Workforce

Restaurants add 25,000 jobs in December

But the industry’s hiring was slower in 2017 than it was in 2016.

The restaurant industry hired 25,000 more people in December, according to federal data released Friday, continuing the industry’s multiyear run of job growth and expansion that has helped fuel intense competition for labor while driving up costs.

For the year, restaurants added 249,000 jobs, or 2.1% job growth. That was more than the 1.4% job growth over the past year for the broader economy.

Overall, the economy added 148,000 jobs in December, which was unexpectedly weak. Earlier in the week, the human resources firm ADP said private employers added 250,000 jobs, so Friday’s federal release was considered a disappointment. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%.

One out of every six jobs added in December was at a restaurant.

That said, the industry’s job growth in 2017 was actually slower than it was in 2016, when restaurants added 276,000 workers.

Still, there were more signs of improved wage growth, which could help restaurants by giving consumers more money to spend. Average hourly earnings increased by 9 cents to $26.63 in December. For the year, average hourly earnings increased by 65 cents, or 2.5%.

But restaurants and other hospitality industries are bearing a big share of the increase in wages, as minimum wages and overall competition for labor drives up pay for workers. Average hourly earnings increased by 54 cents over the past year for leisure and hospitality workers—or 4.1%.

That makes the results something of a good news, bad news situation. Restaurants are healthy enough that they continue to expand and add workers even amid concerns about weak industry traffic and sales. But their continued expansion is driving up the cost of workers and hurting profits.

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