This story originally appeared on WESA.
Due to the pandemic and its associated restrictions, as well as public health concerns, employment in Pittsburgh’s restaurant industry has declined by more than 31,000 workers compared to that time last year. This is evident from research published last week.
According to an analysis by regional economist Chris Briem of the Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh, the region’s restaurants employed around 57,000 workers in October, a significant decrease from the more than 88,000 who worked at these facilities a year ago.
Within the restaurant sector, the greatest job losses were recorded among employees in “full-service” establishments, where customers usually order while seated and pay after they have eaten. The employment of workers in such restaurants has fallen by 54 percent compared to the previous year.
“Over half of those jobs almost never came back, and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back very quickly,” said Briem.
Employment in limited-service restaurants, which include fast food or take-out companies, has had less of an impact. According to Briem, employment in such companies has only fallen by 11 percent.
Most worrying, says Briem, is that while there was some recovery in restaurant jobs in May and June, it has reached a plateau.
“Which is pretty problematic when we … enter this winter as you may ever lose some of those jobs again,” he said.
Briem’s research spans the seven counties of Allegheny, Armstong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland using employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The pandemic has had uneven impacts across industries and restaurants and the hospitality industry in general have been hardest hit, he said.
“The employment situation for restaurants is dire,” said John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.