Jobs at bars and coffee shops are thriving in the Trump economy

Make pour-over coffee great again.
Make pour-over coffee great again.
Image: AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama
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Donald Trump loves to associate the robust job growth during his administration with the manufacturing and mining industries. While job growth in these sectors have been relatively robust during his time in office, his focus on these sorts of jobs misses the forest for the trees.

The truth is that the sector creating jobs the fastest under Trump has been at the forefront of employment growth for the past several decades: the service industry. Though he has never tweeted about it, the major industry creating more jobs than any other during the Trump administration is food and drink service. It’s not welders and miners who are finding work plentiful, but fast-food cooks and baristas.

This is part of a long-term trend. Since around 2000, food and drink service jobs have accounted for an increasingly large share of the US job market. The growth of food industry jobs as a share of the economy was a bit faster during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations than under Trump, but not by much. This is another example of how most job market trends have little to do with any specific president’s policies.

Why is the restaurant industry thriving? Mostly because Americans don’t cook as much they used to. People in the US now spend more at restaurants and bars than they do at grocery stores. The explosion of choice, combined with less time spent in the kitchen at home, is a recipe for a food-service job growth.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the fast-food industry alone has created about 270,000 jobs. That’s a lot, but not the fastest growth relative to the size of the sector: In just one and half years, with over 70,000 new positions, the number of jobs at cafes and specialty snack stores (like ice cream shops) grew by 12%, nearly twice the growth in fast-food jobs.

US food-service job growth from Jan. 2017 to June 2018