Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Employment trends in retail trade, 2010–19

By Osman Alhassan

Americans purchase consumer goods as part of their daily lives. These goods—and the way in which they are purchased—have changed over time. Customer behavior changes have affected employment in the retail trade industry.

The retail trade industry “comprises establishments engaged in retailing merchandise, generally without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise,” according to the 2017 North American Industry Classification System.1 Retail establishments are further classified into 12 major subsectors: motor vehicle and parts dealers; furniture and home furnishing stores; electronics and appliance stores; building materials and garden supply stores; food and beverage stores; health and personal care stores; gasoline stations; clothing and clothing accessories stores; sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores; general merchandise stores; miscellaneous store retailers; and nonstore retailers.

This Beyond the Numbers article analyzes employment trends in retail trade since 2010, using data from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey. It also examines the growth in retail sales with emphasis on e-commerce sales, both from the U.S. Census Bureau, and in relation to employment in retail trade.

Employment trends in retail trade

From December 2009 to December 2019 employment in retail trade rose by 9 percent, or 1.3 million. In contrast, total private employment grew by 21 percent over the same period. Although retail trade showed a net growth over the decade, retail employment peaked in January 2017 and began declining through 2019—losing 248,000 jobs. (See chart 1.) Over the 10-year period, job growth in retail trade was not pervasive. Some industries experienced job gains, while others encountered employment declines.

View Chart Data

Chart 1. Over-the-year employment change in retail trade, seasonally adjusted, 2010–19
Year Employment

2010

139

2011

273

2012

167

2013

374

2014

223

2015

189

2016

193

2017

-90

2018

-98

2019

-32

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey.

To aid in this analysis, we grouped the 12-industry components in retail trade into four categories based on employment growth rates relative to total private employment:

  • Strong-growth industries are those which exhibited more than a 21-percent growth rate over the period.
  • Medium-growth industries are those which grew by 10 percent or more, but less than 21 percent over the period.
  • Slow-growth industries are those that grew by less than 10 percent.
  • Contracting industries are those in which employment declined.

Strong-growth industries

Motor vehicle and parts dealers and nonstore retailers composed the strong employment growth group. Employment in motor vehicle and parts dealers is partially driven by vehicle sales. Between January 2010 and August 2015, total vehicle sales rose from an annualized rate of 10.9 million to 18.4 million, then fluctuated between 17 million and 18 million through December 2019.2 As total vehicle sales rose, employment in motor vehicle and parts dealers grew steadily, reflecting a 27-percent increase over the period. (See chart 2.) Since December 2009, motor vehicle and parts dealers have accounted for 440,000 jobs—the largest job gain among the retail industries. (See table 1.)

Employment in nonstore retailers rose by 29 percent over the period. (See chart 2.) In December 2009, nonstore retailers, accounted for the smallest number of jobs among all retail industries, with 427,000 jobs. Since then, the industry continuously added jobs until 2017, and then, employment flattened out through 2019. Establishments in this industry include electronic shopping and mail-order houses, vending machine operators, direct selling establishments, fuel dealers, and other direct selling establishments.

Sales in nonstore retailers support jobs in the transportation and warehousing sector, which transport goods to the customer or store goods prior to sale. Within the transportation sector, couriers and messengers and warehousing and storage experienced rapid employment growth over the period, by 72 percent and 90 percent respectively. The correlation broke down in 2017, as employment flattened in nonstore retailers, job growth continued in couriers and messengers and in warehousing and storage. (See chart 2.)

