Many former restaurant workers found other jobs when they were laid off early in the pandemic—and ended up deciding to stick with their new lines of work. Related, there are now 1.4 million more people working in professional and business services, a category that includes a range of office jobs, and it’s not the only industry that’s seen increases.
“There’s this reshuffling going on that is explaining why lots of industries can’t find workers,” economist Betsey Stevenson told the Post. “Their workers have left to go somewhere else.”
And in a lot of cases, the somewhere else was better enough that people didn’t want to go back to the unreliable pay, difficult customers, and awkward hours of the restaurant industry. Around 2.5 million people did leave the labor force during the pandemic, which has killed more than a million people in the U.S. and prompted many others to retire early. That opened up a wave of good jobs.
“When older workers—who were in relatively high-paying jobs at the top of the ladder—retired, everyone else was able to climb up a step, from a worse job to a better one,” Stony Brook University economist David Wiczer said.
Wiczer is a co-author of a National Bureau of Economic Research paper finding “patterns that suggest that workers are moving up an occupational job ladder away from low paying, customer facing and low skilled occupations towards higher paid, higher skilled occupations. Consequently, the decline in employment in low-paying, low-skilled occupations seems to reflect that workers previously employed in these sectors are now finding better jobs, not by a decline in demand for workers.”
“This has been a good evolution—it has raised wages and changed the structure of the labor market in a deep, profound way,” AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs told the Post. “Workers who were trapped in low-wage jobs were able to escape by switching to higher-paying industries.”
It’s hard on restaurant owners, but when they blame workers for not wanting to work, you always have to add that workers don't want those specific jobs, and understand that the complainers are telling on themselves and, to a great extent, their entire industry.
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Listen to this episode of The Downballot for an in-depth analysis of the 2024 Arizona Senate race and the implications of Kyrsten Sinema's re-election decision. Special guest Victoria McGroary, the Executive Director of BOLD PAC, will also discuss the efforts to prevent losses among Hispanic voters and the fight against disinformation in Spanish language media.
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