Restaurants added jobs in 24 consecutive months
Job growth in the restaurant industry continued at a moderate pace in December. Eating and drinking places* added a net 26,300 jobs in December on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
December marked the 24th consecutive month of job growth in the restaurant industry. While the month-to-month gains were uneven during this period, the industry made steady progress toward rebuilding its workforce. In total during the last 24 months, eating and drinking places added nearly 2.2 million jobs.
Despite the steady employment gains during the last 2 years, eating and drinking places are still 450,000 jobs (or 3.6%) below their pre-pandemic staffing levels. That’s the largest employment deficit among all U.S. industries.
Help still wanted
Although the industry added back many of the jobs lost during the pandemic, a majority of restaurants remain understaffed. Overall, 62% of operators say their restaurant does not have enough employees to support its existing customer demand, according to a National Restaurant Association survey fielded in November.
Operators in the fast casual, family dining and casual dining segments were the most likely to say their restaurant does not have enough employees to meet customer demand.
Regardless of whether they are understaffed, help wanted signs are hanging longer for most restaurants. Overall, 8 in 10 restaurant operators say they currently have job openings that are difficult to fill.
A strong majority of fullservice, quickservice and fast casual operators say they currently have job openings that are difficult to fill. Roughly one-half of operators in the coffee and snack segment reported similarly.
More hiring expected in 2023, business conditions permitting
Most restaurant operators will be actively looking to boost staffing levels in 2023. Overall, 87% of operators say they will likely hire additional employees during the next 6-12 months if there are qualified applicants available.
A solid majority of operators across each of the 6 major segments say they will expand payrolls if good resumes come across their desk.
At the same time, restaurant operators will continue to balance staffing needs with business conditions. Fifty-seven percent of operators say they would be likely to lay off employees during the next 6-12 months if business conditions deteriorate and the U.S. economy goes into recession.
*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior to the coronavirus outbreak employed 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.