The Hospitality Industry and the Delta Variant

The hospitality Industry rebound was strong in June, but the Delta Variant threatens to slow progress.

Summer is well underway, and many Americans are eager to travel, dine out, celebrate, and enjoy leisure activities, so it’s no coincidence that the leisure and hospitality industry has been showing signs of a big comeback.  The hospitality industry employed 343,000 new workers in June 2021; this accounts for an impressive 40% of the total labor market gain of 850,00 jobs.  Bars and restaurants alone added 190,000 workers to their payrolls, accounting for 44% of the hospitality industry’s June rebound. 

But will the Delta Variant slow momentum and cause a major hospitality industry setback?  The first half of summer 2021 showed great promise, yet hotel and travel cancellations are looming large again as America moves into the dog days of summer; the Delta Variant could deal a serious blow to an industry just getting back on its feet.

Hope for job seekers was high in June.  According to Gray’s Job Postings data, job postings for workers in the hospitality industry were trending steadily upward in the first half of 2021, and June 2021 had the highest number of job postings year-to-date; postings have increased 93% since January 2021.

Leisure and Hospitality Job Postings by Month

Graph showing Leisure and Hospitality Job Postings by Month

Restaurants, bars, casinos, sports venues, and hotels across the country are attempting to reopen safely, and Gray’s data reflects the major increase in hospitality industry job postings.  As businesses hustle to meet growing demand, employment opportunities for cooks, food service workers, hotel staff, restaurant workers, and other travel/leisure workers are soaring.

Leisure and Hospitality Job Postings by SOC Title

Graph showing Leisure and Hospitality Job Postings by SOC Title

Fourteen hotel companies/hospitality groups have contributed significantly to the wave of job opportunities, posting 34,637 hospitality job openings in the second quarter of 2021. 

Q2 Hospitality Job Postings by Company

Q2 Hospitality Job Postings by Company

Hospitality employment opportunities vary widely, but job postings for housekeeping, food service, and maintenance staff are dominant.

A recent New York Times piece reflects another positive development for hospitality industry workers:  “Wages jumped for the third month in a row, a sign that employers are trying to attract applicants with higher pay and that workers are gaining bargaining power.”  Notably, these wage increases are primarily for non-management positions in the hospitality industry, which are historically underpaid.  Experts are hopeful that this trend will continue, affording the hospitality industry the opportunity to attract the workers it needs to keep gaining lost ground. 

Amidst the growing concern over the Delta Variant, some industries are pushing ahead.  In New York City, Broadway is making progress, as the first new play of 2021 arrived on Broadway on August 4th.  The city has issued a vaccine mandate for workers in the restaurant industry, as well as entertainment workers.  Proof of vaccination is also required for those wishing to dine indoors or attend any indoor form of entertainment.  Perhaps these measures will allow hotels, bars, restaurants, and the rest of the leisure and hospitality industry to continue to rebuild safely, especially if implemented on a larger scale across the US. 

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Gray Associates, Inc. is a software and services firm focused on higher education. We help education clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies that maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies.

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