Hospitality and leisure sector sees big job gains in October, but still faces severe staff shortage – NBC 7 San Diego

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the US economy created 531,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6% – a new pandemic low and better than economists’ expectations.

October’s gains represented a strong recovery from September, which added 312,000 jobs after the Bureau of Labor Statistics initial estimate of 194,000 saw a substantial upward revision in Friday’s report. .

“The economy is heading in the right direction,” said Miro Copic, founder of Bottomline Marketing and professor of marketing at San Diego State University. “We’re doing pretty well and getting back all those jobs that were lost. “

The leisure and hospitality sector led the way, creating 164,000 jobs as Americans ventured into dining establishments and returned on vacation as Covid numbers plummet – industry reclaiming 2.4 million jobs lost during the pandemic.

“It was a really big turnaround because during the summer in July, August and September, the Delta variant really shut down those industries,” Copic said. “A lot of people who have been left on the sidelines because of COVID are now starting to come back. “

Michael Strickland, front desk supervisor at the Porto Vista hotel in Little Italy, told NBC 7 that he has seen the economic boom with more people traveling and staying at the hotel, but he couldn’t say the same. job applications.

He said the 200-room hotel which normally employs between 45 and 55 people stays afloat with a staff of around 15, and management has been trying for months to fill the void.

“They’re trying, they’ve got ads, we’re marketing,” Strickland said. “We just don’t have any more people coming. “

Strickland said that because the hotel is understaffed, the employees it has have to wear multiple hats, something new hires are unwilling to do when so many other industries are also hiring, sometimes for a salary. higher.

Copic agreed, saying average wages in October were up 4.9% from a year ago, but for many workers, that’s not enough.

Nearly 3 million people who left the workforce during the pandemic have yet to return, leaving employers to compete for a limited number of applicants and pushing up wages, especially in traditionally low-paid industries.

“It’s very frustrating for some employers, especially those looking for low-skilled jobs,” he said. “They’re really struggling to fill a lot of positions because there are still so many people on the sidelines and it has nothing to do with government benefits. The unemployment rate has not improved at all in states like Texas, Florida, South Dakota and Mississippi, which cut federal unemployment benefits before California. “

Even with strong job gains last month, the economy is still short of 4.2 million jobs from where it was at the start of the pandemic.

“We’re going to see half a million jobs being created on a monthly basis or over there,” Copic said. “We will see a return to pre-pandemic employment levels in mid to late summer 2022.”