20210608_JobLoss_Industries_IBT Change in total non-farm employment in the U.S. between Feb. 2020 and May 2021, by industry* Photo: Statista/IBT

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. economy with full force in March 2020, causing stock markets and economic indicators to plummet and erasing nearly 20 million jobs in a matter of weeks, many had hoped that this crisis would go away as quickly as it had arrived. And while some sectors recovered relatively quickly once restrictions had been eased and businesses were allowed to reopen in the summer, we are now 15 months into the crisis and the U.S. labor market is still more than 7.5 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.

As the following chart shows, the vast majority of those lost jobs are service-providing jobs, with the leisure and hospitality sector alone accounting for 2.5 million of the total 6.8 million lost service sector jobs. With new cases currently at the lowest level since March 2020 and more than 50 percent of the U.S. population at least partly vaccinated, there's reason for hope that a lot of jobs at restaurants, bars and cafés will return over the summer, as people are ready to enjoy what will closely resemble pre-pandemic life.