Restaurants continued to restore some of the jobs lost during the pandemic in March, but the road to recovery remains long. Eating and drinking places* added a net 175,800 jobs in March on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

On the state level, restaurant job growth was broad-based in March. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia added restaurant jobs between February and March, leaving Alabama as the only state seeing job losses.

Texas led the way with a net gain of 31,200 eating and drinking place jobs in March. California (27,100), New York (20,600), Illinois (19,300) and Florida (18,100) also expanded payrolls at a healthy pace in March.

Although nearly every state added restaurant jobs in March, employment levels remained below their pre-pandemic readings in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In 5 states and the District of Columbia, restaurant employment was still down more than 25% from the February 2020 level. This group was led by the District of Columbia, which had 47% fewer eating and drinking places jobs in March 2021 than it did in February 2020.

New York (-31%), Vermont (-30%), Hawaii (-28%), Massachusetts (-27%) and California (-27%) are also well below their pre-coronavirus restaurant employment levels.

In raw numbers, California has 388,500 fewer eating and drinking place jobs than it had in February 2020. Restaurant employment levels are also well below pre-pandemic readings in New York (-201,800), Illinois (-102,700), Florida (-102,400) and Texas (-99,500).

View the employment data for every state.

[Note: The BLS monthly employment dataset measures jobs during the payroll period that includes the 12th of each month. Changes in restaurant staffing levels – both negative and positive – have occurred rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, as restaurants quickly adjust their operating status in response to evolving regulatory and economic conditions. As a result, significant changes likely occurred during the weeks between each measurement period, and the monthly data may not fully capture the total job losses experienced during the coronavirus lockdowns. Still, the figures are a useful indication of the extent to which restaurant employment is recovering in each state.] 

*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior the coronavirus outbreak employed 12 million out of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce of 15.6 million.

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.