As another month passes, the great schism inside the American labor force get wider. We are referring to the unprecedented divergence between the total number of high-paying manufacturing jobs, and minimum-wage food service and drinking places jobs, also known as waiters and bartenders. In September, according to the BLS, while the number of people employed by “food services and drinking places” rose by another 30,000, the US workforce lost another 13,000 manufacturing workers.
The chart below puts this in context: since 2014, the US had added 547,000 waiters and bartenders, and has lost 32,000 manufacturing workers.
Yet while we would be the first to congratulate the new American waiter and bartender class, something does not smell quite right. On one hand, there has been a spike in recent restaurant bankruptcies or mass closures (Logan’s, Fox and Hound, Bob Evans), which has failed to reflect in the government report. However, what we find more suspect, is that according to the BLS’ seasonally adjusted “data”, starting in March of 2010 and continuing through September of 2016, there has been just one month in which restaurant workers lost jobs, and alternatively, jobs for waiters and bartenders have increased in 78 out of the past 79 months.
Putting this divergence in a long context, since the official start of the last recession in December 2007, the US has gained 1.7 million waiters and bartenders, and lost 1.5 million manufacturing workers. Worse, while the latter series had been growing, if at a slower pace than historically, it has now clearly rolled over, and in 2016, some 58,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost.
Like last month, we remain curious what this “data” series will look like after it is revised by the BLS shortly after the NBER declares the official start of the next recession.