Canceled events due to COVID-19 limit job growth in Triangle area

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 2 million jobs were added in the leisure and hospitality industries within the last month, employment figures released Thursday show.

The employment figures show those two industries had the biggest employment gains.

The increase in jobs came as more states started to reopen and welcome visitors.

Those numbers are still down from this time last year when there were 16.5 million jobs in those industries.

The leisure and hospitality industries are heavily relied upon in North Carolina. While national numbers look positive, there is still a lot of work to do locally.

National unemployment rates from 2000 to 2020. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Dennis Edwards, CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, said while about 20 hotels closed at one point because of COVID-19, only six remain closed right now.

“Hopefully, we are starting to see a little rebound from an employment standpoint but I think that’s going to be a little slower for recovery just because we have to wait until the demand is there,” said Edwards.

That is where large sporting events and hospitality industry jobs intersect. When there are less events for visitors to attend, there is a smaller demand for area hotels.

“It’s hard for a hotel that typically might have 300 employees running at 85 percent occupancy to keep that same level employees when they’re operating at 20%,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the challenge is the current restrictions on gatherings.

Indoor gatherings in North Carolina are restricted to 10 people. Outdoor gatherings are restricted to 25. Those restrictions have closed down facilities like baseball fields that would typically be used for large events. Even if teams holding tournaments felt safe coming to the area for events, they would be challenged by a lack of facility options.

Looking ahead to a rebound

“We are optimistic. I think the good news is we are starting to see a lot of interest in the Raleigh market for 2021 all the way through 2025,” said Edwards.

While there have been more than 200 events canceled this summer, some events scheduled for the fall are still on.

Edwards said the National Soccer Series is still on the books for this fall. He said the five-weekend tournament is the largest sporting event Raleigh sees on an annual basis.

“They take up virtually about every soccer field in wake county. They’re still on hold and hoping to come,” Edwards said.

The GRCVB estimates the series brings in close to $25 million of economic impact while attracting 70,000 to watch more than 1,000 teams.

Source: Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau

Hospitality industry hit hard

Events like this could help the area rebound from several months of cancellations of large scale events and gatherings.

The month of April saw a total of 91 events canceled with a projected revenue loss of $47.2 million for Wake County.

By May, there were about 130 cancellations with $59.3 million worth of revenue loss.

By early June, the number of cancelled events was up to 170 with a loss of about $82.7 million.

Edwards said by early July, there were 202 canceled events that would have attracted more than 250,000 people for an economic impact of $107 million.

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