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Hospitality industry finally sees recovery after taking huge hit in the pandemic

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SALT LAKE CITY — After getting hit hard by the pandemic, new data shared with the KSL Investigators show people who make a living in the hospitality industry — restaurants, hotels, spas, tourism in general — are finally starting to breathe easier.

You've likely noticed that some of your favorite places to dine out or hang out have stayed closed, reduced their hours, or maybe, you've found the service has been a little bit lax.

Customers are back, but hospitality workers haven't been.

But now, the tide is turning.

"They've seen such a fast rebound," said Kamaron McNair of MagnifyMoney, who has been studying the employment trends.

She told KSL that while the hospitality industry was the hardest hit, it is now enjoying the most robust growth.

By April 2020, it lost 49% of its workforce. Since then, the number of workers in the industry has grown 70%.

And Utah numbers that were released Friday morning show a similar spike.

"The recovery has been people kind of rushing back to the things that they love. Before that, they absolutely could not really do during the pandemic," explained McNair. "So, that's dining out and traveling and going and doing like fun touristy things."

It's not a full recovery: the number of hospitality workers is still down about 13% from pre-pandemic levels, but certainly an encouraging trend.

McNair said a combination of expiring unemployment benefits and restaurants raising wages has led to the flood of servers getting back to work.

Still, the ongoing pandemic and the national shift to working from home will make it tough for the industry to climb back up to 100%.

"We're in a very interesting position historically about how people are seeing work," McNair said. "And being able to choose what jobs they want to do, rather than jobs that they have to do to survive, is a huge thing that I think it is changing all of our lives."

Interestingly, a government job might be a safe bet against future catastrophe. The number of people working for the federal government is unchanged since before the pandemic, making it the only industry to remain flat.

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Matt Gephardt
Matt Gephardt has worked in television news for more than 20 years, and as a reporter since 2010. He is now a consumer investigative reporter for KSL TV. You can find Matt on Twitter at @KSLmatt or email him at


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