Bradenton Beach's Beach House, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: Staff photo

The number of people working in restaurants and bars has dropped to its lowest level in more than 30 years, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the National Restaurant Association.

According to the association, nearly 6 million Americans in the restaurant and food services industry have lost their jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of employees stands at just 6.4 million, the industry's lowest number of employees since May 1989. In Florida alone, the association estimates that 598,000 restaurant jobs have been lost.

The association warns that those figures "will likely grow much larger," based on survey results it has tabulated. Last month, the group estimated that two out of three restaurant workers had lost work.

Last week, Florida restaurants were allowed to once again offer in-person dining, with a number of social distancing restrictions in place. Some Sarasota restaurants have reported an uptick in sales, while others have not yet seen a significant boost.