While other sectors of the U.S. economy have yet to completely rebound from the recession, the travel industry has surpassed its pre-recession employment numbers.
U.S. Department of Labor figures released Friday show that the travel industry added 7,000 jobs in January, reaching a total of 14.6 million.
The same report revised previous data, showing that the industry stands 11% above the employment peak of February 2008.
Much of the growth has been fueled by international travel to the United States, especially spending by visitors from China, Brazil, Japan and Australia.
Some economists have played down the travel industry’s resurgence, noting that many travel and tourism jobs are low-pay, seasonal positions.
But Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive of Visit California, the nonprofit agency dedicated to promoting tourism in the state, said tourism and travel spending is helping the state rebound.
“Our comeback has been resounding,” she said at a recent gathering in Pasadena of tourism officials from throughout California. “We are a jobs machine.”
Since the recovery began, the travel industry has added jobs at a rate 19% faster than the economy as a whole, according to the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the nation’s travel industry.
“This latest data leaves little room for doubt: Travel is a job-creating powerhouse,” said Roger Dow, the group’s president and chief executive.