Does retail have an answer for its jobs problem?
More retail workers quit their jobs in April than in any single month since the Labor Department started tracking the industry’s job numbers going back more than 20 years. This follows a year that saw a record number of layoffs and furloughs as a result of the havoc wrought on retailers by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Around 649,000 retail workers gave their notice to employers in April even as the industry as a whole has been looking to add workers in an economy that is rebounding as large numbers of Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Retail is not the only industry being affected by resignations although, along with hospitality, it had the largest numbers of worker departures. The Economist reports that preliminary data for April from the Labor Department shows that 2.7 percent of workers quit their jobs. The previous high was 2.4 percent.
The Washington Post reports that many former retail workers are leaving for better paying positions that offer greater benefits and work/life balance in a variety of other industries including jobs at banks, insurance agencies and marijuana dispensaries.
The median pay for all retail workers was $27,320 per year in 2020. The median pay for hourly workers was $13.13, according to the Labor Department. Challenges around child care and transportation, particularly lower income families, have also increased due to the pandemic, even now as much of society appears to be returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic normality.
Some high profile retailers like Amazon.com, Costco and Target have raised their starting wages to $15 an hour as their need for human resources have increased along with sales and shifts in consumer shopping behavior. Many other retailers fall well below this pay number while also falling short in other areas such as associate training and career development.
Others, such as Walmart, that pay starting wages below $15, have begun placing more workers in full-time roles with regular schedules while also upping investments in training and communicating potential career paths that would lead to higher compensation.
- Americans are quitting their jobs in droves – The Economist
- Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work: ‘My life isn’t worth a dead-end job’ – The Washington Post
- Retail workers are fed up and rage quitting, and the tight labor market could help them score better pay and benefits than they’ve demanded for years – Insider
- Retail Sales Workers – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the numbers of workers currently quitting retail jobs as symptomatic of a wider industry challenge? Will a continued loss of workers begin to materially affect the performance of individual retailers?