healthy gain, but it comes against the backdrop of a nagging labor shortage and big expectations for a surge in summer travel.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report released on Friday showed that leisure and hospitality sector jobs accounted for 112,000 of the 431,000 jobs gained overall during March. The sector’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.6 to 5.9 percent, still a good amount over the national average of 3.6 percent in March.
While the numbers in the March report have undeniably shifted in a positive direction, hotels still have a very long way to go. The summer season is coming, and agencies are seeing pent-up demand for travel and lodging — with a lack of employment to respond.
“The bad news is that it’s still an extremely extremely tight labor market and it’s putting tremendous upward pressure on the cost of labor for the lodging sector specifically,” said David Lesser, CEO of LW Hospitality Advisors. “That’s a challenge, there’s no question about it, and it’s gonna remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.”
A survey conducted at the beginning of the year by Longwood’s International showed that 92 percent of the respondents had intentions to travel in the next six months, with a mere 21 percent indicating concern about Covid, which is the lowest level since the pandemic. Despite rising fuel and plane ticket costs, U.S. travel booking sites such as Hopper and Kayak reported higher demand for spring and summer leisure travel following relaxed Covid restrictions. Vrbo revealed that property requests were already outpacing last summer by 15 percent.
Yet, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector is still down by 8.7 percent since February 2020. With the entire world jumping into action all at once, the lodging industry is hard pressed with an insufficient number of workers. According to the U.S. Travel Association, out of the 1.6 million jobs left to recover to pre-pandemic levels, 1.5 million are in leisure and hospitality. In other words, the leisure and hospitality industry now accounts for 93 percent of all jobs in the U.S. left to recover.