Half of Hospitality Workers Say They Won't Return To Their Old Jobs

Image: Hotel housekeeping staff member making a bed. (photo via Hispanolistic/E+)
Image: Hotel housekeeping staff member making a bed. (photo via Hispanolistic/E+)
Laurie Baratti
by Laurie Baratti
Last updated: 8:12 PM ET, Thu July 8, 2021

The results of a Joblist survey indicate that many hospitality workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic aren't keen to return to the industry, even as travel and dining services are suddenly in demand again.

Multitudes of Americans who previously worked in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors found themselves unemployed after COVID-19 struck, as their employers downsized, cut costs or went out of business. After being forced to "pivot" so drastically during the prolonged crisis, thousands are realizing that they want out of the industry altogether.

Half of the former hospitality workers polled in Joblist's second-quarter survey said that they wouldn't return to their old jobs, with a third of respondents reporting that they weren't even considering reentering the industry. Low wages, meager benefits (if any) and stressful working conditions are among the foremost reasons why hotel and restaurant staff aren't going back to their pre-pandemic roles.

Just over 50 percent of survey participants said they're switching industries in pursuit of a different job setting, while 45 percent said that the need for higher pay was motiving their decision and 29 percent wanted to secure better employment benefits. About 20 percent cited their desire for more flexibility, while 16 percent said they were looking to work remotely.

One former chef told Insider that, after restaurants closed down and he found time to go back to school, he ended up trading in his 80-hour-a-week job in the kitchen for a new career in software development.

After years of paying workers much lower wages than other industries, the hospitality sector now finds itself facing a serious labor shortage, as customers reemerge from months of isolation and demand snaps back. Some companies now find themselves forced to contemplate raising wages for traditionally low-paying positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) June jobs report showed the average pay rate within the leisure and hospitality sector for workers in non-supervisory roles was $15.84 an hour in May, but that figure jumped to $16.21 in June. The Washington Post observed that it typically takes an entire year to see such wages growth.

Some companies are resorting to offering hiring perks to attract new recruits, including sign-on bonuses and free accommodations, fitness equipment and iPhones. Still, they're struggling to fill positions fast enough.

The leisure and hospitality industry reportedly added 343,000 job openings in June, but the sector's employment figures remain depressed by 2.2 million, or 12.9 percent, from February 2020.

The Federal Reserve predicts that the labor shortages could go on for months, while Bank of America forecasts that the job market will have rebounded sufficiently by early 2022.

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