Restaurant Industry Loses Jobs for First Time Since April 

    Food and drink places have two million fewer employees than last year. 

    Finance | December 2020 | Ben Coley
    Chairs by an empty bar-top in a restaurant.
    Unsplash/Jonas Jacobsson
    In November, around 10.19 million were on payroll in the restaurant industry, compared to 12.1 million in 2019.

    The restaurant industry lost more than 17,000 jobs in November after six straight months of job gains, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

    The food and beverage sector lost roughly 6 million jobs in March and April. Fewer than 6.5 million workers were on payroll in April, which was the lowest level in more than 30 years, according to the National Restaurant Association. 

    Since then, the industry has taken small steps toward normal levels. In November, roughly 10.19 million were working at food and drink places. At this time last year, there were 12.1 million restaurant employees. 

    The Independent Restaurant Coalition viewed the November decline as a foreboding sign of what’s to come in the next few months if the industry doesn’t receive direct aid. 

    “We have warned Congress for months that winter will bring another wave of closures and layoffs—they’re here,” said the Independent Restaurant Coalition said in a statement. “Outdoor dining is a distant memory while indoor dining has been restricted in many states across the country, and—unlike in March—restaurants have already endured ten months of diminished revenue. We’re out of time and out of funds. PPP didn’t stop our industry from sustaining massive job losses before and it won’t save our industry and our 11 million workers now. We need our lawmakers to pass the RESTAURANTS Act to get neighborhood restaurants and their workers through the remainder of this crisis.”

    The organization has continued to champion the RESTAURANTS Act, which would give $120 billion in direct funding to smaller-sized chains and independents. This bill is co-sponsored by 215 members in the House of Representatives and 50 senators. The legislation is baked into the House’s $2 trillion stimulus package, but the bill has not been taken up in the Senate. 

    A recently proposed $908 billion bipartisan stimulus deal offers a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program, but no direct funds for the industry or stimulus checks. With growing pressure from COVID spikes and a sluggish economy, legislators are working swiftly to provide a written proposal by Monday. 

    Both President Donald Trump and President-Elect Joe Biden have shown support for restaurants receiving targeted stimulus. Trump recently tweeted, “The restaurant business is being absolutely decimated. Congress should step up and help. Time is of the essence!” And during a recent economic roundtable on Wednesday, Biden said restaurant aid should “should not be a loan, it should be a guarantee.”

    Several states have closed indoor dining. In California, which leads the country in COVID cases, restaurants will soon be forced back to an off-premises only model as future stay-at-home orders loom. 

    Overall, the U.S. added 245,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.7 percent.