The Retail Sector Lost 30,000 Jobs Last Month

Image courtesy of J.G. Park

We’ve focused a lot in recent months on the worrisome trend of retail bankruptcies and all the stores and malls being left vacant in their wake. But a new federal jobs report gives an idea of the impact these tough times have had on workers, with nearly 30,000 retail jobs vanishing in March.

According to data released today by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the second month in a row of significant employment losses in the retail sector.

Between the 29,700 decrease in March and a drop of 34,700 in February, nearly 65,000 retail jobs have been lost.

According to the report, employment in general merchandise stores — department and other retailers — was hit the hardest, with 34,700 jobs lost between February and March.

Of those lost jobs, 12,600 were in department stores, while 22,100 were from other retailers.

The job losses aren’t exactly unexpected. In just the first few months of 2017 a number of retailers —including Gordmans, hhgregg, RadioShack, Gander Mountain, BCBG Max Azria, MC Sports, Eastern Outfitters, Wet Seal, Payless, and The Limited — have announced store closures, bankruptcies and other restructuring measures; a trend that has already surpassed the number of closing in all of 2016.

The reason more general merchandise jobs were lost than total retail jobs is because certain sectors, including auto dealers, garden supply, and non-store retailer actually added positions.

In all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that general merchandise jobs have declined by 89,000 since Oct. 2016. That’s the largest decline since Dec. 2009, according to the report.

In fact, the March job losses are in stark contrast to retail position increases the last two years.

In 2015, the retail industry added 26,000 jobs in March, while 21,000 were added in the same month in 2014.

That’s not to say March is always a time for retail job growth. The sector saw hefty drops in 2012 and 2013, when 34,000 and 23,000 jobs were lost, respectively.