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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

U.S. hotels added 700 jobs in May despite workforce challenges

By Vaseline Jun10,2024

U.S. hotels added 700 jobs in May, underscoring the ongoing workforce shortage with 191,500 vacancies since the start of 2020, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. However, an AHLA survey of hoteliers in May found that 76 percent of respondents are facing a staff shortage.

U.S. hotels added 700 jobs in May, indicating an ongoing labor shortage, with 191,500 vacancies since the start of 2020, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. However, an AHLA survey of hoteliers in May found that 76 percent of respondents are experiencing staff shortages and 13 percent reported that they are severely understaffed, meaning the shortage is affecting their hotel’s operations.

By comparison, in a January survey, 67 percent said they were experiencing staff shortages, and 72 percent said they could not fill open positions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total hotel employment now stands at approximately 1.92 million. This is still 191,500 fewer than pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, highlighting the ongoing struggle to find workers.

AHLA urged the Department of Homeland Security to issue an additional 65,000 H-2B visas under the authority granted by the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act.

“Hotels are primed to grow and create more jobs, but the nationwide labor shortage that has persisted in the post-pandemic economy is preventing that from happening,” said Kevin Carey, interim president and CEO of AHLA. “Congress and the Administration can provide relief to hoteliers by taking some important steps to expand the pool of available workers. These include expanding the number of H-2B visas, extending the certification period for H-2B workers and making it easier for qualified asylum seekers to work in the US.”

The number of vacancies in hotels is increasing enormously

The May survey of hoteliers also found that in the past six months, 86 percent of respondents increased wages, 52 percent offered more flexibility on hours, and 33 percent expanded benefits to address the national labor shortage . AHLA said average hotel wages have risen 26.4 percent since the pandemic, more than the 21.7 percent increase in the overall economy.

Yet 79 percent say they are still unable to fill open positions. The most critical staffing need is housekeeping, with 50 percent of respondents considering this as their top hiring need. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. had 8.1 million job openings in April, but only 6.5 million unemployed people to fill them.

“Strong demand for summer travel and a nationwide labor shortage have combined to provide increased pay, benefits and upward mobility for current and future hotel workers,” Carey said. “But hotels need access to more workers to continue creating jobs. AHLA lobbies Congress and the Administration for a variety of solutions to grow the workforce, while the AHLA Foundation’s Empowering Youth and Registered Apprenticeship programs continue to provide workers with the tools and support they need to enter our industry, moving forward to arrive and succeed.

Policy priorities

In addition to issuing H-2B visas, the AHLA has urged Congress to pass several bills, including the Closing the Workforce Gap Act of 2024, the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act, and the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, to help hoteliers expand their workforce and operations.

  • The Closing the Workforce Gap Act of 2024 (HR 7574) aims to replace the annual cap of 66,000 H-2B guest worker visas with a needs-based allocation system.
  • The HIRE Act (HR 4708) proposes to extend the H-2A/H-2B labor certification period to three years and permanently authorize the waiver of in-person interviews for returning employees. This would simplify recruitment in areas facing recruitment challenges, providing crucial staffing assistance to seasonal small business hotels and supporting the sector’s recovery.
  • The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act (S.255/HR1325) would grant work permits to asylum seekers at ports of entry 30 days after applying for asylum, provided certain conditions are met. This change would help hotels meet critical staffing needs by allowing eligible asylum seekers to work sooner, rather than waiting at least six months under current law.

These measures are crucial to addressing workforce shortages in the hotel sector and supporting its recovery and growth, AHLA said.

In April, AHLA announced it is considering all options, including lawsuits, to challenge the U.S. Department of Labor’s final overtime rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act, fearing it could force many hoteliers to make important eliminating management positions that are crucial for career development.

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