As inflation continues to reach highs it hasn’t hit in over 40 years – the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is at 8.5% annualized – the outlook for ending the labor shortage anytime soon doesn’t look any better. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% at the end of March, while net restaurant employment rose by 61,000 during the month, it was also the smallest gain recorded over the past 15 months. Further, despite the steady hiring of available workers in the restaurant and food service industry – gross monthly payroll additions of over 1 million on average over the past 12 months with almost 900,000 leaving their job each month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report – the industry is still 820,000 jobs (or 6.6%) below its pre-pandemic staffing levels! And, against that backdrop, on a year over year basis, food away from home prices are up 6.9%, full-service menu prices are up 8% and limited-service prices are up 7.2%! The IFA, in concert with FRANdata, released a first of its kind survey of over 200 franchise executives on the labor shortage and challenges to franchisees that getting enough help presents. Key findings from the survey indicates how widespread the employment challenge is with 88% reporting franchisees having difficulties hiring the necessary staff; franchise growth being constrained as a result of labor challenges and 65% of respondents reporting increased employee wages over the past six months with another 66% anticipating further wage increases over the next six months. The full report is available here.