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Restaurant hiring is expected to be robust this summer, particularly among teenagers.

The restaurant industry is projected to add 525K summer jobs

If the National Restaurant Association’s jobs forecast is accurate, it would be the first time on record that the industry added at least 525K in consecutive summers.

The restaurant industry is typically the nation’s second largest creator of seasonal jobs in the summer – June, July and August – ranking only behind construction. In other words, busy season is almost here and job postings have picked up accordingly. The National Restaurant Association’s 26th annual Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast predicts that the restaurant industry will add 525,00 seasonal jobs. Should this number come to fruition, it would be the first time on record that the industry added at least 525,000 jobs in consecutive summers. And though that number would represent a decline from last year, in which 552,000 jobs were added during the summer, the 2023 season was the second strongest hiring season on record, behind 2015’s 555,000 jobs.

The accelerated hiring pace throughout the past two years comes after a historic labor shortage gripped the industry in 2021 and 2022. In April, there were 900,000 more 16-to-19 year-olds in the restaurant labor force than there were in 2019 and the 6.2 million employees in that age group was the second highest reading since 2008, when there were 6.5 million in the industry. The association expects that number to surpass 7 million during the summer season, as more teenagers have entered the workforce. Teenagers now make up 21% of the restaurant industry’s overall workforce, while nearly 35% of all working teens, or nearly 2 million, are employed by the industry. The industry also heavily employs 20-to-24-year-olds, who make up nearly 21% of the sector’s workforce, or nearly 2 million people.

Older adults are also a bigger part of the overall workforce, with 11.5 million adults ages 65 and older in the labor pool – up from 10.4 million in April 2019. This age group makes up about 3% of the restaurant industry’s workforce, and the association expects that number to increase as more older Americans stay in the workforce; by 2032, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 14.6 million adults 65 and older to still be working.

A broader employee pool has become especially critical in recent years as restaurants have added channels and sales volumes in response to consumer demand. That said, wages have continued to increase, which has put added pressures on margins for many operators. Restaurants have prioritized labor solutions to reconcile this equation by adding more benefits to deter high turnover rates and by supplementing some labor obligations with technologies like kiosks.

Tourism and weather patterns impact markets

According to the association, seasonal hiring varies by state and is influenced by travel, tourism and weather patterns. A group representing major U.S. airlines predicts record summer travel in 2024 and an increase of over 6% from last summer. As for that weather component, the northeast tends to see the strongest growth in restaurant jobs in the summer, while Florida and Arizona are expected to see declines. States with the largest proportional employment projections include:

  • Maine, 32%
  • Alaska, 21%
  • Delaware, 17%
  • Rhode Island, 17%
  • New Hampshire, 13%
  • New Jersey, 12%
  • Massachusetts, 12%

Meanwhile, states projected to add the most eating and drinking place jobs include:

  • New York, 48,600
  • California, 41,600
  • Texas, 35,000
  • New Jersey, 33,400
  • Massachusetts, 30,000
  • Michigan, 23,300
  • Illinois, 23,200
  • Ohio, 21,800
  • Maryland, 19,900
  • North Carolina, 19,000

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]


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