The economy added 943,000 jobs last month, according to new U.S. Department of Labor data on Friday, the highest rate of growth in seven months and enough to bring the unemployment rate down a half a percentage point to 5.4%.
More than one out of every five of those new jobs came at a restaurant. The industry added 253,200 workers during the month—the largest gain since February—as operators increased pay and improved benefits in a bid to get more workers.
The industry now provides nearly 11.4 million jobs. That remains just less than 1 million short of where it was just before the pandemic in February of last year. But the industry has regained 5 million of the 6 million jobs it lost when restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms to stop the spread of the pandemic.