The jobs report for May from the government painted a grim picture for the retail sector. Thousands of jobs are still being lost as stores across the country have been forced to close. E-commerce is considered a big proponent of the fall in retail, alongside the U.S. simply building too many malls, right before the big downturn as a result of e-commerce.
But even more worrying for the retail sector is that automation may soon swoop in and end up putting even more employees out of a job. Automation is still seen as being a few years away, at least before it hits a national scale, but many companies are already experimenting with automated workers in retail and other service industries with potentially dire results for workers should the robotic takeover come.
Beyond that, President Donald Trump ran his campaign on the prospect of saving and restoring jobs, but a large part of his rhetoric was focused on coal and manufacturing jobs. Trump had little, if anything, to say about the retail sector, which has seen a massive job flight in recent months and years.
It’s interesting to note that while the focus has been on coal and bringing those jobs back, more jobs have been lost in general merchandise stores since October than the entire number of employees working in the U.S. coal industry.
While one explanation for this is that Trump focused on bringing better-paying jobs back to the middle-class, ultimately thousands of jobs are being lost and the White House—despite being a job-centric administration—has been rather mute on the subject.
To make matters worse, retail job loss often hurts smaller and poorer communities the most. When a major source of employment in your town is forced to close or make massive layoffs, the community loses the tax revenue as well as potential spending coming from outside areas. These types of closings can be absolutely devastating to a smaller community, with dire results often following the closure of these big-box retail stores.
“Retail keeps bleeding jobs,” Business Insider, June 2, 2017.