In his latest commentary, the National Restaurant Association's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy breaks down the latest JOLTS data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were more than a half-million job openings in the restaurants-and-accommodations sector at the end of January. While this is a positive sign for the economy, it also likely signals a reemergence of the restaurant industry’s traditional labor challenges.
Job openings in the restaurants-and-accommodations sector* rose to a 6-year high in January, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) program.
There were 534,000 job openings at restaurants and lodging places on the last business day in January, on a seasonally-adjusted basis. This represented the highest level since December 2007, when 535,000 restaurant and lodging jobs were available.
After hitting a cyclical peak in late 2007, job openings fell sharply during the Great Recession. During 2009 and 2010, the restaurants-and-accommodations sector averaged fewer than 250,000 jobs openings each month. Job openings trended upward as the economy improved, with the number averaging roughly 450,000 each month during 2013.
Overall, January 2014 represented the first time since before the recession than monthly job openings topped the half-million level in the restaurants-and-accommodations sector. While this upward trend is a positive indication that the economy continues to improve, it also likely signals a reemergence of traditional labor challenges for the restaurant industry.
This development won’t come as a surprise for many restaurant operators, as detailed in the NRA’s Restaurant Industry 2014: Workforce Outlook & Trends report. Roughly four out of 10 restaurant operators said they expect recruiting and retaining employees to be more difficult for their business in 2014 than it was in 2013, while only one out of 10 said it would be less challenging.
As a result, restaurant operators across all segments said they intend to focus more on labor issues in 2014. Roughly one-half of both limited-service and tableservice operators say they plan to devote more resources to recruiting and retaining employees in 2014, while less than one of 10 plan to cut back in this area.
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*Note that the figures presented are for the broadly-defined Accommodations and Food Services sector (NAICS 72), because the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report data for restaurants alone.