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As restaurants and bars reopen, some find workers are scarce

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A waiter carries a tray of food.

Despite new hiring, the restaurant industry has a long way to go, says Erica Groshen, a senior economic adviser at Cornell University. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The weather is warming up in parts of the country, and more and more people are getting vaccinated, and maybe feeling more comfortable going out.  

Bars and restaurants added nearly 300,000 jobs in February, and there are signs that’s continuing.

In Austin, Texas, Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro is finally getting ready to reopen soon for outdoor dining.

Co-owner Adam Orman said he’s trying to hire about 30% more staff.

“We need service staff. We need line cooks. We need a sous chef,” he said. And so do most of the restaurants he knows. In fact, Orman said, there are so many restaurant jobs open now that he’s having trouble finding people.

“We guarantee a living wage, we provide health benefits, we provide paid time off. And it’s still really difficult to attract folks.”

Even with all this new hiring, Erica Groshen, a senior economic adviser at Cornell University, said the restaurant industry has a long way to go.

“We’re still down quite a few jobs. But there’s certainly more grounds for optimism than several months ago,” Groshen said.

Whether the hiring continues, she said, will depend on what happens next with the virus.

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