It sounds like the type of damage that is caused by deer. They will browse and chew off leaves, leaving a clean stem. If they are hungry enough, they will eat just about anything. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/deer
Initially l thought it was deer but none of the tender new growth has been touched and problem persists even after adding deer repellent
Please send us photos of the whole shrub and affected foliage so we can see what you are dealing with.