'Waiting' on January's employment data

A waiter pours steamed milk at the Hudson Bay Cafe in Oakland, Calif.


JEREMY HOBSON: We are just under three hours away from the most important economic indicator of the month. The Labor Department's employment report for the month of January is expected to show job growth -- for the fourth month in a row. We'll also find out whether the nation's 9.4 percent unemployment rate went up or down last month. Economists will be watching for a lot of things, including whether the leisure and food service industries are still bright spots.

Marketplace's Scott Tong reports.

SCOTT TONG: 188,000 Americans have been hired to do food service the last two years. These are jobs pay $11 dollars an hour, on average. And the uptick makes sense to labor economist Harry Holzer at Georgetown. In the early days of a recovery, he figures many of us return to the restaurants and bars first -- relatively small-ticket stuff.

HARRY HOLZER: This is probably a place where consumers are starting to spend more freely than elsewhere. Consumers who are not quite ready to buy new car or home, probably are a little more comfortable going out to a restaurant or their retail establishment.

Employers these days are commitment-shy. But food and leisure workers make low-wages, they tend not get benefits, and are easier to hire and fire. Holzer expects better jobs to return eventually -- professional services, white-collar management, high-end manufacturing. But only when demand from consumers and businesses shoots up significantly.

In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.
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The 188,000 hired doesn’t seem right, or at least not the phrasing.

Nation’s restaurant News recently reported that the total number of domestic restaurants is 579,102. In an industry that sees employee turnover rates that usually start around 50% and can sometimes go upward of 200%, one would think that the total number of people hired would be in the millions, versus a paltry 188,000 over two years.

Now if the report means that 188,000 people have been hired for NEW foodservice jobs that have been created in the past two years that would make more sense, but as it is worded now it doesn’t.

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