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September 06, 2002
Mississippi, Nevada Lead Nation in Hotel Job Growth
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Hotel employment, which rose by 16 percent nationwide during the 1990s, more than tripled in Mississippi during the same period, making Mississippi the nation's leader in the rate of new hotel job growth, according to a new study from the AFL-CIO's Working for America Institute.

Nevada was the only state to surpass Mississippi in the total number of new hotel jobs created during the 1990s, according to the study. In Nevada, 88,350 new hotel jobs were created, representing an increase of nearly 69 percent between 1989 and 2000.

During the same period the study found that hotel employment in Mississippi increased from 7,900 to more than 35,500 jobs -- a 350 percent increase. Many of the new jobs are the result of new casinos built along the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as in Tunica County in northwestern Mississippi, south of Memphis.

The study found Mississippi with more hotel employees than 33 other states including Mississippi's four bordering states -- Tennessee (34,800), Louisiana (24,971), Alabama (14,769), and Arkansas (10,635).

Unlike Mississippi, Nevada has experienced rapid growth in hotel jobs for more than two decades and currently employs 216,500 hotel workers, the most of any state. Both states have seen a decline in hotel jobs since March of last year as a result of the recession and the September 11 attacks.

The hotel study, called U.S. Hotels and Their Workers: Room for Improvement, examines changes in the U.S. hotel industry with a special focus on jobs, wages, union representation, geographic composition, business organization and competition since 1979. The study also offers policy recommendations on ways to improve the industry.

While Nevada and Mississippi accounted for nearly 45 percent of the 260,000 new hotel jobs created during the 1990s, the report found a huge difference in hotel wages in the two states.

Hotel workers received an average wage of more than $28,000 a year in Nevada compared to about $20,000 a year in Mississippi, a 40 percent difference.

The report pointed to union representation in Nevada as one factor likely contributing to the wage difference. Nevada accounts for nearly a third of all union hotel workers nationwide while few, if any, hotel workers belong to unions in Mississippi.

The report found that union workers nationwide fare much better than non-union workers in the hotel industry. In 2000, hotel workers represented by unions earned a median hourly wage of $10, $1.50 more than non-union workers' median wage of $8.50 per hour. Union hotel workers also are more likely to work a standard full-time workweek, the report found.

Unions represent close to 12 percent of all U.S. hotel workers. Besides Nevada, states with the highest percentages of union hotel workers are Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Rhode Island, Alaska and Washington.

"The study demonstrates the real difference unions can make in the lives of workers," said John W. Wilhelm, president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE), which represents approximately 265,000 hospitality industry workers. "Unions can help raise hotel workers' wages and reduce wage gaps between high- and low-wage workers. Even more importantly, the study shows that the hotel workers who benefit most by participating in a union are those who traditionally make the lowest wages."

"This report offers an in-depth look at the quality of jobs being created in the hotel industry and the disparities that exist between high and low-wage jobs as well as between union and non-union jobs," said Nancy Mills, executive director of the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute. "This kind of research is critically important as we undertake the task of creating more good jobs-jobs that can sustain families and help build stronger communities."

In looking at wages, the report found that the gap between high and low wages in the hotel industry has widened over the past two decades. High-wage hotel workers earned 325 percent of what low-wage hotel workers earned in 2000 compared to 240 percent in 1979.

The report also found an increasing number of hotel jobs going to immigrants and Hispanics. In many hotel job categories -- including cooks, janitors, laundry workers, maids and housemen, and waiters and waitresses -- the percentage of Hispanics holding these jobs grew substantially during the 1990s. In the late 1980s, for example, one in ten hotel waiters and waitresses was Hispanic, but by the late 1990s over one in four was Hispanic, the report found.

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