Column: Back in business? Road to recovery for Wisconsin’s restaurant and bar industry

Fiscal Facts by Wisconsin Policy Forum

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for restaurants and bars in Wisconsin. Due in part to support provided through federal relief funds, employment in this industry has recovered considerably since nosediving by nearly 50 percent in April 2020.

Still, employment in the “food services and drinking places” subsector remains below pre-pandemic levels. It was still down by nearly 20,000, or 8.8 percent, in August 2021 compared to the same month in 2019.

Job recovery in this subsector also has been weaker in Wisconsin than nationally, where employment was down only 6.1 percent in August 2021 relative to August 2019.

It also lags job recovery for other major sectors in Wisconsin. Total nonfarm employment in Wisconsin was down by 3.5 percent in August 2021 relative to August 2019.

While no data source is currently available that could show precisely how many restaurants and bars…

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