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Retail Jobs Are Making a Comeback — Just in Time for Summer
With the recent news about Sears closing more than 70 stores and the lingering fear of a so-called retail apocalypse, you’d think encouraging teenagers to “fall into the Gap” for a summer job would be pretty dumb.
But with five months of growth in retail jobs — May saw thousands of new jobs at traditional brick-and-mortar stores — folding jeans and stocking shelves might be a good option for summer work.
“It certainly does signal that the retail industry is hiring,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. “And, of course, we have a significant number of job openings like other industries.”
Seriously. Check out the numbers.
In May, department stores, clothing stores, sporting goods retailers and supercenters added a combined 34,700 jobs, according to a Penny Hoarder analysis of the latest employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than triple the 10,000-plus new jobs these stores recorded the previous month.
Here’s the kicker: Those traditional retailers actually helped buoy the retail industry as a whole last month.
Nonstore retailers, like, ahem, Amazon, saw the first month-to-month decrease in employment in four years. With 1,100 fewer jobs than the previous month, e-commerce sites recorded the first negative employment growth since May of 2012.
While Kleinhenz noted that the NRF “believes all retail jobs are equal — be it brick-and-mortar or online,” a strong economy is putting more money in consumers’ pockets. And their spending is boosting the entire retail industry.
Hit the Mall For Your Summer Job This Year
I worked at a pet store every summer during high school, and I can tell you that retail is the ultimate summer job for teens.
You learn soft skills you may not pick up in other industries — like how to deal with an irate mother after selling her son an extremely poisonous scorpion (sorry again, ma’am). Those customer service and social skills go a long way in any career you may end up choosing.
But, you also learn about how payroll works and how inventory functions (the flake fish food goes a lot faster than the pellets). Summer retail jobs give you a frontline look at what it takes to run a business.
Still, if you’re looking for something outside of retail, The Penny Hoarder Jobs page on Facebook has tons of postings from a variety of industries.
Long-Term Trends Still Show Struggle for Traditional Retail Stores
All in all, May was a pretty good month for brick-and-mortar retail.
But if you look at the long-term trend, you can’t ignore the Amazon Effect.
Between May 2017 and last month, non-store retailers experienced 4.2% job growth, while clothing stores and sporting goods retailers saw a decline. Hiring at department stores has only grown 0.4% over the last year.
And one concern for the entire retail industry has flared up in just the last week: the much-discussed tariffs on foreign imports.
“Trade barriers ultimately impact the consumer,” Kleinhenz said.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He used to have to clean scorpion cages, so you probably shouldn’t mess with him.