Leisure and hospitality workers got a ton of jobs in June – and they got a raise

Restaurant server US
  • Leisure and hospitality added 343,000 payrolls in June, making up 40% of total job gains.
  • The June jobs report also showed higher wages for those workers, suggesting pay increases are helping hiring.
  • But wages in the sector are still recovering from the hit caused by the coronavirus recession.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The June jobs report added 850,000 payrolls, going beyond expectations as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic. A large chunk of the big jobs gain came from leisure and hospitality, and the reason for this likely comes down to higher wages.

Of the 850,000 payrolls added, leisure and hospitality made up 343,000 of them, or 40% of the total gain. Pay in the sector jumped 3.6% over the past three months, and the correlation between increased jobs and increased wages is suggesting that higher wages work. For the month of June, wages shot up 7.1% from a year ago, the biggest gain for any sector.

“The continued progress for the leisure and hospitality sector is excellent news. Continued payroll gains for these industries hit so hard by the pandemic is a sign that more workers can quickly return to work,” Nick Bunker, economic research director for jobs site Indeed, wrote in a statement. He added that 23% of gains added overall last month were from food services and drinking places.

Despite the fifth consecutive month of gains in the industry, leisure and hospitality is still 2.2 million jobs, or 12.9%, below pre-pandemic employment. However, Bunker told Insider that given the progress made in the industry, it looks like the pace of recovery is pretty quick.

Following the April jobs report that fell significantly below expectations, Insider reported that one of the possible reasons workers weren’t rushing back to work, despite a high number of job openings, was that they were holding out for higher wages.

Around the same time, major companies including Costco and Target have raised their minimum wages to at least $15 an hour, putting pressure on other employers to follow suit.

But, as Heidi Shierholz, a former Obama administration economist and now director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute, pointed out on Twitter, wages for workers in leisure and hospitality “plummeted” last year during the recession, so even with the strong wage growth in those sectors this year, wages are not that much higher than if the pandemic had never happened.

“Over the last three months, leisure & hospitality has added 977,000 jobs-well over half of the 1.7 million total jobs added over that period,” Shierholz wrote. She added that these numbers “are just not signaling a big labor shortage.”

In an attempt to remedy the labor shortage, GOP-led states have been ending unemployment benefits early under the argument the benefits are disincentivizing the return to work. But June’s jobs data were collected before some of the cuts went into effect, meaning benefits might not have been the problem, rather, low wages were.

Betsey Stevenson, another former economist for the Obama administration, wrote on Twitter that the solution to finding workers is simply offering a higher wage.

“So it turns out that you can find workers, you just have to pay a better wage than in the past because wages of low-wage workers are going up.”

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Only 10% of job seekers are rushing back to the workforce, hiring giant Indeed says

Job fair coronavirus florida
  • Just 10% of job seekers are urgently looking for work as firms rush to rehire, according to Indeed.
  • Virus fears and employed spouses were the most common reasons cited for non-urgent job searches.
  • More Americans should return to work as schools reopen and COVID fears fade, economist Nick Bunker said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Businesses are jostling to rehire faster than their competitors as demand booms. The vast majority of jobless Americans can’t be bothered.

For several months now, an extraordinary labor shortage has held back the economic recovery, as job openings rocketed to record highs, but hiring has fallen below economist forecasts. More than 9 million Americans remain out of work, but for reasons ranging from enhanced unemployment insurance to childcare costs, they’re in no rush to find jobs.

New data from hiring website Indeed adds to this picture. Just 10% of job seekers were “urgently” looking for work in late May and early June, according to a survey of 5,000 Americans. About 30% said they’re not open to searching for work at all, and over 40% said they’re only “passively” looking for jobs.

INDEED
Source: Indeed Hiring Lab

Some of the disparity comes from many job seekers already working, Nick Bunker, economic research director at the Indeed Hiring Lab, wrote in a blog post. The share of Americans urgently seeking work was twice as large for jobless Americans as it was for employed people. And many more employed Americans were passively looking for work.

The survey also debunked some theories as to what’s keeping Americans from rushing back to work. Among those not urgently seeking jobs, more than 20% cited virus fears as a reason for the holdup. Employed spouses and financial cushions were the second- and third-most cited reasons, respectively.

Less than 10% of respondents said enhanced jobless benefits were a reason for their lax job hunts, according to the survey. That stands in contrast with a top Republican talking point through the spring. GOP lawmakers frequently blamed UI payments for weak job take-up, and Republican governors in 25 states have moved to end the supplement before its September expiration.

To be sure, Indeed’s survey was conducted just before some states began rolling back the federal UI boost. But the data signals other factors played a much larger role in keeping Americans from joining the workforce.

Others are simply waiting for circumstances to improve. Nearly 30% of unemployed workers not searching urgently said they’re waiting for vaccinations to increase before seeking jobs. Another 30% said they’re waiting for more job opportunities, and 13% said they’re waiting for schools to reopen.

Indeed isn’t the only firm finding a wide range of factors keeping Americans from taking jobs. The pandemic fueled disruption throughout the labor market, making rehiring much more difficult than just placing Americans where they previously worked, Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, told Insider’s Juliana Kaplan.

“Some workers think their industry will never recover, and retire early. Others take a layoff personally, and opt not to return if they’re recalled,” she said. “That means returning to work requires a lot of new hiring – which is time-consuming.”

The combination of factors suggests job seeking will grow more urgent in the fall, Bunker said. After a months-long gap between business demand and worker interest, the labor market should balance out as the economy heals further.

“Many employers want to ramp up hiring quickly, but a large portion of job seekers are hesitant to start jobs now,” he said. “The further decline of COVID-19, the end of enhanced UI, and the return of school in the fall are factors that could increase the intensity of job searches by the unemployed.”

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