Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Disneyland Resort employed 32,000 people. After a yearlong closure, less than half that number are back at work.

The Orange County Register reported that 15,000 cast members (Disney’s term for its employees) are currently working at Disneyland. Citing resort officials, the Register also reported that the company expects to hire about 1,000 more workers this summer. 

Disneyland’s two theme parks, three hotels, and the Downtown Disney shops and restaurants closed in mid-March 2020, just after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Disney continued paying theme park workers for a month before furloughs began. 

Initially, Disney executives shouldered a small financial burden themselves, as executives including CEO Bob Chapek took pay cuts. However, their salaries were fully restored in August, just before Disney announced it was laying off 28,000 workers in its Parks, Experiences, and Products division, including 11,000 in Disneyland. 

Disneyland’s two theme parks stayed closed for more than a year before reopening on April 30. In contrast, Walt Disney World was allowed to open nearly 10 months earlier. 

While the Florida resort laid off 18,000 of its workers, despite being able to welcome back guests earlier in the pandemic, it has seen a greater restoration of its pre-pandemic workforce. Chapek said in the company’s May earnings call that about 80 percent of Disney World cast members that have been called back to work have returned. 

“We’ve had no problems whatsoever in terms of trying to get our cast to come back and make some magic for our guests,” Chapek said. 

Disney theme parks’ workforces are traditionally bolstered by international employees (which haven’t returned) as well as participants in the Disney College Program (which will restart this summer). 

Regional theme parks are also making due with smaller workforces this year, even as pent-up demand for experiences outside the home sends guests swarming back. 

A failure to attract enough workers earlier in the season has forced Cedar Fair parks such as Cedar Point and Kings Island to stay closed during some weekdays in June, while simultaneously raising starting wages in a late bid to draw more applicants. 

Cedar Fair CEO Richard Zimmerman publicly said earlier this month that Cedar Point was on track to add operating days and expand park hours. Days later, Pennsylvania’s Dorney Park announced it would operate five days a week for the rest of the 2021 season due to a lack of staff.

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