Looking past recent choppiness shows restaurant job growth remaining on trend

Restaurant industry job growth was extremely volatile in recent months. According to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), eating and drinking places added a net 47,500 jobs in October on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

The robust October increase came on the heels of solid growth in both August (+42,800) and September (+24,700). However, in last month’s employment report, BLS reported preliminary gains of only 5,800 jobs in August and 1,500 jobs in September. The combined upward revision of more than 60,000 jobs in August and September is likely one of the largest on record.

In contrast, BLS reported that eating and drinking places added a total of only 8,200 net new jobs during the previous three months (May – July). These wild swings in job growth are likely not a direct reflection of business patterns in the restaurant industry in recent months. Indeed, Census Bureau data showed generally steady sales growth throughout the first nine months of 2019.

Looking past the recent choppiness, we see that restaurant job growth remains generally on trend with the last few years. During the first nine months of 2019, restaurants added an average of 22,700 net new jobs per month. During the previous three years (2016 – 2018), restaurant job growth averaged 22,300 per month. 

Bottom line, ignoring the recent volatility shows job growth in line with expectations. Eating and drinking places are on pace to add roughly 270,000 net new jobs during 2019. This would be right on par with the employment gains during the previous three years.

Track more economic indicators and read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.