The National Restaurant Association released its employment projections for the summer of 2009. Nationally, eating and drinking places are projected to add 381,800 jobs during the 2009 summer season, a 4.1 percent increase over their March 2009 employment level. The positive growth in summer employment is one indicator of the likely beginning of economic recovery for the restaurant industry. America’s nearly one million restaurants remain one of the largest employers in the nation with 13 million employees, a number that is projected to grow by 2 million positions in the next decade.

“Restaurant operator optimism has increased steadily this year and combined with these advances in restaurant summer employment, the end of the current downturn for the restaurant industry is likely in sight,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the research and knowledge group for the Association. “While overall U.S. employment growth remains negative, the industry is bucking that trend as it added jobs in May for the first time in 10 months. Building on that gain, the growth in summer employment is a clear sign that the restaurant industry remains a powerhouse in the U.S. economy.”

Restaurant industry summer employment growth is on par with 2008 growth at 4.1 percent, but is slightly slower than in 2007 before the economic downturn, when it was at 4.8 percent. As the summer months are typically the peak season for travel and tourism, restaurants tend to increase staffing to accommodate additional customer traffic.

The restaurant industry is typically the nation’s second largest creator of seasonal jobs during the summer months—ranking only behind the construction industry. The construction industry generally adds more than 600,000 jobs during the summer season, though in 2008 the construction sector only added 445,000 jobs.

The states projected to add the most eating and drinking place jobs during the 2009 summer season are New York (32,900), California (30,900), Texas (26,400), Massachusetts (23,600), New Jersey (19,600), Illinois (19,300), and Ohio (19,000). The states projected to register the largest proportional employment increase during the 2009 summer season are Maine (29.2 percent increase) and Alaska (25.1 percent increase).

Due to the fact that their busiest seasons for travel and tourism are not in the summer months, two states are projected to register declines in eating and drinking place employment during the 2009 summer season: Florida (-18,200) and Arizona (-7,200).

Summer employment is defined as the average number of eating and drinking place jobs in June, July and August. The number of summer jobs is the difference between the projected total 2009 summer employment and the March 2009 employment level. Generally, the U.S. restaurant industry begins to ramp up its summer seasonal hiring in April, and it peaks in June, July and August.