Big order: Food service industry jobs in Cincinnati have surpassed manufacturing ones

Numbers ahead of nationwide workforce projection

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati is at the forefront of a major shift in the American workforce.

For the past three decades, food service jobs have grown tremendously in the United States. Recent trends show that more U.S. citizens will work in the food service industry in 2020 than in factory jobs -- a sea change in American workforce history.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more people living in Cincinnati are already choosing the food service industry over manufacturing. The shift was official in April, when Leisure and Hospitality finally surpassed Manufacturing by 7,000 jobs.

The data shows that the Leisure and Hospitality sector -- which includes food services and bars -- has been yo-yoing upward since 2007. After a massive decrease in manufacturing in 2008, factory work has increased, but hasn’t recovered.

As of June, more than 134,000 people are employed under the Leisure and Hospitality sector, while 117,000 people are employed in Manufacturing: This means Cincinnati serves more products than produces them.

Ken Nienaber, an accounting supervisor, listed several reasons why dining services are more plentiful than manufacturing. According to Nienaber, factory work has been disappearing for years.

“Manufacturing jobs have been going overseas or being replaced by robotics since the early 1990’s. It’s just easier to find work elsewhere,” Nienaber said.

While there are now more opportunities to find a job in dining and drinking services, Nienaber said they do not provide the best financial results.

"There’s always going to be opportunities for great servers to make money, but I think overall income is going to decrease,” Nienaber said.

Factory employees work roughly 40 hours a week, with plenty of opportunity for overtime. The average pay for these folks is around $22 per hour. The rates are strikingly lower among food industry workers. The average hours for someone working in food service are around 25 hours a week at $12 an hour. These jobs are almost always part time, which guarantees there will be no overtime pay.

Even with lower pay than manufacturing, there is an appeal to working in the food service industry. Nienaber said this appeal could come from the satisfaction of quick money.

“Many people who work in that field get paid every day,” Nienaber said. “To some people, that is huge. For people who poorly manage money or need money right away, a daily payday is perfect.”

Nienaber said that despite the instant gratification a daily paycheck provides, there will be a heavier burden on dining service employees to save money. Because restaurants and bars rarely provide benefits such as pensions and health insurance, people must figure out how to budget those things on their own.

Even with the rise of the food service industry, Trade, Transportation and Utilities remains the top sector in Cincinnati employment with over 216,000 jobs in June. Both Leisure and Hospitality and Trade, Transportation and Utilities combine to be 350,000 service jobs in the Tri-State area.

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