AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Chamber of Commerce is reporting the city has made up all pandemic-related job losses from spring 2020.
While some industries are thriving again, the leisure and hospitality industry is struggling to bounce back according to the chamber report released Tuesday.
In February 2020, before the impacts of COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,142,400 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,000 jobs or 12%.
The chamber said in August, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month with 1,142,500. This is not to say the city has regained the specific jobs that were lost, as growth has been primarily driven by seven industries.
Businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry are pushing for their former employees to come back. In March 2020, the leisure and hospitality industry shed over 61,000 jobs, which was about 45% of all lost jobs.
“I think everybody is still hiring,” said Ellis Winstanley, owner of El Arroyo.
At El Arroyo, the kitchen is hot and tables are filling back up, but COVID-19 recovery is a balancing act for Winstanley.
“There’s a certain level of service that you want to be able to provide in restaurants,” said Winstanley. “Most restaurants rather than saying, ‘we’re going to do less for the customer,’ have just closed sections.”
The Austin Chamber of Commerce report shows leisure and hospitality are among the top industries that have added jobs over the last year, but it’s still not back up to pre-pandemic levels.
Businesses are finding ways to be more lucrative to compete, which could mean shelling out more money to fewer employees.
“Our core staff has been involved this whole time, because we took care of everyone,” said Winstanley. “We ended up raising everyone’s pay.”
Winstanley said pay went up by 15% in his restaurant. One thing that isn’t clear for him is where his former employees went who didn’t return.
“How many people have actually left the workforce? Have they actually moved to another industry or is there actually a relative gap,” said Winstanley.
Based on the current unemployment rate in Austin, it’s clear people have found work elsewhere.
The chamber report said in February, before pre-pandemic impacts, the number of unemployed persons in Austin was over 33,000, which climbed to about 138,731 in April.
In August of this year, the unemployment number stands at 48,709 — about 46% anode the level of February 2020.