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National Restaurant Association - Older workers on tap as teen labor dips

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Older workers on tap as teen labor dips

The restaurant industry is the country’s largest employer of teenagers, but that labor pool is shrinking so operators are looking at alternative age groups to fill the gap, National Restaurant Association research has found.

According to the 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, restaurants currently provide jobs for 1.5 million people between the ages of 16 and 19. That means one-third of working teenagers in America today work at restaurants. Still, the number of teens in the overall workforce plunged from 41.3 percent in 2007 to 34.5 percent in 2013, a decline of 1.2 million individuals.

“The U.S. workforce continues to change, and the pool of restaurant job candidates with it,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research. “While the industry will remain an important training ground for young people getting their first job experience, it also provides opportunity for more seasoned workers looking for rewarding employment with flexible schedules.

In the wake of the decline in teen labor, more restaurant jobs have gone to older employees. In fact, the number of adults 55 or older working in the restaurant industry rose 32 percent during the same period, an increase of 180,000 individuals.

“Youth workforce participation has been declining for years, and teenagers have traditionally been a significant part of the industry’s workforce, often filling part-time and seasonal positions,” Riehle said. “However, aging baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer and filling some of those positions. And though older adults are a relatively small proportion of the industry’s workforce now, that number will only expand in future.”

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