Study: US Beer Industry Supports More than 2 Million Jobs

The U.S. beer industry was responsible for creating more than 2.19 million jobs that paid more than $101 billion in wages and benefits in 2018, according to a joint study released today by industry trade organizations the Beer Institute (BI) and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).

The biennial “Beer Serves America” report is “a snapshot in time” of the industry’s current health and provides the industry with a tool in their advocacy efforts, NBWA president and CEO Craig Purser told Brewbound.

“Part of what we’re trying to do by rolling this out is just remind people that this small industry is really the little engine that could,” he said. “It provides a lot of economic contribution and a lot of groceries on people’s tables across America.”

Beer Institute president and CEO Jim McGreevy added that the beer industry is “the crown jewel of American manufacturing today.”

The release of the Beer Serves America report — compiled by independent economics firm John Dunham & Associates from private companies, Infogroup, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis — comes just days before the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the third largest beer drinking occasion in the U.S. It also precedes the important summer selling season.

According to the report, U.S. beer companies and wholesalers employ more than 200,000 American workers. Each of those jobs creates 31 additional full-time equivalent jobs in adjacent industries.

For their part, brewers and beer importers directly employ 69,928 Americans, up from 64,745 workers two years ago. Large and mid-sized brewers and beer importers accounted for about 58 percent of the industry’s workforce, the report found.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Brewers Association (BA), which represents the interests of small and independent breweries, counted more than 135,000 jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs in 2017.

The discrepancy between employment figures from the Beer Serves America report and the BA’s economic study stems from the classification of brewery retail employees. The Beer Serves America study groups front-of-house and retail employees at breweries and brewpubs in its retail headcount.

Other key findings:

  • More than 3,000 U.S. beer wholesalers employ about 141,600 workers, paying around $9.5 billion in wages. Between 2016 and 2018, beer wholesalers added nearly 7,300 new jobs.
  • Over the last decade, the number of middle-tier jobs increased about 19 percent, due to the creation of new offers, the growth in imports and increased distribution of small brewers.
  • Brewing industry suppliers — manufacturers of bottles and cans, cardboard case boxes, brewing equipment and other items — generated about $102 billion in economic activity and accounted for around 436,650 jobs in 2018.
  • The U.S. beer industry paid nearly $58.8 million in taxes in 2018, down more than $4 million compared to 2016. Purser and McGreevy attributed much of the savings to the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), which lowered the federal excise tax on alcohol producers and importers.
  • About 40 percent of the price of every beer goes toward federal, state and local taxes.

The 2019 edition of Beer Serves America also found that the U.S. beer industry generated more than $328 billion in total economic output in 2018, equal to about 1.6 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. However, the total economic output declined nearly $22 billion since 2016. The decline in overall economic output was due to a decline in the number of retail jobs, changes in the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies brewery jobs and overall volume declines, Purser said.

Purser added that the industry remains challenged by a several headwinds, including losing market share to wine and spirits, continued volume declines and changes in the way younger consumers meet members of the opposite sex, among others.

“Consumers are drinking less beer and volume is down, therefore the economic contribution that our overall industry provides to the economy is down,” McGreevy added. “We’ve got to do better to keep this economic engine going.”

Although discord between the country’s two largest beer manufacturers — Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors — threatened to end efforts to improve category healthy via the Beer Growth Initiative, McGreevy stressed those efforts have continued and the three major trade groups — the BI, the NBWA and the Brewers Association — and their members continue to meet.

“This is an ongoing discussion, and we’re in the solution mode rather than the problem mode,” he said. “I think our two groups changed discussion around this issue and that’s going to lead to outcomes in the end.”

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