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: ‘The slowdown in job openings is a natural response to the pandemic worsening.’ But this industry suffered more than others

The food service and accommodation industry saw the highest monthly decline in job openings among all other sectors in November — declining to 1.3 million openings from 1.6 million in October, according to new data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job openings declining in the industry isn’t necessarily a sign of strength — or weakness — for the industry, said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at careers website Glassdoor. Hiring was relatively flat in the industry compared to prior months — but it’s still hovering at around 1 million new hires.

“The slowdown in job openings is a natural response to the pandemic worsening as employers hesitate to go full force on hiring until the public-health situation improves,” Zhao told MarketWatch. Some 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November — marking a record quit rate of 3%.

As such measures suggest, “employers are still hiring aggressively and are desperate to hold onto the workers they do have,” Zhao said. Importantly, the November JOLTS data doesn’t capture the effect of the omicron variant which began to spread in the U.S. in December.

“‘Employers are still hiring aggressively and are desperate to hold onto the workers they do have.'”

— Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao

The National Restaurant Association, a trade group that represents more than 380,000 restaurants, did not immediately respond to MarketWatch’s request for a comment on the employment trends in the industry. The industry has in recent months faced labor, inflation and supply-chain issues.

To lure workers in employers, in some cases, dangled free iPhonesAAPL, college tuition reimbursement and higher wages. Among all industries, the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes food service and accommodation jobs, has been working to attract workers.

Leisure and hospitality saw the highest percentage increase (12.6%) in average hourly pay from Nov. 2020 to Nov. 2021, according to data from the November jobs report. Overall, total hourly wages for private-sector workers grew by 4.8% from November 2020 to November 2021.

Such incentives may have paid off. “Demand for workers in the leisure and hospitality sector is quite strong, but it is notable that openings in that sector peaked back in July,” Nick Bunker, director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab, wrote in a blog post. In July, there were 1.9 million job openings in the sector.

“Hiring in that sector is still robust, suggesting that some of the hiring difficulties might be easing,” he added.

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