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Indeed Retail Jobs Tracker: Brick and Mortar Retail Declines

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The Indeed Hiring Lab tracks employment in the retail industry each quarter, analyzing the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 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.

Overall, retail employment declined year-over-year slightly in Q1 2019. In the second half of 2018, retail employment stabilized somewhat, following a pronounced decline that began in 2017. By early 2019, conditions had deteriorated, with retail employment once again on the decline. Worryingly, the gap between retail and overall job growth widened slightly to 1.9 percentage points in March 2019.

Brick and mortar retail employment has tracked even worse, with declines greater than the overall retail sector. Ecommerce and warehousing jobs— prime competitors to brick and mortar retail—continue to grow more strongly than retail overall but the pace is slowing.

Retail overview:

  • Total employment in the retail sector through March 2019 was down slightly, registering a –0.2% decline from a year before. While retail jobs rose by 9,000 in January, there were declines of 20,000 and 12,000 retail jobs in February and March, respectively. Overall job growth over the past year has been solid at 1.7%, but that has not translated into gains for retail.
  • The decline in retail is about brick and mortar stores: by the end of Q1 2019, employment in brick and mortar retail stores had fallen -0.7% year-over-year. Brick and mortar retail excludes nonstore (or ecommerce) retailers, as well as auto-related stores.
    • Brick and mortar retail jobs seemed to be recovering late last year, but revisions to prior months data now show year-over-year declines in every month since June 2018. So what was originally a +0.3% year-over-year increase in December 2018 turned out to be a -0.3% decrease after revisions.
    • Brick and mortar retail employment stood at nearly 12.2 million in March 2019 (see chart), or 84,000 jobs below the level from March 2018.
  • The worst performing sub-industries in brick and mortar retail seem particularly exposed to competition from ecommerce. “Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book, and Music Stores” jobs are down -5.4% from a year before, while “Electronics and Appliance Stores” jobs are -4.5% lower. Books and electronics are quintessential goods sold by Amazon and other ecommerce companies.
    • Conversely, “Food and Beverage Stores” have become the largest share of brick and mortar employment and grew 1.1% year-over-year in March 2019.
    • “General Merchandise Stores”—like Walmart, Target and similar retailers—are the second largest category of brick and mortar retail, but declined –0.8% year-over-year in March 2019.
    • “Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores” jobs grew more strongly, up 1.9% year-over-year, the strongest of any sub-industry.

Ecommerce and warehousing:

  • Ecommerce and warehousing jobs are growing steadily, although the rate is slowing for both types of jobs.
    • Employment at “Nonstore retailers”—the closest proxy for ecommerce jobs with up-to-date data—rose 1.1% year-over-year in March 2019. While the sector saw spectacular growth earlier in the recovery, it has posted less astonishing numbers in recent years.
    • Warehousing jobs increased 6.2% year-over-year as of March 2019, a slowdown from its recent peak of 13.3% growth in March 2018. Growth in this sector, while still positive, has been trending steadily downward for a year now.
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