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Restaurant, construction workers see significant wage growth in McLean County

Mariah Tabb carries drinks to a table at Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.
Mark Humphrey
Mariah Tabb carries drinks to a table at Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant on Sept. 10, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.

Restaurant workers in Bloomington-Normal were able to take advantage of a worker shortage to get better pay.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show wages for food service workers in Bloomington-Normal grew 13% in the second quarter this year versus this time in 2020. Food service workers saw average weekly wages rise from $346 to $385, according to BLS data.

Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council CEO Patrick Hoban said those workers are in high demand as electric automaker Rivian and other employers grow and create competition for those workers.

“It was one thing whenever the Great Resignation was happening and there was upward mobility – which is especially taking place in our area, having people to talk those entry-level positions, now have an opportunity to take an entry-level position into manufacturing, which means the lower skill jobs have to pay more,” Hoban said.

Wages in the overall leisure and hospitality sector (which includes food service workers) overall grew 8.3% in McLean County during the second quarter of 2021.

Construction workers are also in high demand in McLean County. Construction wages grew 9.5% from April to June 2021 versus that period in 2020, up to an $1,184 average weekly wage, according to the labor data. That's close to four times the rate of statewide wage growth in construction jobs (2.6%).

“There’s a lot of construction jobs going on, especially in our area, thanks to Rivian and now (candy manufacturer) Ferrero getting ready to start theirs as well, but you are also going to see building permit-wise, the amount of residential (construction) that could be coming underway next year as well, so we expect those to rise,” Hoban said.

Hoban said he doesn't believe inflation will be as bad in McLean County because the area's economy is fueled mostly by jobs sectors that aren't growing — education, health care and finances.

“Our traditional sectors are remaining pretty steady,” Hoban explained. “Areas that have a higher reliance on those (growth) sectors, that’s where you are seeing the bigger (inflation) increase.”

Financial activities wages also saw a big bump (9.4%), but education and health services wages increased marginally (0.1%) from April to June.

The national inflation rate in October rose to 6.2% in October.

McLean County trails statewide wage growth overall (2.9% to 4%). Hoban said some of the hiring Rivian has done doesn't show in the data yet. That lag has also been demonstrated in the area’s jobs data.

Hoban said it’s likely the data will show that McLean County’s rate of wage growth is at least as high as the state average.

The average weekly wage in McLean County across all industries was $1,114 from April-June.


Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.