TAMPA, Fla. — The U.S. labor market received an unexpected boost in January, and the hard-hit hospitality industry is now seeing the strongest job growth.
Yasmine Valencia has been in her new position as host at the Highland City Diner for six weeks. She had been looking for a full-time job for nearly eight months.
“I applied for many, many jobs,” Valencia said. “It was just really hard to find one because a lot of people said they were hiring, then you put in job applications and they just don’t look at them, or you don’t respond to recommendations” , she continued.
The pregnant first-time mum says this job couldn’t come at a better time. Valence is one of many new hires at the restaurant, which battled a labor shortage in 2021 but is now fully booked.
“I always receive applications despite the fact that my positions are filled. So it’s been pretty good for us,” said Russell Colleran, owner of Highland City Diner.
This as the US economy added a surprise 467,000 jobs last month. Job growth was strongest in the leisure and hospitality sectors, adding 151,000 jobs.
“Granted the federal numbers were encouraging, but what we’re hearing anecdotally from our members is that they’re in summary over the past 60 days, they’re probably improved slightly to stay flat in terms staffing levels,” said Geoff Luebkemann, Senior Vice President. President of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Luebkemann said they’re seeing mixed results in the state’s job market, depending on the type of business.
“One of the things that many of our members have realized is that the healthier and more attractive their work environment is, the work environment they can control and create for their teammates, the better their level of success will be in terms of endowment,” says Lübkemann.
The big jump in the labor force despite omicron suggests a much more resilient economy.
“Anytime we get a good jobs report, where jobs are being created by being creative, that’s a positive sign,” said Chris Jones, professor of economics at the University of South Florida.
However, economists say to take this with a grain of salt as there are still factors in the economy that are of concern.
“Supply chain shortages and uncertainty about where the price level will go, whether or not that inflation and price instability will end up destabilizing the economy or not. I think the jury is still out,” said Jones.