TAMPA, Fla — America's labor market got an unexpected boost in January and the hard-hit hospitality industry is now experiencing the strongest job growth.
Yasmine Valencia is six weeks into her new position as a host at Highland City Diner. She had been looking for full-time work for nearly eight months.
“I did apply to many, many jobs,” Valencia said. “It was just very hard to find one because a lot of people said they were hiring then you put in job applications and they just don’t look at it, or you don’t meet the recommendations,” she continued.
The first-time expecting mother said this job couldn’t have come at a better time. Valencia is one of several new hires at the diner, which struggled with a worker shortage in 2021 but is now fully staffed.
“I’m still getting applications despite the fact that my positions are filled. So, it’s been actually pretty good for us,” said Russell Colleran, Highland City Diner Owner.
This as the U.S. economy added a surprise 467,000 jobs last month. Job growth was strongest in the leisure and hospitality sectors, adding 151,000 jobs.
“Certainly the federal numbers were encouraging but what we’re hearing anecdotally from our members is that they are in summary over the past 60 days, they are probably slightly improved to unchanged in terms of their staffing levels,” said Geoff Luebkemann, Senior Vice President of The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Luebkemann said they are seeing mixed results in the state’s labor market, depending on the type of business.
“One of the things that a lot of our members have figured out is the healthier and more attractive their work environment, the work environment that they can control and create for to their teammates, the better their level of success will be at staffing,” Luebkemann said.
The big jump in the labor force despite omicron suggests an economy that is much more resilient.
“Any time we get a good jobs report, where jobs are created being creative it is a positive sign,” said Chris Jones, Economics Professor at the University of South Florida.
However, economists say take this with a grain of salt because there are still factors in the economy that are concerning.
“Supply chain shortages, and the uncertainty with regards to changes in the price level, whether or not this inflation and this price instability would ultimately destabilize the economy. I think the jury is still out,” said Jones.