ccording to data released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), employment across the city's nine casinos fell by more than 15% last month, to 24,880 reported jobs.
These figures, the Press of Atlantic City says, represent yet another reminder of "the novel coronavirus' negative impact on the industry and regional economy."
Atlantic City casinos employed 4,261 fewer people in July 2020 compared to the same month last year, the industry data shows. The 24,880 reported jobs "include a significant number of individuals on furlough due to COVID-19," according to the DGE, suggesting the actual number of out-of-work casino employees is much larger.
Thousands of casino workers remain "on the books" as employed, but restrictions on indoor dining and beverage service mean many people have no jobs to return to.
"Most of our restaurant workers are just sitting out there, waiting," said Bob McDevitt, president of Unite Here Local 54, the labor union representing nearly 10,000 Atlantic City casino employees. McDevitt said "less than 50%" of Local 54's members are back to work.
"We may only be down about 5,000 (jobs), but there's a lot more than 5,000 who aren't working," he said.
Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and Atlantic City regional president of Caesars Entertainment Inc., said there was not much to be optimistic about in the monthly jobs report.
Callender expressed concern that the employment situation may not improve unless the state eases restrictions.
"We need indoor dining," he said, adding that although it would difficult for restaurant operators to be profitable with capacity limitations, "it would, at least, help us get more people," in the casinos, which would lead to more employees coming back to work."
The industry data showed 14,852 full-time positions and 1,446 part-time jobs in July. The remaining 8,582 include furloughed workers, as well as seasonal employees.
Prior to the March 16 industry shutdown, Atlantic City's nine gambling parlors had reported 26,450 jobs in February, a decline of more than 1,200 positions from a year earlier.
The casino closures halted a 21-month streak of year-over-year total gaming revenue increases. Even after most of the industry reopened in early-July, the casinos struggled under capacity limitations and state-imposed restrictions, and reported a 23% decline in gaming revenues.
The challenges the casino industry is currently facing are not surprising, experts said.
"It is not uncommon for employment levels to ebb and flow with changes in revenue," said Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. "This happens every year in the casinos because of seasonality. As restrictions are lifted and public confidence increases, it is reasonable to assume that the number of employees will increase proportionately."
At the moment, however, the lack of jobs is impacting the entire region. On Thursday, Local 54, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey-Southern Branch, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the AFL-CIO will hold the seventh mass food distribution at Bader Field for out-of-work casino employees and Atlantic City residents. Previous food distribution events have drawn thousands of residents and casino employees.
In June, the unemployment rate for the Atlantic City-Hammonton area was 34%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pre-COVID, the unemployment rate for the region was 5.7%.
Bokunewicz said a Brookings report from March "predicted that the Atlantic City area, followed by Vegas, would be among the hardest hit by the pandemic because of the types of industries that are predominant in those areas. It seems to be proven true."