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Restaurant jobs rise sharply in October

Increase mostly offsets hurricane-related losses in September

Restaurant employment rose sharply in October as the industry picked up jobs lost the previous month due to hurricane-related closures, according to federal data released Friday. 

The industry added 88,500 jobs during the month, totaling 11.7 million jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

But restaurants lost 98,000 jobs the previous month because of closures due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Restaurants haven’t recovered all of the jobs lost during that month. 

Additionally, hiring may have slowed amid persistently high labor costs and increasing concerns about restaurant sales performance. The number of jobs is still about 10,000 jobs below the number two months ago, according to federal data. 

Overall, the economy added 261,000 jobs during the month, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent. But more than a third of those jobs came from restaurants recovering lost jobs due to the hurricanes. 

Restaurants had been hiring at an abnormally high rate for much of the past three years before the storms in late August and September muddied the numbers. The growing employment revealed rapid industry expansion amid heavy investment and pressure from Wall Street investors.

That might be changing as persistently weak industry traffic has shed a light on the development. Traffic has declined in all but one month over the past two years, according to the monthly MillerPulse index. Traffic fell 4 percent in September, according to Black Box Intelligence. 

Several companies have opted to slow development amid sales concerns, including BJ’s Restaurants Inc., Potbelly Corp. and Zoe’s Kitchen Inc. 

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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