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National Restaurant Association - Economist's Notebook: Restaurant job growth hit 18-year high in 2013

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Economist's Notebook: Restaurant job growth hit 18-year high in 2013

In his latest commentary, the National Restaurant Association's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy looks back at 2013 job growth and offers projections for 2014.  Restaurants added jobs at a strong 3.7 percent rate in 2013, the strongest gain in 18 years.  Looking ahead to 2014, job growth in the restaurant industry is projected to outpace the overall economy by a full percentage-point.

The restaurant industry remained among the economy’s leaders in job creation in 2013, and the trend is expected to continue in 2014.  Eating-and-drinking places – the primary component of the restaurant industry which accounts for roughly three-fourths of the total restaurant-and-foodservice workforce – added jobs at a robust 3.7 percent rate in 2013, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

The solid 2013 performance represented the strongest gain since a 3.9 percent jump in 1995, and came on the heels of a 3.5 percent increase in restaurant jobs in 2012.  Taken together, 2012 and 2013 represented the first time in nearly two decades that the restaurant industry posted back-to-back gains above 3 percent. 

In comparison, total U.S. employment increased at a 1.7 percent rate in 2013, or two full percentage-points below the increase in eating-and-drinking place jobs.  This disparity is nothing new, as 2013 represented the 14th consecutive year in which restaurant job growth outpaced the overall economy.  In fact, during the last 14 years, the number of eating-and-drinking-place jobs soared 29 percent, while total U.S. employment rose by just over 5 percent.

Job growth within the restaurant industry was broad-based in 2013, with several of the major segments registering strong gains.  Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars – including coffee, donut and ice cream shops – set the pace with a robust 5.8 percent employment gain.  Quickservice restaurants (4.5 percent), tableservice restaurants (3.4 percent) and foodservice contractors (3.3 percent) also added jobs at rates well above the overall economy in 2013. 

Looking ahead to 2014, job growth in the restaurant industry is projected to remain strong, albeit somewhat slower than the torrid pace registered in 2013.  The National Restaurant Association expects restaurants to add jobs at a 2.8 percent rate in 2014, a full percentage-point above the projected 1.8 percent gain in total U.S. employment. 

The projected 2014 gain will represent fourth consecutive year in which the industry registered job growth in excess of 2.5 percent.  Meanwhile, the overall economy hasn’t posted job growth above 2.5 percent since 1998. 

Read more from the Economist’s Notebook and get additional analysis of restaurant industry trends on Restaurant TrendMapper (subscription required).


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