Dec 7, 2023 - News

Restaurant wage growth in Northwest Arkansas better than U.S. average

Data: Square; Note: Earnings include base wages, tips and overtime; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Square; Note: Earnings include base wages, tips and overtime; Chart: Axios Visuals

Year-over-year wage growth for restaurant workers in Northwest Arkansas rose by 5.6% in October — up from 4.2% in September, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

  • That's down from a peak of 39% in November 2018.
  • The data comes by way of Square's new third-quarter restaurant industry report and includes base wages, tips and overtime.

The big picture: Nationally, restaurant workers' wage growth has slipped considerably since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, falling below even prepandemic rates.

  • Restaurant workers' wages grew 4.9% year over year nationwide in October 2023.
  • That's slowed from peak growth of 10.5% in December 2021, when the average base wage was $12.60 and average hourly earnings were $15.85.

Why it matters: It's a sign that restaurants are no longer quite as desperate for workers as they were late in the pandemic era, when many struggled to replace employees who had left for other industries.

  • It's also a reflection of inflation's impact on restaurants and consumers alike.

Driving the news: Restaurant costs are up due in part to inflation, while consumers are often loath to pay higher prices because they're also getting hit with higher costs on basically everything in life.

  • Discretionary spending on dining out often goes first when times get a little tougher — and tips may be shrinking, especially amid a growing sense of "tipping fatigue."

🧮 Be smart: Wage growth is best considered alongside inflation — if your wage grows 3% but so does inflation, your wage didn't really grow at all.

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