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Demographic Trends

Demographic trends illustrate the importance of foreign-born workers.As the number of 16-to-24-year-olds in the labor force continues to decline, foreign-born employees will become increasingly important to the restaurant industry’s ability to expand, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy. As the national economy inches toward full employment, employers across all industries are finding an evaporating pool of talent available to fill positions. Competition for employees is also heating up in the restaurant industry. In the National Restaurant Association’s January 2017 Tracking Survey, 27 percent of restaurant operators said recruiting and retaining employees is the single most important challenge facing their business. This was up from just 9 percent two years earlier and represented the highest level since October 2007.
In addition to the effects of the current tightening labor market, the restaurant industry has also been impacted by some longer-term structural changes in the nation’s labor force. The restaurant industry has the youngest workforce out of any sector in the economy, and the steady decline in labor force participation among 16-to-24-year-olds presented additional challenges in recent years.

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