Customers are back in restaurants and bars, but workers have moved on

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Like many waiters and bartenders across the country, Ashley Roshitsh, 32, loved her job – until the pandemic.

She had worked in the hospitality industry since the age of 14, eventually working as a bartender at a craft cocktail bar in Birmingham, Alabama. But after being put on leave in March 2020, she took stock of the long hours and late nights. “Why do I have arthritis? Years and years of bartending will do that to you, ”she says.

In August, she accepted a customer service position at Shipt Inc., a Birmingham-based grocery delivery service, and said she had no plans to return to the bar. “It’s like someone woke you up,” she says of the career change.

After Covid-19 forced restaurants, hotels and bars to close last year, thousands of workers weren’t just sidelined from jobs. Many, like Ms. Roshitsh, have turned to new careers in digital sales, shipping, mortgage finance and other businesses that thrived during the pandemic, which some economists say could mark a lasting change on the labor market for hotel staff.

This exodus, they say, could lead to workforce problems for the sector that will persist well beyond September, when improved federal unemployment benefits that helped prevent some low-wage workers from returning to work. should expire.


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