Record-breaking 1 million restaurant and hotel workers quit in November

  • Amid labor shortages and the Great Resignation, new data shows a record number of Americans quit their jobs in November.
  • Departures in leisure and hospitality, generally a low-wage sector, led the way, with more than a million departures in November.
  • But hiring remains robust, suggesting that a wage shortage is pushing workers to find new opportunities.

In November, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs – and 1 million of them are restaurant and hotel workers.

This is a record number of dropouts in a month overall, as well as a new record for the restaurant and hospitality industry. But in a month when vacancies fell and hiring remained strong, 1 in 16 recreation and hospitality workers in the United States – 6.4% of the workforce industry – acted with his feet and walked away.

The latest release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Job Openings and Turnover Survey (JOLTS) shows the quit and hiring situation as of November 2021. In total, about 3 , 0% of the total workforce has quit. As noted above, in leisure and hospitality this figure was roughly double.

This sharp split in the quit rate in the low-wage restaurant and hospitality industry – coupled with many job openings and strong hires – suggests the economy may be grappling with a shortage of jobs. wages rather than a labor shortage.

“A lot of workers in these low-wage industries seem to be leaving their jobs for greener pastures, where they can earn higher wages,” Nick Bunker, director of economic research at Indeed, told Insider.

Indeed, leisure and hospitality remains the lowest-paid industry tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with an average hourly wage of $ 19.20 in November 2021.

“It’s no wonder that workers are leaving the leisure and hospitality industry in droves,” Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and chairman of advocacy group One Fair Wage, said in a statement to Insider. “The last two years of this horrific pandemic have been more than a difficult time for restaurant and hospitality workers – especially tip workers who struggle with wages below $ 2.13 an hour at the federal level. ”

As employers struggled to hire in the post-vaccination era, wages in recreation and hospitality soared during the pandemic, taking them to $ 19.20 from $ 16.90 just before the outbreak. pandemic. Incidentally, rising wages have helped companies hire and retain workers amid reports of a labor shortage.

As the chart above shows, the average hourly earnings of leisure and hospitality workers increased 13.6% between February 2020, just before the pandemic, and November 2021. Earnings of private sector workers in the whole only increased by 8.8% during this period.

But even higher wages may not be enough to keep workers, with resignations hitting these records.

“It’s time for employers to realize that it’s frontline workers like us who keep the doors open – and if they want us to continue showing ourselves, they need to respect us, protect us and pay us what we deserve, “McDonald’s employee Maribel Cornejo. and leader of the fight for $ 15 in Houston, Texas, said in a statement to Insider.

The number of people hired in the leisure and hospitality industry still exceeds the number of workers who quit. However, according to Bunker, low-wage workers could take advantage of their new position and switch jobs, which could also mean that as long as the jobs these workers leave behind aren’t paid better, the industry could stay in. peril.

“If the industry is to survive, it must raise wages and pay tip workers a living wage, plus tips,” Jayaraman said.

Bunker noted that the number of openings in the sector has shrunk a bit and hiring has remained strong, indicating that it may be a little easier to hire in the anecdotal field short of workers. . It is not clear whether low-wage workers will continue to hold their position as more people return to the workforce and demand potentially declines.

But, for now, according to Bunker, many people – “especially in low-wage industries” – see a lot of demand for their services.

“They’re using that demand as a bargaining chip,” Bunker said, “and they’re taking advantage of it – taking new jobs and, for many of them, getting much higher wages.”

About Walter Bartholomew

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