The U.S. economy gained 192,000 jobs in March, and employers hired more than was previously estimated for January and February, offering hope for a spring rebound, according to the preliminary federal jobs report issued Friday.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the foodservice industry added more than 30,000 jobs in March, second only to professional and business services, which added 57,000 jobs during the month.

March marked the 49th consecutive monthly gain in foodservice jobs and the strongest increase since October, the National Restaurant Association said. Over the past year, food services and drinking places have added 323,000 jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also said the nation’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent was unchanged, but has declined from 7.5 percent a year ago. The job gains in March were close to the average monthly total last year, indicating the market has likely recovered from the challenging weather through the winter months.

In addition, private employers have regained all the jobs lost to the recession. Private sector employment in March stood at 110,000 jobs above the January 2008 pre-recession peak. During the recession, the economy lost an estimated 8.8 million jobs. Still, the population has grown, which has kept the unemployment level at 6.7 percent.

The restaurant industry surpassed its pre-recession peak in September 2011, and now stands at nearly 900,000 jobs, or 9.2 percent, above the previous high.

The NRA said job growth for the industry is expected to remain positive. In the organization’s March Tracking Survey, 22 percent of restaurant operators said they expect to employ more people in six months than they did during the same period in 2013. Conversely, only 13 percent of operators said they plan to cut positions in the next six months, while the remaining 65 percent expect staffing to stay about the same.



Critics, however, minimize the restaurant industry contributions to job growth, saying foodservice workers tend to earn well below average wages.

According to the BLS, wages overall declined slightly in March, and the average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls edged down by 1 cent to $24.30. This comes after average wages increased 9 cents in February. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have risen by 49 cents, or 2.1 percent.

The BLS upgraded previously estimated numbers for January and February, indicating that the economy added 37,000 more jobs in those two months than previously reported. In January, 144,000 jobs were added, rather than the previously suggested 129,000. February was revised upward to 197,000, compared with the 175,000 estimated earlier.

The restaurant industry is also expected to see employee turnover rates rise and recruiting to become more challenging, as the overall job market heats up.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
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