The numbers here don’t include any effects of recently announced changes in the wage structure at Amazon, changes that are expected to resonate throughout the retail sector. What the numbers here suggest to me is that employers are going resist raising wages for as long as they can. They will continue to use other forms of non-wage compensation to pay their workers, but they will try to keep wages down.
Now, you might ask what is the difference between paying wages and giving workers free food? Both are costs of employment. But, the salad bar does not put the employer on the hook for FICA taxes, workers’ comp insurance, and any other taxes or fees associated with having someone be a W-2 employee.