As unemployment sinks, hospitality industry still understaffed

It’s no secret that many employers in the hospitality industry struggle with staffing. If you’ve been to a restaurant or fast-food place lately, chances are you’ve noticed longer wait times alongside “now hiring” signs.

That harsh reality is a holdover from the pandemic, said University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business Economic Forecasting Executive Director Ahmad Ijaz.

“That industry is way below where they were at pre-pandemic levels,” Ijaz said. “Even with the (gross domestic product) dropping they are still trying to get back to their pre-pandemic level of employment.”

Those statistics hit close to home with many restaurants across West Alabama, especially in Tuscaloosa because of college students going home for the summer. But are things turning around now that school is back in session?

“We are still trying to get back to our numbers as far as employees before COVID,” said Jalapenos owner Jheovanny Gomez. “But definitey we are challenged. We are still having workforce issues. We are still trying to get more people to come here and work with us.”

When restaurants closed their dining rooms for months, many workers found steady work outside the hospitality industry.

Ijaz said he believes the labor disparity in the hospitality industry will end in less than two years.

Categories: Local News