In May, job growth beat expectations in several sectors, including leisure and hospitality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the U.S. added 42,000 jobs in that category — up about 0.2% from the previous month.

We are well into leisure and hospitality season with summer travel increasing and more folks going out to restaurants and bars. That fun-seeking, plus the rising wages nationwide that were also highlighted in Friday’s numbers, translate into more jobs.

Prices at restaurants and entertainment venues may be higher than in the past, but we Americans do like to treat ourselves.

“The travel and tourism industry saw a sharp rebound after COVID,” said Rich Harrill, director of the International Tourism Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. “Some of that’s still leveling off, but we’re still seeing strong job growth in the United States.”

Per Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting: “The owners of the restaurants and hotels and these other leisure and hospitality-related industries need to hire additional workers.”

While spending and hiring are up, the leisure and hospitality industry looks a little different from the past.

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association, said people are spending more on takeout and delivery.

For table service, however, “that segment now has over 230,000 fewer positions than it did pre-pandemic. So overall, industry traffic patterns are dramatically different as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

Restaurants, which are expected to bring on more than half a million seasonal workers this summer, have also changed who they’re hiring, Riehle said.

Their search for personnel is broadening the age range: “16-to-19-year-olds are much more likely to be employed in the industry than they were pre-pandemic, and the same is also true for the older cohorts, say, age 60 and above,” he added.

Those older workers can be a big asset to a sector that’s constantly hiring. Perhaps they’re picking up a summer job to supplement their retirement income.

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