Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority


Leisure & Hospitality employment progresses toward 2021 projected high, full recovery still at least one-half year away

The rebound in Leisure & Hospitality (L&H) employment that began in May 2020 will continue with a second-wave peak expected in July 2021. There was a surge in COVID-19 cases during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays that led to many states returning to partial lockdowns. Those actions had a dampening effect on employment.


L&H employment hit bottom at almost 8.7 million jobs in April 2020. In February 2021, it had risen to 13.5 million. March data show it has creeped up to 13.8 million jobs.


U.S. employment in the L&H industry will peak at around 15.75 million in July 2021, then slip after the end of the summer tourism season. The recovery will likely not be completed until the end of 2021 or the first half of 2022.


L&H is a super-sector that contains the Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation sector and the Accommodation & Food Services sector as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). L&H made up 11% of all jobs in the U.S. economy as of February 2020.

The rebound for this industry in the initial months is due to some states reopening with social distancing measures in place in May 2020. The slower growth since July of the same year has been from hesitant local consumers and travelers trickling back into restaurants, hotels, bars, theaters, sporting events, concerts, theme parks, and other public venues.

Geographic Solutions, Inc. explored its internal labor market data and tested their optimal statistical relationships with L&H to conduct forecasts of employment in the industry. Geographic Solutions did not just deploy its internal labor market data strictly from the L&H industry into the analysis but also from its job openings in occupations related to air travel. The forecasts are monthly and cover March through September of 2021.

Employment as seen in the above table and chart is expected to peak around 15.8 million in July 2021. After this very active tourism season, it is expected to fall to 15.2 million by the end of the forecast timeline, remaining more than 10% below its February 2020 peak of 16.9 million total. The recovery will likely not be completed until the end of 2021 or the first half of 2022.