As Americans on Main Street hunt for signs of health in the U.S. economy, one place such health may be appearing is in exchange traded funds (ETFs) that hold restaurant stock.

In a tight job market, the restaurant business has bucked the no-hiring trend. In September, restaurants and bars in the United States added 34,000 jobs, while the entire private sector added just 64,000 jobs. It looks like the start of boom times for the dining-out business. [Restaurant ETFs: Looking Mighty Tasty.]

Sharon Bernstein for The Los Angeles Times reports that shares of McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) are up by a third from this time last year, and some chains are doing even better, such as Dinequity (the owner of Applebee’s and IHOP) and Cheesecake Factory (NYSE: CAKE).

One thing that may have contributed to the surge in hiring is the fact that more people seem to be viewing restaurant work as a career instead of a pit stop. It also helps that restaurant work can’t be outsourced. [Fast Food ETFs: Where the Consumers Are.]

The attraction of restaurant jobs may have increased after the recession, but it’s part of a long-developing trend. Over the last 20 years, the number of people working at restaurants and bars in the U.S. has increased by about 3 million, according to a Times analysis. That’s something to nibble on.

  • PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage (NYSEArca: PBJ): McDonald’s is 5.3%; Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM) is 5.5%; Papa John’s  (NYSE: PZZA) is 2.9%, Chipotle (NYSE: CMG) is 3%
  • PowerShares Dynamic Leisure & Entertainment (NYSEArca: PEJ): McDonald’s is 5.4%; Yum is 5.1%; Ruby Tuesday (NYSE: RT) is 3.1%; Cheesecake Factory is 2.9%
  • SPDR Consumer Discretionary (NYSEArca: XLY): McDonald’s is 7.6%, Yum is 2%

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.