WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) -- U.S. restaurants added a net 116,000 positions in the first half of 2012, indicating people are eating out or buying more take-out, a trade group says.
An analysis by the National Restaurant Association in Washington said in the 12 months ending June 2012, eating and drinking place employment jumped 2.7 percent -- more than double the 1.3 percent increase in total U.S. employment during the same period.
"While restaurant industry job growth is not immune to the ups and downs of the overall economy, our industry has continually been at the forefront of job creation for the last two years," Dawn Sweeney, the association's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Restaurant industry sales are gaining for the third consecutive year, spurring the nation's nearly 1 million restaurants to staff up to meet the increasing demand for away-from-home meals."
Since the employment recovery began in March 2010, U.S. restaurants added more than 575,000 jobs.
The restaurant industry is the nation's second-largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million, or almost 10 percent of the U.S. workforce.
The trade group projected the restaurant industry sales would exceed $632 billion this year, a 3.5 percent increase over 2011 sales.
This is the third consecutive year that industry sales will post real gains, driven by moderate improvements in consumer's disposable income and gradual release of pent-up demand for restaurant visits, Sweeney said.