With summer in California officially under way Thursday, employers in the state's leisure and hospitality industry have beefed up their payrolls ahead of the busy tourism season.
That was evidenced Friday, when U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showed that the leisure and hospitality sector led hiring in California for the month of May. The industry's payrolls in the state grew by 9,000 jobs last month.
A boost in hiring by hospitality and travel businesses is a sign that the economy continues to improve, said Ernest Wooden, chief executive of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
“This is not just a seasonal increase in employment,” he said. “What is happening is the economy is improving significantly.”
Wooden should know about such things. He joined the tourism organization after decades in the hotel industry, including an executive post at Hilton Hotels Corp.
He noted that hotel occupancy rate in Los Angeles County last year rose to nearly 75%. “The higher the occupancy, the more people you are taking care of and the more people you need in the service sector,” Wooden said.
Los Angeles welcomed a record 41.1 million visitors in 2012 and is on pace to break that record in 2013, he said.
One of the local hotels that has benefited from the boost in travelers is the Langham Huntington in Pasadena, which has been adding about a dozen full-time and part-time workers per month since April.
Among those new hires is Jillianne Dunn, 26, who started her job at the hotel spa's front desk at the end of April. Dunn, who has worked in spas for nearly five years, said she was happy to land a hotel position because she sees it as an opportunity to advance in a booming industry.
“I see a lot of people moving up and it gives me hope,” she said.