State of the Labor Market

Indeed Retail Jobs Tracker: Retail Job Growth Slowed in Q3

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The Indeed Hiring Lab tracks employment in the retail industry each quarter, analyzing the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Overall in Q3 2018 there was a slowdown in retail employment growth.

As with our previous Indeed Retail Jobs Tracker, we look at the state of traditional retail before diving deeper into “brick and mortar” retail, ecommerce, and warehousing. The retail sector had a comeback in the first half of this year, but unfortunately backslid in Q3. The gap between retail and overall job growth has widened.

“Brick and mortar” employment, in particular, saw slower growth and ended the quarter down from a year ago. Ecommerce and warehousing jobs — prime competitors to “brick and mortar” retail — continue to grow strongly, but are slowing from the breakneck pace of last year. According to Indeed data through mid-September 2018, seasonal job postings are slightly down for sales occupations, suggesting that retail employment numbers may not pick up any time soon.

Retail overview:

  • Total employment in the retail sector through September 2018 was up a bit from a year before (+0.4%), but relative to Q2 growth slowed slightly. After almost no growth in retail jobs in July, there was an increase of 12,000 jobs in August followed by a pull-back in September of 20,000 jobs. Retail employment continues to grow more slowly than overall job growth (+1.7%), and this gap widened in Q3 2018.
  • During Q3 2018 employment in “brick and mortar” retail stores moved from in the black to in the red, posting year-over-year declines. Brick and mortar retail excludes nonstore (or ecommerce) retailers, as well as auto-related stores.
    • Brick and mortar retail employment is down slightly from a year before (-0.1% year-over-year), as of September 2018.
    • Brick and mortar retail employment stood at nearly 12.3 million (see chart below), or about 8,000 jobs below the level from September 2017.

  • The worst performing sub-industries in the retail sector seem particularly exposed to competition from ecommerce: “Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book, and Music Stores” jobs are down 5.7% from a year before, and “Electronics and Appliance Stores” jobs are 2.2% lower.
    • On the flip side, “Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores” jobs are up 1.6% and “Building Material and Garden Supply Stores” jobs are up 1.4%. These are the best performing sub-industries. One explanation is that they are less vulnerable to ecommerce competition given the types of the goods they sell.
    • “General Merchandise Stores” — like Walmart, Target and similar retailers — make up the largest share of brick-and-mortar employment, and employment at those stores barely rose in Q3 2018. General merchandiser jobs were up 0.1% year-over-year in September 2018.

Ecommerce and warehousing:

  • Ecommerce and warehousing jobs are growing briskly, although the rate is slowing for both types of jobs. We don’t have up-to-date data on ecommerce; the latest reading is for Q1 2018. In that quarter, ecommerce jobs rose 5.5% compared to Q1 2017. This is a slight slowdown from 8.4% year-over-year growth in Q3 2017.
  • Warehousing jobs increased 5.3% year-over-year as of September 2018, a slowdown from a peak of 13.6% growth in December 2015 but steadily increasing since January of this year.
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