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More than 15,000 New Jersey hospitality jobs lost due to pandemic, study finds
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More than 15,000 New Jersey hospitality jobs lost due to pandemic, study finds

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More than 15,000 hotel jobs in New Jersey were lost in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

From 2019 to 2020, the number of hotel-based jobs in the state dropped from 54,498 to 38,647.

“Clearly the pandemic had an impact on the entire hospitality sector,” said Michael Chait, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. “The restrictions, specifically capacity and travel restrictions, caused a lot of your hospitality sector employers to reduce staff.”

So far in 2021, that number has gone back up some to 45,598, but an estimated 8,900 jobs could still be lost in the seven months remaining in the year, according to the study.

Chait believes the industry, especially in Atlantic City, will bounce back.

“We (the resort) are a tourism and travel destination, and I do think there is going to be a very strong desire for people to dine out, travel and stay overnight again,” Chait said. “I think you’re going to see the hospitality industry bounce back.”

However, Chait said, the industry is now grappling with a labor shortage.

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“They are not getting a lot of applicants for a variety of reasons,” Chait said. “There are some people who have a fear to go back because of the pandemic, the additional $300 from unemployment, and some employees have transitioned to other jobs all together because of the closures and uncertainty in the industry.”

To combat the shortage of labor, Chait said the chamber is partnering with the Casino Association of New Jersey and the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board to promote the open positions in hospitality around the resort.

The hospitality industry lost 3.1 million jobs nationwide during the pandemic, which represents more than one-third of all unemployed people in the country, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“With hotels expected to end 2021 down 500,000 jobs, based on the pre-pandemic ratio, an additional 1.3 million hotel-supported jobs are in jeopardy this year without additional support from Congress,” the study states.

The study said urban areas have been hit particularly hard, including Atlantic City.

Employment at the resort’s nine casinos dropped rapidly due to statewide shutdowns intended to mitigate the spread of the virus.

In August, the rate of employment had dropped 21% from the year before.

“Conventions and meetings are a key factor in returning hotel employment to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, guests attending conventions and meetings used 390,566 room nights in Atlantic City, compared to 99,142 in 2020, according to Meet AC,” Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator for the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, said in an email. “These room nights are especially important to employment because they help to smooth demand in off-peak times, keeping staffing levels more consistent.”

While being closed for more than 100 days due to the pandemic, the Atlantic City casino industry saw a $112 million operating loss in the second quarter of 2020.

Contact Molly Shelly:


Twitter @mollycshelly

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