Were Most Jobs Added in February 2021 ‘Waiters and Bartenders’?

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In March 2021, new employment figures confirmed that the U.S. financial system added 379,000 jobs in February, the primary full month of Joe Biden’s presidency. The information was greeted with cautious optimism, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that the good points had “set up a stronger recovery” for the spring of 2021, and The Washington Post reporting that the figures had “surpassed analysts’ estimates.” Politico wrote that:

U.S. employers added a sturdy 379,000 jobs final month, essentially the most since October and an indication that the financial system is strengthening as confirmed viral instances drop, shoppers spend extra and states and cities ease enterprise restrictions.
The February acquire marked a pointy pickup from the 166,000 jobs that had been added in January and a lack of 306,000 in December. Yet it represents only a fraction of the roughly 10 million jobs that had been misplaced to the pandemic.

On social media, different observers — in explicit these extra broadly against Biden — sought to undercut the importance of the roles figures, claiming that a big majority of the elevated employment got here in one sector, particularly meals and beverage companies.

On Twitter, the libertarian economics weblog Zerohedge wrote:

Of the 379K jobs added, 286K had been waiters and bartenders.

The stockbroker and monetary commentator Peter Schiff tweeted:

75% of the 379k jobs “created” in Feb. had been waiters and bartenders returning to work. Since many eating places and bars that closed won’t ever reopen there’s a restrict to how lengthy this will final…

The right-wing British weblog Guido Fawkes tweeted:

“US economic recovery sees 379,000 jobs added this week, 286,000 were waiters and bartenders. God bless America and cheers!”

Those figures had been precisely said, though “waiters and bartenders” was a reductive description of the occupations in query. As a end result, we’re issuing a score of “Mostly True.”

What the Latest Figures Showed

The customary measure of job progress is “total nonfarm payroll employment, seasonally adjusted,” a metric that’s collated and revealed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), every month. On March 5, the BLS revealed figures for the previous month, February 2021, writing that: “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 379,000 in February…” In impact, this implies that there have been 379,000 extra jobs in the United States in February than there have been in January.

The BLS gives in-depth breakdowns of job good points or losses, and unemployment, together with particulars on the demographic and sectoral contours of every month’s knowledge. According to the identical set of figures, the “leisure and hospitality” sector gained 355,000 of the 379,000 whole new jobs in February (Summary Table B).  

Of these, 285,900 jobs had been particularly in “food services and drinking places” (Table B-1). That’s the supply of the “286K” determine introduced by Zerohedge. Those 285,900 jobs made up 75.4% of the entire variety of new jobs added in February, the share determine offered by Schiff in his tweet.

However, the “food services and drinking places” subsector is made up of extra than simply “waiters and bartenders.” The following is how that subsector is defined in the official North American Industry Classification System:

Industries in the Food Services and Drinking Places subsector put together meals, snacks, and drinks to buyer order for quick on-premises and off-premises consumption. There is a variety of institutions in these industries. Some present meals and drink solely; whereas others present varied combos of seating area, waiter/waitress companies and incidental facilities, equivalent to restricted leisure. The industries in the subsector are grouped based mostly on the sort and degree of companies offered. The trade teams are full-service eating places; limited-service consuming locations; particular meals companies, equivalent to meals service contractors, caterers, and cell meals companies; and ingesting locations.

The BLS figures for February 2021 don’t specify the proportion of these 285,900 jobs composed of particular occupations, but it surely’s extremely unlikely they had been all “waiters and bartenders.” In 2019, the latest 12 months for which figures can be found, the next was the breakdown of occupations inside the “food services and drinking places subsector”:

  • Combined meals preparation and serving staff, together with quick meals: 3,353,460 (41% of the entire)
  • Cooks, quick meals: 512,550 (6% of the entire)
  • Cooks, restaurant: 1,240,090 (15% of the entire)
  • First-line supervisors/managers of meals preparation and serving staff: 818,040 (10% of the entire)
  • Waiters and waitresses: 2,234,030 (27% of the entire)

As might be seen from these figures, “waiters and waitresses” made up lower than one-third of staff inside that subsector. If the distribution of occupations was even broadly comparable among the many 285,900 new “food services and drinking places” jobs added in February, then it might seem extremely unlikely that even a majority of these 285,900 new jobs had been made up of “waiters and bartenders” alone. 

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