Restaurant Workers Flex Leverage, Quit en Masse

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

764,000

That’s how many people quit their restaurant, hotel, or entertainment jobs in May, showing that hospitality workers—whose positions typically pay the least of any non-agricultural industry—are gaining leverage in the recovering economy.

Overall, 3.6 million people voluntarily left their jobs in May, down from a record 4 million in April, according to the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The rate of quitting is still unusually high despite the decline, indicating workers are confident of their ability to find better jobs. Quitting is especially popular in leisure and hospitality, the only major industry where more workers quit in May than April, in numbers not seen since 2019. The vast majority of those leaving their positions were food service and hotel workers. 

The rise in quitting marks a reversal of fortune for workers in an industry that faced mass layoffs when the pandemic hit last year, dropping 8.2 million jobs in two months. Employers are paying restaurant workers more these days, as those who aren’t managers saw their average hourly pay rise to $15.14 an hour in May, topping $15 for the first time ever, according to BLS data. 

“It’s a job seeker’s market as worker demand remains at record highs,” wrote Daniel Zhao, senior economist and data scientist at job hunting website Glassdoor, in a commentary. “Labor shortages persist and restaurants are desperate for workers.”

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