After a sudden, surprising slowdown in February, it's good to see the numbers rebound this month.
— Erika Adams
Restaurants and bars in the U.S. added 27,000 jobs in the past month, quieting rumblings of an economic slowdown following February’s unexpectedly low job growth numbers for both the industry and the U.S. economy overall. According to the latest economic report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, March’s job growth numbers more closely align with what the industry had been reporting in previous months: 36,000 jobs added in January and 40,000 jobs added last December.
There were 196,000 total jobs added in March across all industries in the U.S., and the unemployment rate stayed at a steady, low rate of 3.8 percent or about 6.2 million people unemployed. Unemployment rates in leisure and hospitality remained slightly above the national rate, at 5.8 percent people unemployed in the industry.
Average hourly earnings in the leisure and hospitality sector remained essentially unchanged from the month prior, at $16.39 per hour. That’s up about 60 cents from March 2018’s average hourly earnings. Employees in the sector worked an average of 26.1 hours per week, the same hourly average that was reported in March 2018.
Average weekly earnings were up to $427.78 per week, as compared to $425.88 per week in February.
Restaurants continue to grapple with how to effectively hire and retain staff in the extremely strong job market. Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti has publicly said that labor will always be the chain’s “greatest challenge,” citing industry-wide job growth and low unemployment rates coupled with sharp minimum wage increases in the chain’s strongest U.S. markets.
Shake Shack and other chains have been testing the viability of four-day work weeks for restaurant managers in an attempt to create a more flexible working environment for their employees. Taco Bell recently announced that it’d be hosting nearly 600 “hiring parties” at the end of April, where prospective employees can come to the restaurants on designated days to participate in games, win prizes, and receive on-the-spot job offers.
Restaurant tech companies, too, have been seeing lifts in their own businesses based on their ability to help restaurants navigate the extremely strong job market. Boston-based Toast recently closed a $250 million round of funding that will in part help fund research and development on new products that will help with labor management. Several smaller staffing and workforce management startups closed their own rounds of funding this past month to fuel quicker expansion as demand rises for technology solutions in this area.