Despite an ongoing challenging economic landscape, sales and new unit growth within the restaurant industry kept employment figures strong, and made recruiting and retention increasingly more difficult over a 12-month period, ending January 2014, reveals People Report, a TDn2K company, in its latest brief.

The People Report Workforce Index, a quarterly barometer measuring market pressures on maintaining the restaurant industry’s labor pool, registered an overall reading of 70.2 for first-quarter 2014—the highest overall index reading since fourth-quarter 2006, which registered 70.6.  

When the index registers a reading above 50, "it demonstrates an expectation by those hiring that it will get tougher to fill an increasing number of vacancies–that job growth is climbing, turnover is up, and it is harder to recruit people,” says Victor Fernandez, TDn2K executive director of Insights and Knowledge. Any reading above 50 reflects a tough employment market for those looking to hire, while a reading below 50 denotes employment pressures are easing.

“The fact that the index is posting values not seen since before the recession hints at how challenging the current labor market is when it comes to maintaining those vacancies filled and keeping up with the growth rate of the industry,” says Fernandez.

Strong employment growth in the first half of 2014 is projected across all industry segments, cites the index, with the fast casual/family dining and upscale casual/fine dining segments leading the trend.

“The People Report results for December 2013 show the industry adding restaurant management and hourly jobs at a rate of 2.8 percent year-over-year on average during the last three months of the year. By contrast, the growth rate was 1.5 percent on average for the period between July and September,” reports Joni Thomas Doolin, People Report founder and CEO. “This supports the expectations we have been reporting on through the Workforce Index, which predicted a jump in staffing and retention difficulty starting with fourth-quarter 2013. Furthermore, this job growth has been pretty widespread within the industry—65 percent of the companies tracked by People Report posted positive job growth year-over-year during December 2013.”

The National Restaurant Association also projects strong employment growth for the industry. In its 2014 economic forecast, the NRA projects that 2014 will mark the 15th straight year in which restaurant industry employment growth outpaces overall employment growth. U.S. employment is predicted to grow at a 1.8 percent rate for 2014, while restaurant industry job growth is projected to climb 2.8 percent. 

By Joann Whitcher

Industry News, Labor & Employees