Travel Employment Weathers February Winter Freeze But Inbound U.S. Travel Softer

blizzardHarsh winter weather didn't stop the U.S. travel industry from adding 10,500 jobs in February, according to the U.S. Travel Association (, which analyzed the latest employment and trade date released Friday by federal agencies.

In fact, the travel industry remains an economic star for the U.S. economy. The travel sector added more than 531,000 new job since early 2010; that's 18 percent faster than the rest of the economy.

"On the employment side, the travel industry continues to lead the way in U.S. economic growth and recovery, now employing 62,000 more workers than the pre-recession employment peak set in February 2008," said David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics, U.S. Travel Association, who analyzed the federal government's employment and trade data.

"But not every metric withstood the chilling effect of the recent weather," Huether said. "While other U.S. exports rebounded in January after a dismal performance in December, today's Commerce Department trade report showed that travel exports  -- inbound international travel to the United States -- began 2014 on a softer note, edging down by $.2 billion to $15.8 billion in January."

He said that while some of that softness is a "natural correction following very strong growth at the end of last year," the impact of weather-related delays and cancellations on international travel likely curtailed travel spending in the U.S. by international visitors.

"We can't eliminate all the effects of weather on our economy, but modernizing our infrastructure to reduce flight delays and cancellations could mitigate the harm inclement weather can inflict upon both domestic and international travel," he noted.

Huether said that while travel industry employment is now more than fully recovered — 13 percent higher since the start of the recession in early 2010 — the rest of the economy is only 92 percent recovered.

"One of the main reasons our sector has been outperforming the rest of the economy in job growth is that travel exports, which support more than a million jobs, have been growing much faster -- a 6.8 percent rise -- than other U.S. exports of goods and services over the past 12 months.

Yet, "it is essential to put the right policies in place such as the JOLT Act, to make it easier for international visitors to come to the U.S. and spend thousands of dollars, generating solid, middle-class jobs," Huether said.