Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show employment in the sector dropped by almost 25,000, or 1.4%, in the latest quarter.
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The eating and drinking-out sector has been a fantastic generator of jobs in recent years, employing 1.8m people, one in every six created, since 2009.
“This shock drop in the number of jobs created in the last quarter shows that eating and drinking-out businesses are approaching a crucial tipping point and proactive support from the Government is needed without delay."
Huge financial pressures
Nicholls continued: “The figures show the strength and importance of the sector, employing nearly 1.8m people – 7% of the private sector workforce – but this drop in employment shows that even a very robust sector is not immune to huge financial pressures.
“The Chancellor must take decisive action on business rates and alcohol duties at the Budget next week or more businesses are going to struggle to continue investing in their venues and job creation will stall.”
Last week, 50 MPs signed a joint letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond urging him to slash the “massive tax burdens” contributing to pub closures, days after a parliamentary debate where 24 MPs lobbied the Government on the same issue.
The letter called on Hammond to freeze beer duty for the rest of this parliament and introduce an annual £5,000 business rate relief for pubs as part of the Keep Pubs Afloat campaign.