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Looking for work? How are your burger-flipping skills?

October 04, 2012|By David Lazarus
  • There are jobs out there, but many are to be found in low-paying fields such as the fast-food industry.
There are jobs out there, but many are to be found in low-paying fields such… (Associated Press )

As we heard during the presidential debate, it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs. And there are jobs out there. But maybe not the job you've been longing for.

Food services accounted for nearly a third of all jobs created in August, according to the Labor Department, and most of that growth was seen among fast-food chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell.

The industry this year expanded payrolls by 2.9% as of the end of August, more than double the 1.4% increase in total U.S. employment.

Total restaurant traffic remains at pre-recession levels. Americans dined out 61 billion times in the 12 months ending July 31, down from 62 billion visits four years ago, according to market researcher NPD Group.

But when people do opt for some non-home-cooked fare, they're increasingly likely  to stop at a fast-food outlet.

Food service has coughed up more than 628,000 jobs since the recession ended in June 2009, according to the National Restaurant Assn. These aren't what you'd call lucrative gigs.

Food-prep staff earn a median wage of about $9 an hour. Waiters and waitresses pull down a median hourly rate of $7.69, including tips.

Benefits? Yeah, right.

On top of that, the food-service industry can be just as quick to drop employees. Twenty-one percent of all job losses during the recession were in lower-wage occupations, according to the National Employment Law Project in New York.

So if you're looking for work, you may need to be comfortable with the phrase "Do you want fries with that?"

And you shouldn't get too comfortable wearing that paper hat. You never know when you'll have to give it back.


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