Analysts forecasted a slowdown in job growth in April, especially after March numbers were revised down. But restaurants and the overall U.S. economy proved resilient.
— Danni Santana
Analysts feared the worst heading into the Bureau Labor of Statistics update on the U.S. economy Friday, but both restaurants and the nation’s private sector responded emphatically, indicating the sluggish job growth reported earlier in the year was nothing more than a blip on the radar.
Restaurants and bars added 25,000 jobs in April, slightly lower than March’s output, but a far cry from record lows posted in February. Average hourly earnings in the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes food services and drinking places, also increased 0.2 percent.
Employers added 296,000 jobs combined across all sectors last month, as unemployment rates dropped to a 50-year low of 3.6 percent, according to the BLS. The most job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, health care, and social assistance.
Who Wants A Job?
With such a tight labor market, restaurants are getting creative about how they find workers ahead of another busy spring and summer period.
McDonald’s is targeting senior citizens to fill open positions. The chain has partnered with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to help franchisees hire 250,000 workers for the summer, it said in a recent statement. All job openings will be posted on AARP’s job board.
“We’re excited by AARP,” Marcia Graham, operator of 12 McDonald’s restaurants in the Philadelphia area said. “We know we have a lot of senior citizens that are able and willing to work and are interested in hours that younger employees might not be available, such as early morning or lunch.”
Meanwhile, McDonald’s quick service restaurant rival, Taco Bell has turned to hiring parties, in efforts to hire 100,000 people by 2022. The initiative was first piloted last summer in Indiana at multiple store locations, where 40 job applicants were hired on the spot, according to the company. Based on that success, the chain launched a week’s worth of hiring parties in nearly 600 restaurants at the end of April.
“It’s one of the most competitive job markets that we’ve seen in decades, especially at the hourly level,” Bjorn Erland, Taco Bell’s vice president of human resources, told Skift Table last month. “You’ve got to be in a lot of different areas where candidates look for jobs or spend time either online or in the restaurants. Brands that are able to put in place hiring strategies that align to their brand purpose or what their brand is all about, tend to have success in differentiating themselves.”
– Additional reporting by Erika Adams