Restaurants projected to add 502k seasonal jobs this summer
Summer is the busiest season for restaurants in many parts of the country, and the stronger business leads to additional employment opportunities at all levels of a restaurant operation. These summer jobs are typically filled by a wide variety of individuals – teenagers, college students, teachers – even retirees who want to pick up a few shifts at the 19th hole of their local golf course.
Restaurants are expected to add 502,000 seasonal jobs this summer, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 25th annual Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast.
That would represent the strongest seasonal hiring since 2017, when eating and drinking places added 530,000 summer jobs.
While the overall labor market remains tight, a pre-summer uptick in the restaurant industry’s prime labor pool is driving the optimistic summer employment forecast. Teenagers and young adults – the age cohorts most likely to work seasonal jobs – are returning to the labor force in numbers not seen in years. (More details below.)
[Note: The 2020 – 2022 summers are excluded from the chart above because they were not typical hiring seasons. After losing millions of jobs during the early months of the pandemic, restaurants were still working to rebuild their teams back to pre-pandemic levels. As a result, it was not possible to distinguish between pandemic recovery and seasonal hiring during those three summers.]
Maine will see the strongest job growth
Seasonal hiring varies significantly by state and is influenced by weather changes as well as the reliance on summer travel and tourism. For these reasons, states in the northeast typically see the strongest growth in restaurant jobs during the summer months.
The states projected to register the largest proportional employment increase during the 2023 summer season are Maine (31%), Alaska (20%), Rhode Island (17%), Delaware (17%), New Hampshire (12%), New Jersey (12%) and Massachusetts (11%).
The states projected to add the most eating and drinking place jobs during the 2023 summer season are New York (45,000), California (39,500), Texas (36,500), New Jersey (30,800), Massachusetts (27,000), Illinois (23,600), Ohio (19,600), Michigan (18,700) and North Carolina (18,100).
Due to the fact that their busiest seasons for travel and tourism are not in the summer months, Florida (-8,700) and Arizona (-2,500) are projected to register declines in eating and drinking place employment during the 2023 summer season.
View the summer employment forecast for every state.
Prime labor pool is expanding
As the 2023 summer season approached, the restaurant industry’s prime labor pool was at its highest level in several years. Six million 16-19 year olds were in the labor force in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That was 700,000 higher than the comparable pre-pandemic level in 2019 – and represented the highest April reading since 2009 (6.1 million).
This number will rise well above 7 million during the peak summer months when more students are available, but the early workforce arrival of many teenagers likely helped some restaurants get a head start on their summer hiring.
The recent upward trend of teens in the workforce is a positive sign for restaurants, as this cohort makes up 21% of the industry workforce. Overall, restaurants are the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, providing job opportunities for 1.9 million 16-19 year olds – or 34% of all working teens.
Young adults are also an important component of the restaurant workforce, with 20-24 year olds accounting for 19% of all employees. Restaurants that started ramping up their summer hiring in April had more of them to choose from than they had in decades.
There were 15.4 million 20-24 year olds in the labor force in April 2023 – up from 15.0 million in April 2019. It was also the highest April reading since 1984, when there were 15.7 million 20-24 year olds in the labor force.
Restaurant operators looking for a more seasoned team this summer are also in luck, as the number of older adults in the labor pool continues to rise. There were 11.1 million adults aged 65 or older in the labor force in April 2023, according to BLS. That was up from 10.4 million in April 2019 and represented the highest level on record.
Although this age cohort makes up just 3% of the overall restaurant workforce, it will likely become more important in the coming years as their representation in the labor pool continues to rise. By 2031, BLS predicts there will be 15.5 million adults aged 65 or older in the labor force – an increase of more than 4 million above current levels.
Notes about the 2023 Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast:
- Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the restaurant and foodservice industry, which the National Restaurant Association defines as that which encompasses all meals and snacks prepared away from home. Eating and drinking places account for approximately three-fourths of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce.
- 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 2023 summer employment and the March 2023 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.
- The restaurant industry is typically the nation’s second largest creator of seasonal jobs during the summer months – ranking only behind the construction industry.
Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.