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Nearly 500,000 U.S. hotel jobs won't return before the end of 2021, the American Hotel and Lodging Association said Tuesday, signaling some trouble ahead for employment growth in the leisure and hospitality industry even as travel returns.

The hotel industry isn't expected to reach 2019 employment levels until at least 2023, the trade group said, as hotel occupancy levels remain depressed. Occupancy in 2021 is expected to average 55.9%, 10% lower than 2019, though should rebound to 61.7% in 2022. Leisure and hospitality payrolls increased by 343,000 in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 306,000 in May, though over half of that gain came from employment growth at restaurants.

"Despite an uptick in leisure travel, midway through 2021 we're still seeing that the road to a full recovery for America's hotels is long and uneven," AHLA President and CEO Chip Rodgers said in a statement. "These findings show the economic devastation still facing hotel markets and underscore the need for targeted relief from Congress for hotel workers and small businesses."