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The Restaurant Industry Lost 5.5 Million Jobs in April

One in four jobs lost across the U.S. last month were in restaurants and bars

Restaurant sign saying “Temporarily closed until COVID 19 crisis is over.”
The restaurant industry, like others industries, has seen devastating unemployment numbers during the pandemic
Lane V. Erickson/Shutterstock

The restaurant industry lost 5.5 million jobs in April

Among the 20.5 million U.S. jobs lost in April, about 5.5 million of them were in the restaurant industry. According to data newly released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, payroll employment in food services and drinking establishments fell from approximately 11.9 million in March to 6.4 million in April. Including the numbers from February (12.3 million), before the coronavirus crisis reached its peak and states issued stay-at-home orders, a total of 5.9 million people in the restaurant industry have lost their jobs so far throughout this pandemic — and that’s not including employees who weren’t on payroll, like undocumented workers, and all the people who have filed claims for unemployment benefits since the data was collected in mid-April.

This huge loss has erased about three decades’ worth of restaurant and bar jobs, with employment levels in the industry back to where they were in the late ’80s, Restaurant Business reports. As a nation, the U.S. hasn’t seen overall labor numbers this bad — including an unemployment rate of 14.7 percent — since the Great Depression. For comparison’s sake, during the last recession, unemployment crested at 10 percent in October 2009, per the New York Times.

Many of these current job losses are supposed to be temporary, with businesses temporarily shuttering or furloughing employees. As states seek to lift stay-at-home restrictions, some restaurants are starting to reopen or have rehired staff after receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to maintain payroll. But with financial losses so deep, some businesses just won’t recover, and some of these jobs aren’t coming back for a long time.

And in other news…

  • After experiencing a huge surge in sales throughout February and March, Costco saw its monthly numbers fall in April for the first time in years. The retailer attributed this decline to “stay-at-home orders, social distancing restrictions, and some mandatory closures.” [Business Insider]
  • Plant-based meat startup Beyond Meat is benefiting from the COVID-19-related shortages of animal meat around the country. [Fast Company]
  • Major brewer South African Breweries says it may have to dump 400 million bottles of beer due to South Africa’s current ban on alcohol sales as part of a countrywide lockdown. [Detroit News]
  • McDonald’s is rewarding its corporate-owned restaurants’ hourly workers with 10 percent bonuses as a show of gratitude for working through the pandemic. Other major chains that have given similar bonuses to their employees include Starbucks and Chipotle. [QSR Magazine]
  • Inside a frozen pizza factory. [NPR]
  • The “Nazi origins” of Austrian natural wine Zweigelt. [GEN]

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