What's Really Behind the Restaurant ‘Labor Shortage'?

There was a widespread exodus from the unforgiving industry, even before the pandemic

A now hiring sign outside of Position in Deep Ellum on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Dallas.
Juan Figueroa, The Dallas Morning News

In a sharp reversal, restaurants that once grappled with widespread pandemic-induced layoffs are now struggling to find enough workers to fill positions as diners return and business begins to rebound.

Across the country, many restaurant owners have pointed to unemployment benefits as the reason people aren't applying for jobs, but the rank and file of the restaurant industry say the lack of workers is the result of a widespread exodus from an already unforgiving industry, which was made even more unforgiving by the pandemic.

According to a report from the National Restaurant Association, employment in restaurants and bars has been on a steady incline since the beginning of the year. But the restaurant industry is still down 1.8 million jobs from pre-pandemic employment levels, with full-service restaurants experiencing the most significant job losses since February 2020.

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