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October Jobs Report Gives Tired Travelers a Glimmer of Hope

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Here’s good news for both the travel industry and for any recent traveler who has experienced (sometimes extreme) chaos amid airline and hotel staffing shortages: The travel industry is experiencing significant job growth.

The U.S. economy added a total of 531,000 jobs in October, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. And while there were gains in many sectors — including retail, factories and office jobs — the biggest year-over-year growth came from both the transportation and the leisure and hospitality sectors.

In short, that means travel industry-related job openings are returning — and they’re getting filled, too. This could further indicate that travel disruptions wrought by the pandemic might soon subside.

Our October jobs report findings

Of the 10 industries that saw the most new jobs added during the month of October 2021 versus October 2020, eight fall under the transportation sector or the leisure and hospitality sector, according to the BLS.

Here are the fastest growing industries based on percent change in jobs, seasonally adjusted.

Percent change from Oct. 2020 to Oct. 2021

Percent change from Sept. 2021 to Oct. 2021

Performing arts and spectator sports

Scenic and sightseeing transportation

Motion picture and sound recording industries

Accommodation

Support activities for mining

Air transportation

Amusements, gambling, and recreation

Transit and ground passenger transportation

Food services and drinking places

Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions

How the labor supply has impacted travelers

The leisure and hospitality industry was hit especially hard in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, having lost 8.2 million jobs in March and April 2020 — an employment decline of 49%, according to the BLS.

But even when travel started picking up, many employees hadn’t returned, leaving thousands of jobs unfilled and creating a massive labor shortage. This shortage has especially caused chaos for air travelers — for instance, more than 2,800 Spirit Airlines flights were canceled between July 30 and Aug. 9. Hundreds of American Airlines flights were canceled during Father’s Day weekend, and Southwest canceled more than 1,800 flights over an October weekend.

In each situation, the airlines blamed staffing shortages as the culprit for the initial delays, many of which snowballed into further delays, as staff weren’t in place to get to their next scheduled route.

And hotels have been cutting back many services, including scaling back breakfast buffets to brown bags or providing housekeeping only upon request. Without being fully staffed, it’s been challenging for hotels to provide quality guest service at pre-pandemic levels.

Near-term travel will still probably be chaotic

Nationwide, the air transportation sector added 9,200 jobs in October, while the accommodations sector added 23,200 jobs. Restaurants and bars added 119,400 jobs in the same month.

With those new jobs filled, the recent bout of travel challenges may be nearly over, and holiday travel might just be a little less chaotic than previously thought.

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