Despite the slowing pace of overall job growth in December, the travel industry continued to make significant gains, adding 11,000 jobs. The numbers represent 15 percent of the country’s overall employment gains last month.
“Looking back at 2013, while the overall economy created fewer new jobs during the past 12 months, the 119,000 jobs created by the travel industry was actually 22,000 more jobs than were added in 2012,” says David Huether, senior vice president for economics and research at the U.S. Travel Association. “Since the overall employment recovery began in early 2010, the travel industry has been adding jobs at a nine percent faster rate than the rest of the economy.”
The accommodation sector—made up of hotels, casino hotels, and other lodging properties—followed a similar trend. The sector added 1,782 jobs in December, up 5 percent from November. Taking into account the latest numbers, data shows that 1.5 million people currently work in hotels, and the sector finished on a high note, adding jobs for three consecutive months from October through December.
With December’s tally, the travel industry has recovered 99 percent of the jobs lost during the downturn, compared to 86 percent of the rest of the economy, and is just 5,000 short of its prerecession level of employment. The industry also stands just 57,000 short of its record employment level set in December 2000.
Despite the fact that the accommodation sector has added 100,000 jobs since it bottomed out in February 2010, the job recovery of the hotel industry has been somewhat slower than the rest of the economy, holding at about 70 percent.
Mark Woodward, president of PKF Hospitality Research, remains cautious about what the job numbers mean for the lodging industry. “The news concerning the overall level of new jobs was certainly disappointing and once again provides reason to be somewhat uncertain about where we are in the recovery cycle,” he says. “That being said, lodging demand, and the revenues and profits resulting from that, continue to expand at very attractive rates. The industry needs the human capital to satisfy this expanding demand base; thus, more jobs are being created.”
But Huether sees 2014 as a promising year for travel as a whole, and expects the industry to break hiring records.
“We’re going to see the travel industry— accommodations being a part of that—having a better year than 2013,” he says. “With the growth of travel employment on an accelerating path, a new record level of employment in the industry is likely around mid-year in 2014.”