Local hospitality, leisure jobs initially lost to pandemic have now recovered to off-season February levels

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – 31,000 jobs lost to the pandemic, 31,000 jobs recovered – that’s the bottom line for the hospitality and leisure sector of the area workforce, according a to a new study.

The MoneyGeek study examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for trends in layoffs and hiring from February through July, the latest statistics available.

“The sector lost about a third of the jobs that it had from February to April,” said Doug Milnes, MoneyGeek representative for the study’s five authors. “Since April, thru July which is the latest data from the BLS, Virginia Beach has recovered those 31,000 jobs.”

Different businesses along Atlantic Avenue in the resort city were affected in different ways.

The Breakers Hotel was able to maintain its workforce throughout the pandemic. Management owes that to the loyalty and seniority of the workforce.

“One of our guys has been here since the building was built and that was in ’84,” said owner Brad Capps.

Others saw jobs wash out to sea, only to return in a future tide.

Waterman’s Surfside Grille laid off about three-quarters of its workforce in the early days of the pandemic. They were initially lost to the economic shutdown, restrictions on public gatherings, and fear of getting the virus.

Now at Waterman’s and similar places, those jobs are back. But that only resets the workforce to off-season February levels. Data from Old Dominion University shows year-to-year, hospitality and leisure employment in July 2020 is just over 90,000, or about 10,000 jobs behind the same month last year.

Another problem is restrictions on international travel and not being able to utilize students on J-1 visas. Developer Bruce Thompson, whose properties include the Cavalier and the Marriott at the Oceanfront, the Hilton Norfolk at the Main and several restaurants, has told 10 On Your Side that he had as many as 600 such employees in recent years.

Capps says even as a smaller property he has utilized workers on international J-1 student visas.

“We’re hearing a lot of folks saying that they can’t find employees. I think some of the larger properties, they really struggle. They just need so many more people.”

ODU just released its latest analysis on the hotel industry.

Hampton Roads continues to achieve the highest occupancy rate among the top 25 markets in the nation for the current week as well as since the week of June 21-27. Looking at the last four weeks, the occupancy rate in Hampton Roads was 60.6% for the current week and 63.4% since the week of Aug. 2-9.

Revenue per available room in Hampton Roads ($65.93) continued to be in third place for the current week behind Los Angeles ($69.04) and San Diego ($68.84). However, Hampton Roads still ranked first in RevPAR for the last four weeks with an average of $70.31. ODU says RevPAR is a key industry statistic when measuring the health of the industry.

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