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National Restaurant Association - Stronger labor market bodes well for restaurants

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Stronger labor market bodes well for restaurants

The national economy added 321,000 jobs in November, and is on pace to register its strongest calendar-year employment gain in 15 years.  The improving labor market along with lower gas prices should put consumers in a better position to burn off their pent-up demand for restaurants, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy.  His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on Restaurant.org and Restaurant TrendMapper.

The economy added jobs in November at its strongest pace in nearly three years, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The national economy added a net 321,000 jobs in November on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the largest monthly increase since a gain of 360,000 jobs in January 2012. 

Payrolls expanded at an average rate of 278,000 jobs during the last three months, which marked the strongest three-month performance since the first quarter of 2006.  Overall, the economy is on pace to add nearly 3 million jobs in 2014, which would represent the largest calendar-year gain in 15 years. 

In addition to the robust employment gains, there are indications of improving income growth.  The average hourly earnings of private-sector workers rose 0.4 percent in November, the strongest gain in more than a year and only the fifth monthly increase of that magnitude since the recovery began. 

At the same time, the average weekly hours worked by private-sector employees rose to 34.6 hours in November, the highest level since May 2008.  Higher wages and additional hours mean rising income for households – a key component that the current recovery has been lacking.

The strengthening of the labor market will also likely translate into better business conditions for the restaurant industry.  New NRA research shows that four in 10 adults say they are not patronizing restaurants as often as they would like, while fully seven in 10 say they are holding back on spending because they are concerned about the economy. 

The trigger for these consumers is positive economic data that shows up not only in the headlines, but also in their pocketbooks.  A sustained positive trajectory in household income, coupled with the benefit of lower gas prices, should give consumers the additional nudge they need to burn off some of their pent-up demand for restaurants. 

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