Despite added jobs, hotel employment lags pre-pandemic levels

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. accommodations sector added 700 jobs in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • Employment in the overall U.S. leisure and hospitality industry showed “little change” month over month in June, the BLS’ monthly job report said. 
  • Total accommodations sector employment is approximately 1.9 million — still 196,000 jobs lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. In a statement, AHLA Interim President and CEO Kevin Carey said the hotel industry is still “behind where it needs to be when it comes to hiring staff.” 

Dive Insight:

Hotel employment lags pre-pandemic levels “despite near-record high wages and expanding workplace benefits and flexibility,” Carey said. “The reason is the nationwide workforce shortage, which is preventing hoteliers from meeting their full potential as demand for travel remains strong.”

As of May, there were 6.5 million unemployed people but more than 8 million job openings in the U.S., according to BLS. And in the hotel industry specifically, some 76% of hotels say they are experiencing a staffing shortage, according to an AHLA survey of hoteliers conducted in May. 

Though the accommodations sector added jobs in June, jobs growth in the industry has slowed. Accommodations jobs rose by 16,000 last September alone — but in May, that number was roughly the same as June’s at 700

One way hotels have been wooing potential workers is through higher wages. AHLA previously projected that hotels will pay employees a record $123 billion in wages, salaries and other compensations in 2024 — up 4% from 2023 and 20% from 2019. And average hotel wages have increased more quickly than average wages throughout the general economy, according to AHLA. 

Despite those increases, hotel workers across the country are claiming their pay has not kept up with the rising cost of living

AHLA, meanwhile, has advocated for government initiatives that would allow hoteliers to find workers elsewhere, including the expansion of the H-2B guest worker visa program; the Closing the Workforce Gap Act of 2024, currently being considered by Congress; and the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act