July 7, 2017
It’s no secret that retail jobs have been declining as a share of overall employment since the late 1980s. Two main reasons for this: we’ve built too many stores since the 1990s, and online shopping is booming.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 19,000 fewer people working in department stores in May 2017 compared to January. This, amid a record pace of store closures.
“Employment in grocery stores, department stores, electronics stores, furniture stores, etc. has been declining as a share of total employment since 1989,” wrote Torsten Slok, the chief international economist at Deutsche Bank. “Another way of saying this is that we have seen less growth in the retail sector, relative to other sectors in the economy.
“The bottom line is that the retail sector is facing structural headwinds, but those headwinds alone are not big enough to drag the economy into a recession,” Slok added.
And so, although the total number of employees in retail has grown, their numbers compared to the overall labor market has been falling. This suggests that slower hiring in the sector may not be an ominous sign for the overall labor market and the economy.