The latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has raised some eyebrows. Economists have noticed that a serious shift seems to be underway. Jobs in the food service industry have accounted for a huge chunk of the job growth this year. So much so that if things continue at this rate, there will be more jobs in food service than in manufacturing by 2020. This shift marks a real turning point for our labor market, although the change has been coming for quite some time.
Restaurant Jobs Are Growing Fast
Jobs in the food service industry are growing faster than in manufacturing, construction and healthcare. Employment at sit-down restaurants make up 50 percent of the category, while fast-food restaurants account for 37 percent of the growth. Other establishments, like bars at 3 percent, make up the rest, according to analysis from The Atlantic.
Especially in cities, restaurant work is really what’s fueling the economy. For example, more than one-third of the new jobs in Cleveland in 2015 were restaurant jobs, according to EMSI data. In the Hartford, Connecticut metro area, 96 percent of net new jobs were in the food service industry in 2015-2016.
The food service industry is having an enormous impact on the U.S. economy. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Americans eat their meals out rather than cook at home much more than in previous decades. These days, Americans actually spend more money on eating out than on food served at home, according to the USDA. It’s no wonder the food service industry is booming.
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Will Food Service Jobs Eclipse Jobs In Manufacturing?
Additionally, manufacturing work is changing. Although rates of employment in manufacturing have been holding relatively steady lately, the economy and the labor market have been shifting for some time.
At The Atlantic, Derek Thompson writes:
In 1990, manufacturing was almost three times larger than the food-service industry. But restaurants have gradually closed the gap. At current rates of growth, more people will work at restaurants than in manufacturing in 2020. This mirrors the shift in consumer spending. Restaurants’ share of America’s food budget has doubled from 25 percent in the 1950s to 50 percent today.
Manufacturing jobs are expected to decline by 814,000 by 2024, according to the BLS. Since 2000, the U.S. has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs. The industry is changing so rapidly that new jobs in the legal marijuana industry might eclipse new manufacturing jobs as soon as 2020.
Given all these trends, it’s not difficult to understand why food service jobs are expected to outnumber jobs in manufacturing within the next few years.
What About Automation?
Automation could have a major impact on both the manufacturing industry and the food service industry. It certainly has a lot to do with the changes that have already occurred to jobs in manufacturing.
Automation has been found to have a much bigger impact on manufacturing work than immigration, trade, or offshoring.
Although there isn’t as much discussion of the impact automation could have on the food service industry, it could be significant. Already, automatic checkout machines are impacting jobs in grocery stores and other retail establishments. Similarly, new technologies in food service could impact tomorrow’s market in a big way. Self-service kiosks are already changing the fast food industry.
Regardless of the impact of automation, the U.S. labor market seems to be turning away from manufacturing and moving more toward food service. Trends in our culture and our economy have blazed the trail. The future is still uncertain, but understanding how things are shifting helps us to prepare.
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