June 18

Restaurant Labor Outlook – By the Numbers

Restaurant labor is still scarce as unemployment continues to be low. A deeper look shows potential softening to a competitive hiring environment.

Total unemployment rate in May: 3.6%
Total Food and Drink Industry jobs created in May: 16,900
Rate of increase: .14%
Help Wanted OnLine: -2.3%
Employment Trends Index: +1.29%
Overall hiring situation: Competitive

Food and Drink Job Numbers
With the latest job numbers for May, the labor market is giving mixed signals for employers. Unemployment continues to hover at historically low levels, but job growth is slowing in the overall economy. The May report showed a disappointing gain of only 75,000 jobs. Considering that April showed a gain of 263,000, the May report implies some headwinds for the US economy.

Looking at the Food and Drinking Places numbers specifically, there is slowing growth in restaurant hiring. Much of this can be attributed to seasonality, since many food and drink business have already completed their summer hiring. The restaurant industry added 16,900 jobs in May, down from 25,000 in April. While growth has slowed, the labor market is still tight.


Restaurant Labor Numbers


Other Indicators
Another couple of numbers of interest are the Help Wanted OnLine Index (-2.3%) and the Employment Trends Index (+1.29%). These two numbers viewed together give a mixed signal: fewer job openings were posted online in May, but the expectation remains that job growth will continue. These numbers aren’t broken down by industry, so they must be viewed as broad indicators of the overall labor market.

Our analysis is that the labor market will continue to be tight for owners and operators. Skilled positions like line cooks, prep cooks, bakers and other skilled kitchen staff will require concerted recruitment efforts from employers. The name of the game will be speed. Once a job is posted, you’ll want to reach out to candidates as fast as possible to schedule interviews and make hires


About the author

Jack Hott

Some say Jack Hott was born in a restaurant. Others say he wasn’t born at all but discovered behind a Hobart stand mixer. Wherever he comes from, he’s made a career out of only being a good enough employee to skate by in the restaurant industry since the mid-90s. Jack Hott, if that’s even his real name, has gotten lost in walk-ins, stared into the abyss of pizza ovens, spilled red wine on white linen tablecloths, and shaken cocktails he was supposed to stir. If you can find him on social media, for your own safety, please do not follow him.


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