The restaurant industry added 33,500 jobs in October, according to new federal data released Friday, as companies picked up their hiring again after a one-month hurricane-related break in September.
The overall economy added 250,000 jobs in the month, and the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.7%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Of more interest to the industry, perhaps, is the 3.1% increase in wage rates, which could help improve personal incomes and spur spending. The chain restaurant industry could use the assistance after three years of weak traffic.
Still, the increase in job creation and the low unemployment rate threaten to continue pushing up industry wages while making it more challenging for restaurants to find good workers.
The restaurant industry has hired more than 200,000 workers over the past year. Restaurants and bars now employ more than 12 million workers.
That has driven up wages: Average hourly earnings for leisure and hospitality nonsupervisory workers rose 4.2% in the month, considerably higher than the overall rate of wage growth.
The hiring challenges have led many fast-food chains and other restaurant companies to increase benefits for their workforce while finding ways to train lower-skilled workers. McDonald’s, for instance, announced major investments on workforce training in August. Companies such as Starbucks and Noodles & Co. have launched new benefit programs aimed at finding and retaining employees.
“Labor is a big challenge,” said George Kelsey, vice president of operations and training for Wisconsin-based quick-service chain Culver’s. “Our focus is not on turnover. Our focus is on retention. We have a lot of initiatives we put against to retain our team members.”