Monday, April 10, 2017

A Sea Change For Retail in America

Last Friday, the March jobs report was released and it was abysmal.  Only 98,000 jobs were created even though the unemployment rate fell to 4.5%. Dragging that job's number down was the fact that 30,000 retail jobs were lost in that month.  Thus, in the last two months, 60,000 workers in retail have been let go.

The reality is that traditional brick-and-mortar stores are dying, while digital commerce takes a bigger and bigger slice of America's spending money.  Payless, the discount shoe company, just filed for bankruptcy protection and is now closing 400 stores.  J. C. Penney's will close 138 stores.  Macy's 68.  Sears and Kmart 150.  And, the list just goes on and on.  In fact, over the last 3 years, thousands of retail stores have been shuttered.

Now, I know I've written about this before in this blog, but 60,000 jobs lost in just two months is rather dramatic.  Many of these jobs were non-college or non-high school degree level work.   Many minimum wage.  These workers already have difficulty finding jobs.  For example, the unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma is 7.4%.  High school but no college is 5.2%.  Compare that to the current overall unemployment rate of 4.5% or the rate of 2.6% for those with a bachelor's degree or higher. 

If this trend continues and accelerates, we are going to have a serious employment problem with possibly a permanent underclass of unemployable low-skilled workers.  Something that I don't think Trump understands when he says he will be the job's President.  Retail purchases on the Internet are a form of job replacing automation and the key to Amazon's success and profitability.  Certainly, this is a sea change that should worry all of us.


March Employment Report:

Today’s Jobs Report Masks a Huge Employment Problem:

60,000 Retail Jobs Lost in Past Two Months, According to Latest Employment Report:

These major retailers are closing nearly 3,000 stores this year:

March 2016: Number of store closures already set to outpace last year:

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