Restaurant jobs helped with U.S. economic recovery says industry economist

by Kerri Jackson Case ([email protected]) 161 views 

The National Restaurant Associations’s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy says the restaurant industry has been a chief component in the recovery from the Great Recession.

From the beginning of the employment recovery in March 2010 through the end of 2015, restaurants added roughly 2 million jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Overall, the 21% increase in restaurant jobs during the recovery is more than double the 10% gain in total U.S. jobs during the same period. Not only are restaurants among the leaders in total job growth, they are also adding middle class jobs at a faster rate than the overall economy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, leisure and hospitality jobs in Arkansas grew from 98,000 jobs in March 2010 to 116,000 jobs in December 2015, an increase of 18,000 jobs or 15.5%. Overall, the state added 36,400 jobs during that time, an increase of 2.9%. Roughly half of the jobs added to the state’s economy have been in the leisure and hospitality sector. Overall unemployment in Arkansas dropped during that time from 8.2% to 4.8%.

The monthly jobs average in Arkansas’ travel and tourism sector during January and October was 113,180, up 5.4% compared to an average of 107,380 during the first 10 months of 2014, according to the recent Arkansas Tourism Ticker.

Travel and tourism sector employment ranged from a low of 112,000 in October to a high of 114,800 in February. The February level, if not revised, set a new record for the sector. Travel and tourism sector employment during the first 10 months of 2014 ranged from a 106,200 low in January to a high of 107,800 in October.

Job growth in the sector has been significant during the past 10 years. October employment of 112,000 is up 17.7% compared to October 2005 employment of 95,100.

Grindy cites data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to assert that the restaurant industry added middle class jobs (defined here as jobs with an annual income between $45,000 and $74,999) at a rate four times stronger than the overall economy during the recovery from the Great Recession.

Between 2010 and 2014, the number of restaurant jobs with annual income between $45,000 and $74,999 jumped 32.7%. In contrast, the total number of jobs in the U.S. economy with income in this range rose just 8% during the same period.

There is a caveat to the numbers, Grindy noted. The scheduling flexibility demanded by much of the industry means most restaurant employees work on a part-time or part-year basis. Only 43% of restaurant workers are full-time/full-year employees, compared to 69% of the total U.S. workforce. As a result, the restaurant industry is home to only 1.8% of all jobs in the economy with annual income between $45,000 and $74,999.

However, the restaurant industry was responsible for 5.9% of the net new middle class jobs added to the economy between 2010 and 2014, or more than three times larger than its current share of these jobs.