In his latest commentary, the National Restaurant Association's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy analyzes the February jobs report. The economy added jobs in February at its strongest pace in three months, with restaurants continuing to make a solid contribution. However, restaurant operators’ outlook for the economy remains a mixed bag for the months ahead.
The economy rebounded from its winter slump to post respectable employment growth in February, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, the economy added a net 175,000 jobs in February on a seasonally-adjusted basis, up from gains of just 84,000 and 129,000 in December and January, respectively.
While February’s increase is an improvement from the sluggish gains of the previous two months, it still remains short of the average monthly gains of more than 200,000 jobs registered during all of 2013. Still, February’s payroll gains outstripped expectations, and suggest that the downtick in growth was more related to the weather than a softening in the overall economy.
Job growth in February was led by the professional and business services sector, where the 79,000 net jobs added represented the sector’s strongest gain in 12 months. The construction sector and healthcare and social assistance sector both added 15,000 jobs in February, while manufacturers added a net 6,000 jobs.
For its part, the restaurant industry continued to make solid contributions to the economic recovery. Eating and drinking places added a net 21,200 jobs in February, the 48th consecutive monthly gain for a total of more than 1.2 million jobs.
Looking forward, restaurant operators’ outlook for the economy remains a mixed bag. In the National Restaurant Association’s February 2014 Tracking Survey, only 29 percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months. This represented the 7th consecutive month in which fewer than 30 percent of restaurant operators expected the economy to improve in six months.
Twenty percent of February respondents expect economic conditions to deteriorate in the next six months, while the remaining 51 percent expect economic conditions to remain generally unchanged in the months ahead.
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