Business

Plenty of jobs at the inn

Switching professions in a weak job market can be risky, but Christina Watson took the chance five months ago.

After working as a sales clerk at Pier 1 Imports for a couple of years, the 21-year-old Charlottean said she thought her career prospects would be better at the Hyatt Place-City Park hotel, where she landed a front-desk job.

At a time when some sectors are cutting back on jobs, the hospitality industry is growing.

In the past 10 years in the Charlotte region, the number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector have increased by nearly 50 percent, and now make up over 10 percent of all nonfarm jobs. The sector has been one of few to see strong growth in a tightening economy. Jobs in health care and education have also continued to grow.

Leisure and hospitality saw gains nationally last month as employers overall cut jobs for the sixth straight month. Since the beginning of the year, nearly 462,000 nonfarm jobs have been cut.

Despite declines across the country, the Charlotte area added nearly 5,900 jobs in May, for a total nonfarm employment of about 879,000. Local data for June will be released mid-July.

With poor prospects in other sectors, many local workers are looking at hotels, restaurants and other hospitality jobs, which often pay less than those in other industries.

Wages for hotel and motel workers averaged about $402 a week nationwide in May, according to federal labor data. Average weekly earnings for total private-sector jobs was nearly $607 in May.

Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, said growth in service sector jobs like those in hospitality has been part of a long-term trend toward what he calls a “dumbbell economy” – with growth in both low wage and higher wage jobs.

“What's been missing is strong growth in those middle income jobs,” Walden said.

Sheree Renshaw, general manager of the Homewood Suites in Davidson, said more than 60 people applied for six front-desk positions before the hotel's opening two months ago. Many came from the real estate industry and customer service jobs, she said.

“There are a lot of people applying for jobs no matter what their experience is,” Renshaw said.

Experience may not be as important as a worker's personality or attitude, said Scott Perrine, a general manager for two Hyatt Place hotels in the area.

“We can't train a smile,” Perrine said, “and we can't train that desire to take care of individuals.”

Damien Roseboro, 27, works with Watson and had held various jobs before arriving at the Hyatt four months ago. A former truck driver and a guide at the Mint Museum, Roseboro said he was looking for something different when applied at the Hyatt.

“I'm pretty good with people,” he said. “I deal with people on a day-to-day basis. Why not get paid for it?”

The hospitality industry is stable because communities will always need restaurants and hotels, just as they need doctors and hospitals, said Mike Butts, executive director of Visit Charlotte, the marketing arm of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Butts said a lot of the local job growth has come from new hotels and attractions, such as the U.S. National Whitewater Center and local museum exhibits. Two hotels have opened in the Charlotte metro area this year and five more are expected to be complete by the end of 2008. Even with a tightening economy, Butts does not expect jobs in the leisure industry to dwindle.

“People are going to cut back” on travel, he said. “But people may cut back a trip to the (Florida) Keys and then decide to go to a localized destination, maybe a place that is not quite so expensive.”

Walden says the hospitality industry in North Carolina could go either way in coming months. While people may cut back on entertainment and travel, he says many local hotels may benefit as people take shorter trips. Many area hotels have indicated to him that they are expecting a strong demand in the summer months.

Many workers, like Watson, are attracted to the hotel business because of the chance to build a career. One of her co-workers is an example of how that can happen.

Greg Denison, 38, started as a hotel dishwasher when he was 16 years old. He now works at the Hyatt's front desk and has started managing the hotel's food inventory.

“I enjoy it,” said Denison. “I don't anticipate going anywhere else soon.”

Switching professions in a weak job market can be risky, but Christina Watson took the chance five months ago.

After working as a sales clerk at Pier 1 Imports for a couple of years, the 21-year-old Charlottean said she thought her career prospects would be better at the Hyatt Place-City Park hotel, where she landed a front-desk job.

At a time when some sectors are cutting back on jobs, the hospitality industry is growing.

In the past 10 years in the Charlotte region, the number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector have increased by nearly 50 percent, and now make up over 10 percent of all nonfarm jobs. The sector has been one of few to see strong growth in a tightening economy. Jobs in health care and education have also continued to grow.

Leisure and hospitality saw gains nationally last month as employers overall cut jobs for the sixth straight month. Since the beginning of the year, nearly 462,000 nonfarm jobs have been cut.

Despite declines across the country, the Charlotte area added nearly 5,900 jobs in May, for a total nonfarm employment of about 879,000. Local data for June will be released mid-July.

With poor prospects in other sectors, many local workers are looking at hotels, restaurants and other hospitality jobs, which often pay less than those in other industries.

Wages for hotel and motel workers averaged about $402 a week nationwide in May, according to federal labor data. Average weekly earnings for total private-sector jobs was nearly $607 in May.

Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, said growth in service sector jobs like those in hospitality has been part of a long-term trend toward what he calls a “dumbbell economy” – with growth in both low wage and higher wage jobs.

“What's been missing is strong growth in those middle income jobs,” Walden said.

Sheree Renshaw, general manager of the Homewood Suites in Davidson, said more than 60 people applied for six front-desk positions before the hotel's opening two months ago. Many came from the real estate industry and customer service jobs, she said.

“There are a lot of people applying for jobs no matter what their experience is,” Renshaw said.

Experience may not be as important as a worker's personality or attitude, said Scott Perrine, a general manager for two Hyatt Place hotels in the area.

“We can't train a smile,” Perrine said, “and we can't train that desire to take care of individuals.”

Damien Roseboro, 27, works with Watson and had held various jobs before arriving at the Hyatt four months ago. A former truck driver and a guide at the Mint Museum, Roseboro said he was looking for something different when applied at the Hyatt.

“I'm pretty good with people,” he said. “I deal with people on a day-to-day basis. Why not get paid for it?”

The hospitality industry is stable because communities will always need restaurants and hotels, just as they need doctors and hospitals, said Mike Butts, executive director of Visit Charlotte, the marketing arm of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Butts said a lot of the local job growth has come from new hotels and attractions, such as the U.S. National Whitewater Center and local museum exhibits. Two hotels have opened in the Charlotte metro area this year and five more are expected to be complete by the end of 2008. Even with a tightening economy, Butts does not expect jobs in the leisure industry to dwindle.

“People are going to cut back” on travel, he said. “But people may cut back a trip to the (Florida) Keys and then decide to go to a localized destination, maybe a place that is not quite so expensive.”

Walden says the hospitality industry in North Carolina could go either way in coming months. While people may cut back on entertainment and travel, he says many local hotels may benefit as people take shorter trips. Many area hotels have indicated to him that they are expecting a strong demand in the summer months.

Many workers, like Watson, are attracted to the hotel business because of the chance to build a career. One of her co-workers is an example of how that can happen.

Greg Denison, 38, started as a hotel dishwasher when he was 16 years old. He now works at the Hyatt's front desk and has started managing the hotel's food inventory.

“I enjoy it,” said Denison. “I don't anticipate going anywhere else soon.”

  Comments