Retail Jobs Are Making a Comeback — Just in Time for Summer

A woman does some shopping at a clothing store in Chicago, IL.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

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.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a resume you might want to peruse before heading to the mall. And while you’re at it, you might as well update your LinkedIn profile, too.

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.