May 22, 2020

Summer employment in restaurants is another casualty of the coronavirus

Normally at this time of year, the National Restaurant Association would be releasing its annual Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast – a state-by-state outlook for hiring trends during the busiest season for most restaurants. 

Restaurants across the country – gearing up for the opening weekend of the summer season – would be increasing their staffing levels to welcome the influx of additional guests. These summer jobs would be filled by a wide variety of individuals – teenagers, college students, teachers – even retirees who want to pick up a couple shifts at the 19th hole of their local golf course. 

A summer job in a restaurant is often where many people get their first work experience. According to new National Restaurant Association research, one-half of adults say their first regular job was in the restaurant industry. However, for this year’s crop of first-time job seekers, many of these traditional employment opportunities will not be available.  

The restaurant industry is typically the nation’s second largest creator of seasonal jobs during the summer months – ranking only behind the construction industry. Eating and drinking places added an average of more than 510,000 seasonal jobs during the last five summer seasons. Although hiring was somewhat dampened in 2018 and 2019 – due largely to the tight labor market – restaurants remained one of the top summer job creators in the economy. 


On average during the last five years, the states that added the most eating and drinking place jobs during the summer seasons were New York (40,600), California (35,200), Massachusetts (28,200), New Jersey (25,800), Texas (23,600), Illinois (22,000), Ohio (18,200), Michigan (17,600), North Carolina (15,300) and Maryland (15,000).  

The states that registered the largest proportional employment increases during the last five summer seasons were Maine (30%), Alaska (20%), Delaware (17%) and Rhode Island (15%). 

Throughout much of the country, restaurants typically begin to ramp up their hiring for the summer season in April. In recent years, as many as 200,000 eating and drinking place jobs were added nationally in April, as restaurants got a head start on seasonal hiring.  

While it’s possible that some restaurants will eventually be able to bring on some semblance of a summer workforce as local economies reopen, this year’s season will be dramatically different than normal. Indeed, restaurants cut more than 5 million jobs in April – by far the largest monthly decline in record. 

On the state level, New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina are typically the leaders in restaurant staffing growth in April – collectively adding more than 100,000 jobs during the month. This year, those 10 states combined to lose more than 2.5 million restaurant jobs in April.   

View the summer employment data for every state. 

Note: Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior the coronavirus outbreak employed 12 million out of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce of 15.6 million. Summer employment is defined as the average number of eating and drinking place jobs in June, July and August. The number of summer jobs is the difference between the projected total summer employment and the March employment level. Generally, the U.S. restaurant industry begins to ramp up its summer seasonal hiring in April, and it peaks in June, July and August. 

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.