The nation’s economic recovery has proven tepid, especially when it comes to job creation. However, new analysis by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) shows that the restaurant industry continues to post solid job growth at more than double the rate of the overall economy.

Since the employment recovery began in March 2010, the restaurant industry has added 645,000 jobs, including nearly 16,000 jobs in September. 

Eating and drinking places added nearly 71,000 jobs in the third quarter, bringing the total number of industry positions created this year to more than 185,000.

In the 12 months ending September 2012, eating and drinking place employment jumped 2.9 percent, more than double the 1.4 percent increase in total U.S. employment during the same period. 

Restaurants have been the third-largest private sector job creator since the employment recovery began, with current industry staffing levels standing 263,000 jobs above the pre-recession peak.

The restaurant industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million—almost 10 percent of the U.S. workforce. 

“Employment growth is at the center of the economic recovery, and our industry is one of the leaders,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the NRA. “Restaurants continue to outperform the economy in job creation, but the uneven performance of the overall economy is concerning.

“There is no substitute for solid U.S. job growth, as employed consumers drive restaurant industry sales by increased spending and need for convenience of away-from-home meals,” she says.

On the state level, Texas (10.2 percent), New York (9.9 percent), Hawaii (9.8 percent), Louisiana (9.2 percent), and the District of Columbia (8.3 percent) show the strongest restaurant employment growth between August 2010 and August 2012 (the latest state data available).

By numbers, the most restaurant jobs were added in Texas (82,200), California (63,200), New York (52,300), Florida (31,700), and North Carolina (17,500). 

The NRA projects that the restaurant industry nationwide will add 1.4 million positions in the next decade, reaching 14.3 million.

The fastest-growing positions include supervisors and food-and-beverage-serving workers.

The restaurant workforce skews younger, with 16–24-year olds holding nearly four in 10 foodservice positions, and more than half of restaurant workers being under the age of 30. 

Eating and drinking places (restaurants and bars) are the primary component of the restaurant and foodservice industry, which the NRA defines as that which encompasses all meals and snacks prepared away from home. 

To help develop high-quality employees that will be the industry leaders of tomorrow, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) ProStart program supports more than 90,000 high school students across the nation through culinary and restaurant management education.

Over the past 15 years, NRAEF has granted more than $14 million in scholarships to students and educators, giving them a jumpstart on successful careers. 

The National Restaurant Association’s “America Works Here” campaign illustrates the story of America’s restaurants through chapters highlighting the career and entrepreneurship opportunities the industry offers, as well as the industry’s professionalism and educational opportunities, and the positive impact restaurants make in local communities through philanthropic activities.

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