Interior of a restaurant.
Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt

The previous record occurred in March, when there were 8.1 million openings.

U.S. Sees Record Number of Job Openings

The data confirms what’s been shared by operators across the industry.

The number of job openings across the U.S. reached a record-high 9.3 million on the final business day of April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The data is part of the agency’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. April was the highest amount since the series began in December 2000. The previous record occurred in March, when there were 8.1 million openings. The industry with the largest increase in April was accommodation and food services, which saw its job pool widen by 349,000, or from 989,000 to 1.3 million. Its open rate also rose from 7.7 percent to 9.9 percent. 

Meanwhile, the amount of hires changed little at 6.1 million and the hires rate remained unchanged at 4.2 percent. The number of individuals quitting jobs and the quitting rate in April both rose to record highs of 4 million and 2.7 percent, respectively. 

The data confirms what’s been shared by operators across the industry. Major chains like IHOP, Applebee’s, Denny’s, BJ’s, Cracker Barrel, and others have sought thousands of employees to fill roles as sales and pent-up demand accelerate. Although some brands view the matter differently than others. 

Jeff Melnick, president of Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar, told FSR that “everything you read and hear is true.” According to the executive, every restaurant is significantly understaffed and cannot find people to even apply or show up to work. Some restaurants aren’t even able to open for lunch. 

“We have some magnificent team members that are exhausted,” Melnick said in May. “They are making fantastic money, but they are tired.”

Cracker Barrel CEO Sandy Cochran said last month that 10 percent of the chain’s 664-unit footprint is designated as a “critical” labor situation and another 25 percent is labeled as “concerning." Combined, that's roughly 230 stores broadly based across the country. 

Red Robin CEO Paul Murphy took a different stance and told analysts that the situation is “not as dire as maybe you’re hearing from some other brands in any form or fashion.”  For Red Robin, restaurant management is staffed at 99 percent, and team member turnover rates are approaching “industry best-in-class levels,” Murphy noted. On average, the company is looking to add about six employees per store. The 543-unit chain held a national hiring day on Tuesday. 

“I feel very confident that in short order, we're going to get the staffing put to bed, get it stabilized,” Murphy said during Red Robin’s Q1 earnings call. “The things that we've done, the technology enhancements to really get the onboarding on quicker, getting people trained and productive inside of two or three days, and then the wage progression are all things that we're seeing already beginning to have an impact on our ability to staff the restaurants.”

According to a Black Box Intelligence poll of more than 360 operators, 57 percent said higher pay through unemployment was the main driver of the ongoing labor shortage. But that issue may soon come to an end as half of states are set to end the $300 weekly boost as early as June 12 and as late as July 19—both months ahead of the September 6 expiration date.

In May, restaurants gained 186,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the industry is still missing 1.46 million when compared to February 2020.