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‘60,000 People May Lose Restaurant, Hotel Jobs in DC’


Washington, D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt has warned that the nation’s capital may see some 60,000 people lose their jobs in hospitality and leisure sectors if the current coronavirus outbreak persists through June.

As many jurisdictions scramble for various solutions to contain the Covid-19 pathogen across the nation, D.C. has introduced its own set of measures. The fact that they included ordering restaurants to prohibit sit-in dining have made operating no longer sustainable for many businesses.

Only a few days into those measures, several restaurants announced layoffs. Now DeWitt says, the situation is likely to worsen if they remain in place for the next couple of weeks.

“We’re currently about 4.9 percent in an unemployment situation. If you have a large amount of layoffs in that particular sector [hotels and restaurants], you could be approaching between 15-20 percent unemployment on a temporary basis,” he told the D.C. Council on Tuesday.

Layoffs & Closures Announced

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the size of civilian labor force in the District of Columbia is over 400,000 people. A jump in unemployment by 15 percent, therefore, would be equal to about 60,000 losing their jobs.

The restaurant and hotel industries make up roughly half of D.C.’s sales tax revenue on an annual basis, DeWitt briefed the Council. He added that besides restaurants limiting their operations to pick-up only, the city’s hotels are now operating at around 40 percent occupancy.

At least three D.C. restaurants have announced decisions to layoff employees as of Tuesday. They were Founding Farmers, Busboys and Poets and Compass Coffee.

Comedy club D.C. Improv, on the other hand, suspended all operations until further notice.

“The D.C. Improv is closed for who knows how long. The level of uncertainty is off the charts, and I have no idea if my business will be able to weather this storm,” its owner Allyson Jaffe wrote in a statement.

Health Situation Worsens 

As measures tighten, the number of infections neared 200,000 and the death toll topped 8,000 worldwide as of March 18. Across the U.S., there were some 6,500 cases and nearly 100 deaths.

In the D.C. metro area, the number of cases, according to the latest official figures, was 126 at the time of this report. Two people have also died in Virginia. No deaths were reported in the capital city and Maryland.


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