Increased Consumer Activity Drives Wages Up For Restaurant, Hospitality Workers

Low-wage workers are disproportionately finding jobs and receiving pay increases as the economy recovers from COVID-19 restrictions that increasingly are being lifted, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Americans are becoming more mobile and dining out more,” Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, is quoted by the paper as having said. “Retailers and restaurants are having to pay more to hire workers to meet that demand.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reported July 2 that the hospitality sector, including restaurants, added a seasonally adjusted 343,000 jobs in June. Retailers added another 67,000 jobs. And because one needs to look relatively good to return to work or go out to eat, salons and dry cleaners added 29,000 jobs.

In all the economy added 850,000 jobs, according to the government.

Four of the government’s broad sectors lost workers month-to-month in June: construction; motor vehicles and parts, due at least in part to plant shutdowns caused by semiconductor shortages; “financial activities;” and nondurable goods.

The WSJ reported that businesses that depend on low-skilled labor are being forced to engage in costly tactics to attract workers, noting that one fast-good restaurant is offering $1,500 signing bonuses.

“The food-service sector is out of control,” Eugene Lupario, chief executive of staffing firm SVS Group is quoted as having told the WSJ. “Employers are willing to pay almost anything they need to get workers.”

Around San Francisco, Lupario said, restaurants are starting workers at almost $20 an hour — up from about $15 per hour before COVID-19.

“There is no shortage of opportunities, but we still have a lot of job seekers asking if they can get a customer-service job they can do from home, rather than return to a restaurant,” he reportedly said.