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A Burger King employee serves a drive-thru customer.

Restaurants added nearly 25K jobs in May

Eating and drinking places added 24,600 jobs, compared to 9,200 jobs in April.

The U.S. economy added 272,000 jobs in May, more than the 180,000 expected, as the unemployment rate ticked up to 4%, from 3.9% in April. The 272,000 jobs are significantly higher than the 165,000 jobs created in April.

In the leisure and hospitality sector, jobs continued to trend up in May, with 42,000 positions added. This is similar to the monthly average throughout the prior 12 months, which is 35,000. At eating and drinking places specifically, 24,600 jobs were added during the month, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday morning. This is compared to 9,200 jobs added in April, 29,500 jobs added in May, and 25,100 jobs added in February. January is the only month since late 2022 in which the industry lost jobs (-21,100).

May’s report comes on the heels of a National Restaurant Association forecast predicting 525,000 seasonal jobs to be added in the industry in June, July, and August. This summer is expected to be the third strongest hiring season for restaurants on record, behind last summer and 2015.

Overall employment levels in the industry continue to outpace pre-pandemic numbers; as of May, there were nearly 69,000 jobs (0.6%) more than February 2020, according to the association. That said, the full-service segment continues to recover from deep pandemic cuts. As of April, full-service employment levels remained 4% below February 2020 levels. Employment in cafeterias and buffets also remained below pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, snack and beverage concepts are nearly 15% above February 2020 levels, while QSRs and fast casuals are 3% up.

Even as staffing levels recover and surpass pre-pandemic numbers, about 937,000 job openings remain in the accommodation and food services sector. Throughout the past six months, job openings have averaged 955,000. This is compared to 1.4 million in 2022 and nearly 1.1 million in 2023. From 2017 to 2019, job openings in the sector averaged 835,000. The National Restaurant Association reports that the top job postings for restaurants are from limited-service concepts, at 53.6%, while full-service restaurant postings make up 44.2%. The remainder is from snack and beverage concepts. The top recruited positions at foodservice establishments throughout the past year are foodservice managers, followed by QSR counter workers.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]


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