While other local industries have struggled to survive the recession and Rhode Island’s double-digit unemployment, the number of jobs in the state’s nationally recognized restaurant industry has held steady in the last decade, while wages and revenue are on the rise, according to figures gathered by Providence Business News.
According to data from the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, 40,100 Rhode Islanders worked in “food services and drinking places” as of September. In previous Septembers dating back to 2001, the number of restaurant jobs remained steady in the 40,000 range.
Wages and revenue rose in recent years, at least on paper.
In 2001, the average restaurant wage was $12,641, with total wages at $445 million; in 2005, the average wage was $13,945 with a total of $542 million; and, in 2010, $15,372 was the average weekly wage with a $584 million total payroll, according to DLT data.
Figures compiled by the R.I. Department of Revenue to track funds generated by the 1 percent meals and beverage tax show a more than $2 million increase since fiscal 2005, the first full year that meal taxes were collected.
In 2005, $17.2 million was raised by the meals tax compared to $19.5 million in fiscal 2011 that ended June 30. For the first two months of the current fiscal year, more than $4 million has been collected; if collections continue at this rate, the state is on track to raise more than last year’s $19.5 million.
However, Edinaldo Tebaldi, professor of economics at Bryant University, after reviewing PBN figures, pointed out two key economic indicators that suggest the Rhode Island restaurant industry still has hurdles to overcome.