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Employment at Grocers, Restaurants Down in August Despite Net Employment Gains

Ahead of Labor Day Weekend, the labor situation for grocers and restaurants is anything but rosy. Although both the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and ADP showed a net gain in jobs for August, hiring was slowing at the nation’s grocery stores and restaurants.

Overall, BLS reported nonfarm payroll employment rose by 235,000 jobs in August; in its report, ADP said the nation added 374,000 jobs during the month. While BLS and ADP were at odds over whether restaurants had gained or lost jobs during the period, hiring stalled at the nation’s foodservice establishments compared to earlier in 2021. Additionally, both noted job losses in the grocery retail sphere.

Hiring for Hospitality, Leisure Stalls in August

Employment in the leisure and hospitality sectors was unchanged in August, according to BLS. This followed an average of 350,000 new jobs per month over the past six months, and BLS actually reported a drop in foodservice and drinking places: the sector lost 42,000 jobs in August. BLS also noted employment in the category overall was down 10%, or 1.7 million jobs, since February 2020.

However, ADP reported a 201,000 job increase in the leisure and hospitality sector. It said 39,900 new jobs were filled at restaurants among the 329,000 new jobs in the U.S. service sector. Regardless of the metric, the data indicated hiring was slowing at restaurants compared to the earlier parts of 2021.

To combat this slow down, restaurant companies are turning to referral bonuses and other methods to retain workers. Blackbox Intelligence noted 90% of the restaurants in its network were offering referral bonuses to hourly employees, up 20 percentage points from 2019. Other worker benefits were on the rise, as well.

Blackbox Intelligence found the number of sick days offered as paid time off increased by 2.5 times of restaurant employees when compared to 2019, while more companies were offering flexible scheduling, family/elder care leave, and financial planning services to employees. Spot awards and bonuses were becoming more common, too.

ADP, BLS Both See Food Retail Job Declines

Employment in the retail trade was down by 29,000 jobs in August, with the bulk coming from food and beverage stores (-23,000). This loss was backed up by ADP’s National Franchise Report, which reported 400 fewer jobs in August compared to the prior month.

BLS noted retail trade employment was down by 285,000 jobs since February 2020, right before the significant onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Retail workers are also seeing increased pay: Walgreens will boost starting pay to $15 per hour starting in October. The company said the wage hike will be completed in phase by November 2022, and will affect workers in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, reported The Associated Press (Aug. 23).

Meanwhile, Walmart will increase its minimum wage to $12 per hour and raise pay for hundreds of thousands of U.S. store workers. Raises will be provided to 565,000 workers, with an emphasis on cashiers, shelve stockers, and those working in the food and household goods areas, reported The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 2).