DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado has finally recovered from one of the most spotlighted issues it faced in the roughly two-year stretch of COVID pandemic problems – its food service workforce.

When COVID restrictions were first put in place in the spring and summer of 2020, restaurants that were unable to seat customers lost employees by the millions nationwide. As the country lifted restrictions, restaurants and bars were faced with the lingering side effect of inflation.

Former workers refused to come back without wage increases to balance the rising cost of living. This partially contributed to food inflation as both restaurants and grocery stores passed increased wage costs onto customers.

It’s taken close to three years, but Colorado now has as many food and accommodations workers employed as it had the month before the pandemic broke.

There were 289,200 food and accommodations workers in Colorado in February 2020. In April, that had cratered to 148,800 – as many as were employed statewide in 1992.

Colorado didn’t gain back this workforce until November 2022 after 33 straight months being below the pre-pandemic high point. It has grown since then, as well. There were 297,200 food and accommodations employees in Colorado as of February 2022, a new record level.