New analysis by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) shows that the restaurant industry continues to serve as a leading creator of jobs, outpacing overall US employment growth. In the 12 months ending June 2012, eating and drinking place employment jumped 2.7 percent, more than double the 1.3% increase in total US employment during the same period. Restaurants added a net 116,000 positions in the first half of 2012.

Overall, restaurants have added more than 575,000 jobs since the employment recovery began in March 2010, with current industry staffing levels standing 193,000 jobs above the pre-recession peak. Restaurant industry job growth slowed along with the rest of the economy during the second quarter of 2012, but remains a net contributor to the economic recovery. The restaurant industry is the nation's second-largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million – almost 10% of the US workforce.

"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," says Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. "Restaurant industry sales are gaining for the third consecutive year, spurring the nation's nearly one million restaurants to staff up to meet the increasing demand for away-from-home meals. This illustrates the strength and resilience of our industry, as well as the wealth of opportunity it offers."

The NRA projects that restaurant industry sales will exceed $632 billion this year, a 3.5% 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. One out of three (33%) Americans say they are not dining out as often as they would like, down from two out of five (40%) just one year ago. As the industry grows, so does its need for labor, and the restaurant industry is one of the most labor intensive industries in the US.

According to the NRA's latest monthly Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey (June 2012), restaurant operators continue to plan for staffing increases in the second half of 2012. Twenty percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), while only 8% said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months. Seventy-two percent of operators said they expect their staffing levels to remain unchanged through the end of the year.

The NRA also projects that the industry will add 1.4 million positions in the next decade, reaching 14.3 million. The fastest growing positions include supervisors and food-and-beverage-serving workers. The restaurant workforce skews younger, with 16- to 24-year olds holding nearly 4 in 10 foodservice positions, and more than half of restaurant workers being under the age of 30.

Eating and drinking places (restaurants and bars) are the primary component of the restaurant and foodservice industry, which the NRA defines as that which encompasses all meals and snacks prepared away from home.

To help develop high quality employees that will be the industry leaders of tomorrow, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart program supports more than 90,000 high school students across the nation through culinary and restaurant management education. Over the past 15 years, NRAEF has granted more than $14 million in scholarships to students and educators, giving them a jumpstart on successful careers.

The National Restaurant Association's "America Works Here" campaign illustrates the story of America's restaurants through chapters highlighting the career and entrepreneurship opportunities the industry offers, as well as the industry's professionalism and educational opportunities, and the positive impact restaurants make in local communities through philanthropic activities.