The first jobs report of 2023 overshot expectations. Overall, the economy added a staggering 517,000 jobs in January—far higher than the 187,000 increase that was expected—and the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, its lowest since 1969.
Leisure and Hospitality (L&H) added 128,000 jobs in January, more than any other sector.
- For the first time, the L&H industry has recovered back to January 2019 employment levels (16.5 million).
- However, one key sector, accommodations, remains far behind and still at -10% vs. January 2019.
High job openings and workforce challenges continue. Earlier this week, job openings data for December were released. L&H job openings jumped from 1.5 million in November to 1.9 million in December, accounting for a disproportionate 18% of all new job openings.
- While the January report shows L&H returning to January 2019 levels, a return to pre-pandemic levels is simply not enough for the L&H industry, which has nearly 2 million jobs to be filled.
- Unfortunately, the available workforce remains scarce—with just 5.7 million unemployed for the 11 million U.S. job openings.
Our perspective: Travel is an economic powerhouse and to continue to grow, it’s necessary that policies help ensure our industry has a sufficient workforce.
- By making the visa process more efficient and increasing the number of allotted temporary worker visas, we can help fill our industry’s workforce vacancies.
- As evident by the huge number of job openings and the disproportionate contribution to new jobs, the L&H—and overall travel—industry is positioned to grow far beyond pre-pandemic levels and will help push the entire U.S. economy in a continued path of growth and recovery.
- With business and group meetings and events picking up speed, we need to ensure continued jobs growth to rebuild a workforce to meet the demand.
The bottom line: The January jobs report is a positive sign. We’ve come a long way from when travel was shut down during the pandemic, but there is still more to be done. An even stronger resurgence of travel will mean an even stronger U.S. economy.