While job growth in the restaurant industry overall demonstrated solid growth 2013, registering a positive net gain across all 50 states, how that plays out in each state varies greatly.
On a national level, restaurants across all segments added jobs at a 3.7 percent rate in 2013, more than double the 1.7 percent gain in overall U.S. employment, reports the National Restaurant Association.
Restaurant industry growth depends on both population and economic growth within a region, explains Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the National Restaurant Association. “Those are the two main driving factors that spur demand—the number of people in an area and the health of the economy. They work hand in hand. If there are more jobs, then people have extra disposable income. If there are more people in an area, they need for more actual establishments.”
The states with the highest job growth in the restaurant industry from 2012 to 2013 were Nevada, Texas, and the District of Columbia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Most of the new jobs come from restaurants opening up,” says Grindy. “In D.C., for instance, there are so many areas being built up now, bringing in restaurants and retail, so that’s where a lot of the growth is happening.
While the industry is experiencing a lengthy period of pretty strong job growth in the industry, sales levels aren’t booming across all industry segments. “The growth really varies by segment and by region,” Grindy says. “It’s hard to make a broad statement what it means for the industry as a whole, or the economy.”
Keep in mind, he adds, that the industry was hit pretty hard by the recession, especially areas like Nevada. “If they were hit extra hard [during the economic downturn], they are seeing stronger growth because they are digging their way out of the recession,” Grindy says.
In North Dakota, however, where the economy is booming and the population is soaring, there was only 1.8 percent growth in 2013 restaurant jobs, for one simple reason—restaurants can’t find enough workers to staff establishments. Restaurants are offering signing bonuses, healthcare, and easily $15 dollars an hour, says Grindy. The restaurants are packed, but there aren’t enough workers to staff to expand the number of restaurants.
“All restaurants sales are local,” he adds. “It’s a large national industry, but it’s made up of small, local markets that are very different.”
The industry job growth leaders are:
- Nevada tops the list, with a solid 6.3 percent gain in restaurant jobs, leading the pack for the first time since 2006. Before being hit hard by the Great Recession, Nevada enjoyed a steady run of growth, leading the nation in restaurant employment gains each year from 2001 to 2006.
- Texas and the District of Columbia both added restaurant jobs at a strong 5.3 percent rate in 2013, while California, Utah, and Georgia all registered gains of at least 5 percent.
- For California, the 5.1 percent gain represented the state’s strongest annual increase in restaurant jobs in the history of the Bureau of Labor Statistics industry-level data series, which dates back to 1990.
- In terms of total jobs added, California led the way with a net increase of 58,000 restaurant jobs in 2013. The Texas restaurant industry added a net 45,800 jobs in 2013, while Florida’s restaurants added 31,300 jobs.
By Joann Whitcher