Restaurant workers’ wages have been growing about a percentage point faster than everybody else’s in the private sector for the past two years, according to federal figures. And as the unemployment rate falls, the pool of excess workers is shrinking.
“In the worst of the downturn there were nearly seven job seekers for every job opening,” says Heidi Shierholz, chief economist at the Labor Department. “Now there’s around 1.6.”
So, there are fewer workers to choose from. As the economy recovers and more people go out to eat, restaurants are expanding. That’s the backdrop for the Chipotle restaurant chain’s hiring spree set for Wednesday. The company wants to hire 4,000 people in a day.
“Restaurants talk about this battle for talent,” says Sara Senatore, the senior research analyst covering restaurants at Bernstein. “Six years into this recovery, we’re having competition for people in the restaurants.”
That competition has driven restaurant wages higher. Also, many restaurant workers live in states or cities that have increased the minimum wage, so they’re automatically getting a bump.
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