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Employment

Next to the government, the food industry is the largest U.S. employer, providing employment for more than 9 percent of American workers. As of 2005, the restaurant industry employed 12.2 million people, up from 9.5 million in 1955.

By 2015, it is projected that the restaurant industry will employ 14 million workers.

Significant employment increases are anticipated for Arizona, Nevada and Georgia while growth rates are expected to be far lower in Hawaii, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. With 42 jobs created for every additional $1 million in restaurant sales, the industry is helping to spur the U.S. economy.

The highly labor intensive nature of the food service industry is one contributing factor. Sales per full-time-equivalent employee were $57,567 in 2003-notably lower than other industries.

The food service industry is also the largest employer of first time workers largely due to the high number of teenage employees. In 1998, 27% of food service employees were teenagers compared to 5% nationally.

The typical food service industry employee in 1998 was:

Female (58%)
Under 30 years of age (59%)
Single (71%)
Working part-time and averaging 25 hours a week
Living in a household with two or more wage earners (80%)

The food service industry provides greater opportunity for women and minorities than do other industries. More than two-thirds of food service supervisors are women, 12% were Hispanic, and 14% were African-American.