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Labor Crisis Persists as Restaurants Remain 750,000 Workers Short of Pre-COVID Levels

The restaurant industry continues to suffer from worker shortages as debt, inflation and the spreading omicron variant all affect employment recruitment efforts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics November job report found that the restaurant industry is down more than 750,000 jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The jobs report showed that dining establishments gained 11,000 jobs in November.

QSR Magazine said the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) urged the importance of replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that has left approximately 177,000 restaurants without aid.

Overall, jobs in the U.S. rose by 210,000 in November with a national unemployment rate of 4.2%, down 0.4% from October.

“Tens of thousands of restaurants are in danger of closing permanently, leaving hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled this winter,” Erika Polmar, executive director of the IRC, said in a statement. “Slow growth for restaurant and bar jobs in today’s employment report shows that we can’t build back better without a vibrant restaurant industry.”

Labor shortages are just the tip of the iceberg for a struggling industry as restaurants face debt, rising food costs and consumer hesitancy stemming from the omicron variant. QSR Magazine reported that food costs have increased 57% for beef, 55% for grains and 41.5% for shortening and cooking oil. 

The IRC reported that more than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed permanently or long-term since the onset of the pandemic. Those in the restaurant industry are pushing for funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act and the The ENTRÉE Act, each of which would give $60 billion in funding to the country’s restaurants.

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