August 04, 2023

Restaurant job growth resumed in July

Restaurant operators who are looking to boost staffing levels may find a somewhat less competitive recruiting environment in the months ahead.

Job growth in the restaurant industry resumed in July, but it remained well below the gains registered during the early months of the year. 

Eating and drinking places* added a net 13,400 jobs in July on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That followed a month in which industry employment remained flat in June. 

The spring season ushered in a period of slower job growth in the restaurant industry. On average between April and July, eating and drinking places added less than 11,000 jobs each month. 

That was down from an average monthly gain of 53,000 jobs during the first quarter of 2023, and was significantly below the 97,500 jobs added each month during 2021 and 2022. 

While significant progress has been made, the size of the restaurant workforce remains below pre-pandemic levels. As of July 2023, eating and drinking places were 64,000 jobs – or 0.5% – below their February 2020 employment peak. 

Labor market showing signs of easing

Although job growth slowed in recent months, restaurant operators who are looking to boost staffing levels may find a somewhat less competitive recruiting environment in the months ahead.  

In total, there were 9.6 million job openings in the U.S. economy on the last business day of June 2023, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data from BLS. That was down from a record high of 12 million in March 2022 and represented the lowest reading since April 2021 (9.3 million).  

At the same time, the number of unemployed people available to fill these positions held relatively steady – even as overall job growth remained solid. As of June 2023, there were 0.6 unemployed persons per job opening. That was up from the record-low readings registered in mid-2022. 

Put another way, in June there were 1.6 job openings for every person that was officially categorized as unemployed (which is defined as individuals who are currently not working and are actively looking for a job). That was down from 2.0 in mid-2022.    

Although it is trending in the right direction, the labor market remains tight in historical terms. On average during 2019, there were 1.2 job openings for every unemployed person in the U.S.  

*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic employed more than 12 million out of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce of 15.6 million.

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