Industry produces jobs amid economic slowdown

By Elissa Elan August 18, 2011
The national unemployment rate has changed little over the past year, but the restaurant industry is outperforming the overall economy in job growth, economists for the National Restaurant Association say.
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Association's Research and Knowledge Group, said during the past year restaurants had hired workers despite the country's sluggish economic recovery.
The industry has added 205,000 jobs since the recovery began, but Riehle noted, it is still 161,000 jobs down from its prerecession employment peak.
After a strong performance this spring, the industry's job growth hit a slump in recent months. In the first quarter of 2011, 68,800 jobs were added to the industry's roster, with an additional 20,200 being added in the second quarter. The first month of Q3 shows weaker numbers, with just 300 positions on a preliminary and seasonally adjusted basis.
Despite the recent slowdown, restaurant employment growth has outpaced the national economy in the past year," Riehle said. "In the 12 months ending July 2011, eating and drinking place employment increased at a 1.9 percent rate, nearly double the 1 percent gain in total U.S. employment during the same period."
Riehle added that the industry's employee growth would reemerge again as restaurant sales advance.
"Roughly two out of five adults report they are not using restaurants as much as they would like," he said. "When consumers step up their restaurant patronage, restaurant employment will grow."