Almost four in 10 of all the U.S. jobs lost since February of last year are in the leisure & hospitality industry, according to analysis of the latest Department of Labor national jobs report—triple the number of the next-hardest-hit industry.
The 49,000 jobs created by the U.S. economy in January were viewed by economists as a disappointment and a major sign of lingering pandemic-related stress in labor markets. But according to analysis created for the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) by the research firm Tourism Economics, the real underlying story is the 61,000 jobs lost by the leisure & hospitality sector last month. The U.S. would have gained 110,000 jobs overall without the decline in leisure & hospitality jobs.
It’s the second month in a row that the leisure & hospitality sector lost jobs despite overall U.S. employment gains.
Other numbers underscore the particularly dire situation of leisure & hospitality compared to the rest of the U.S. jobs economy:
- The 23% of leisure & hospitality jobs lost since February 2020 is nearly double the industry with the next-worst job loss rate (mining and logging, 12%).
- Leisure & hospitality’s 39% share of all U.S. unemployment is three times that of the industry with the second-biggest share (government, 13%).
- The 16% current unemployment rate in leisure & hospitality is almost three times the overall U.S. unemployment rate (6%).
“The math is pretty easy: the U.S. economy won’t get back on track until the leisure & hospitality sector is back on track, and that’s going to take aggressive policy actions,” said U.S. Travel Association President/CEO Roger Dow. “Safely restarting travel needs to become a national priority, which means not only relief measures but pressing ahead on vaccinations and continuing to emphasize best health practices. This is an all-hands-on-deck problem, with the government, industry and also the public having important roles to play.”
U.S. Travel has engaged Congress and the Biden administration with relief priorities to help accelerate the onset of a travel recovery:
- Extend and enhance the Paycheck Protection Program to provide a third draw for businesses that continue to face difficulties due to COVID-19.
- Provide grants for hard-hit sectors within the travel industry.
- Provide $2.25 billion in EDA grants to promote safe and healthy travel practices.
- Provide $17 billion in additional relief for commercial airports and airport concessionaires.
Additional recovery strategies will be needed to shorten the industry’s recovery period and restore American jobs more quickly:
- Provide tax incentives to support the restoration of travel jobs.
- Help travel businesses cover the cost of COVID-19 prevention efforts.
Vaccinations offer a glimmer of hope, Dow noted—but the rollout has been slow. The travel industry—and the millions of workers who rely on this industry—will continue to need support until travel restrictions are lifted and Americans’ confidence in travel returns, he said.
“There are still unknowns about when travel will restart in earnest,” he said. “What is fully known is that the pandemic’s effect on travel is continuing to cause devastating economic and employment harm, and the only way to correct that is through aggressive action.”