Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its employment statistics for March 2015. The lodging sector, referred to as the Accommodation subsector by the BLS, exceeded employment numbers for any March in history at 1,901,100 jobs. The highest previous March was in 2008. This is the third month in a row that employment has exceeded 1.9 million. It is also the eleventh month in a row that the monthly employment figures have set new highs for that month. For the rolling 12-month period, average monthly employment has been1.892 million also a new record for employment in the lodging sector.
When compared to other key subsectors reported on by the BLS, lodging is a leader in employment growth along with healthcare, while other key sectors such as construction, manufacturing and retail continue to lag. Overall, employment growth in March was disappointing with an increase of only 126,000, the lowest reported month since December 2013 and half of what was forecast for March. Most leading economists are anticipating the employment numbers to improve in April and the second quarter of 2015.
Another key statistic, average hourly earnings for the Accommodation subsector adjusted for inflation as reported by the BLS also snapped back by almost 4% in the last year, again the best performance since 2007-08. Also, the average hours worked by employees in the lodging sector have increased and are almost back to their prerecession levels.
Another key indicator for the lodging sector reported by BLS is the percentage of jobs posted in the Accommodation and Food Service industries left unfilled at the end of each month, which has now reached a new high at approximately 45% as compared to 41% peak in November of 2007. Hotels are experiencing longer wait times to fill openings, as well as more voluntary quits as the job market strengthens. The tightening job market for hotels will continue to place pressure on management to pay employees more and continue to increase hours for employees in order to minimize turnover and maintain staffing levels.
Overall, the lodging industry continues to perform well with all-time highs for occupancy being posted over the past year as well as strong revenue growth. Smith Travel Research and PKF Consulting are forecasting record performance for the lodging industry in 2015 and 2016.
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