While last Friday’s jobs report showed that the restaurant industry employment showed little or no change in June, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is reporting that the industry is outpacing overall U.S. employment growth. That’s a tall order.
Over the past 12 months ending June 2012, eating and drinking place employment jumped 2.7 percent, more than double the 1.3 percent increase in total U.S. employment during the same period, according to NRA research. Restaurants added a net 116,000 positions in the first half of 2012.
The restaurant industry is the nation's second-largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million – almost 10 percent of the U.S. workforce. Overall, restaurants have added more than 575,000 jobs since the employment recovery began in March 2010, with current industry staffing levels standing 193,000 jobs above the pre-recession peak, the NRA announced in a press release.
"While restaurant industry job growth is not immune to the ups and downs of the overall economy, our industry has continually been at the forefront of job creation for the last two years," said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. "Restaurant industry sales are gaining for the third consecutive year, spurring the nation's nearly one million restaurants to staff up to meet the increasing demand for away-from-home meals.”
The index for food away from home rose 0.2 percent in May and has increased 2.9 percent over the last 12 months, according to the Labor Department.
The NRA projects that restaurant industry sales will exceed $632 billion this year, a 3.5 percent increase over last year, and the third consecutive year that industry sales will increase. The NRA attributes the increase to “moderate improvements in consumer’s disposable income and gradual release of pent-up demand for restaurant visits.” The organization estimates that 33 percent of Americans say they are not dining out as often as they would like, down from 40 percent just one year ago.
Restaurant operators continue to plan for staffing increases in the second half of 2012, according to the NRA's June Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey. Twenty percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), while only 8 percent said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of operators said they expect their staffing levels to remain unchanged through the end of the year.
The NRA also projects that the industry will add 1.4 million positions in the next decade, reaching 14.3 million. The fastest growing positions include supervisors and food-and-beverage-serving workers. The restaurant workforce skews younger, with 16- to 24-year olds holding nearly 4 in 10 foodservice positions, and more than half of restaurant workers being under the age of 30.