View Chart Data

 Chart 2. Employment in strong-growth industries, seasonally adjusted, January 2010–December 2019, January 2010=100
Year Total private Motor vehicle and parts dealers Nonstore retailers Couriers and messengers Warehousing and storage

Jan 2010

100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Feb 2010

99.9 99.9 100.6 101.4 100.0

Mar 2010

100.1 100.1 101.5 101.3 100.7

Apr 2010

100.2 100.5 102.1 101.6 101.0

May 2010

100.3 100.8 102.3 101.7 101.3

Jun 2010

100.4 100.7 102.8 102.0 101.9

Jul 2010

100.5 100.7 102.7 102.1 101.2

Aug 2010

100.7 101.1 102.7 102.2 101.4

Sep 2010

100.8 101.6 103.2 102.8 101.8

Oct 2010

101.0 102.0 103.2 102.8 102.1

Nov 2010

101.1 102.6 102.0 102.6 102.5

Dec 2010

101.2 102.9 102.4 106.6 102.7

Jan 2011

101.2 103.1 103.6 100.4 102.8

Feb 2011

101.4 103.4 103.6 102.6 103.1

Mar 2011

101.7 103.7 104.2 102.8 103.1

Apr 2011

102.0 104.3 104.4 103.1 103.5

May 2011

102.1 104.6 105.5 103.2 103.8

Jun 2011

102.3 104.7 105.1 103.1 104.4

Jul 2011

102.5 105.3 105.7 103.3 104.9

Aug 2011

102.6 105.5 106.3 103.4 105.3

Sep 2011

102.9 105.6 106.3 103.5 105.5

Oct 2011

103.0 106.0 106.6 103.5 105.7

Nov 2011

103.2 106.2 106.4 102.9 105.9

Dec 2011

103.4 106.4 106.0 101.1 106.3

Jan 2012

103.7 106.6 107.7 100.8 106.7

Feb 2012

104.0 107.1 107.9 102.7 107.4

Mar 2012

104.2 107.2 107.5 103.1 107.6

Apr 2012

104.3 107.2 107.6 103.0 108.5

May 2012

104.4 107.3 108.1 103.5 109.3

Jun 2012

104.5 107.5 108.8 104.0 109.8

Jul 2012

104.6 107.3 109.4 104.1 110.4

Aug 2012

104.8 107.8 109.4 104.4 110.7

Sep 2012

104.9 108.2 109.1 104.4 111.2

Oct 2012

105.1 108.8 108.9 103.6 111.8

Nov 2012

105.3 108.9 109.6 101.3 112.4

Dec 2012

105.5 109.0 110.2 104.6 113.6

Jan 2013

105.7 109.4 110.5 105.0 112.4

Feb 2013

105.9 109.7 111.1 104.4 112.4

Mar 2013

106.1 110.1 111.4 104.3 112.6

Apr 2013

106.2 110.3 111.8 104.2 112.7

May 2013

106.5 110.6 112.3 104.3 112.6

Jun 2013

106.6 110.9 113.2 104.3 113.1

Jul 2013

106.8 111.4 113.9 105.2 113.5

Aug 2013

107.0 111.8 114.3 106.0 114.0

Sep 2013

107.2 112.2 114.5 105.6 114.8

Oct 2013

107.4 112.4 115.7 106.1 115.1

Nov 2013

107.6 112.7 116.1 106.8 115.7

Dec 2013

107.7 113.1 116.9 106.7 116.3

Jan 2014

107.9 113.3 118.2 110.3 115.9

Feb 2014

108.0 113.7 118.8 108.0 116.3

Mar 2014

108.2 113.9 119.2 107.2 117.1

Apr 2014

108.5 114.6 120.8 108.1 117.7

May 2014

108.7 115.0 120.1 109.4 118.8

Jun 2014

109.0 115.7 121.1 110.8 119.8

Jul 2014

109.2 115.8 120.9 111.6 120.8

Aug 2014

109.4 116.3 120.7 112.0 121.6

Sep 2014

109.7 116.4 121.2 112.9 121.9

Oct 2014

109.9 116.7 121.5 113.6 122.2

Nov 2014

110.1 117.1 123.3 114.4 123.3

Dec 2014

110.4 117.4 121.9 118.3 123.6

Jan 2015

110.5 117.7 122.2 117.0 125.0

Feb 2015

110.8 118.2 122.6 117.0 126.8

Mar 2015

110.8 118.4 122.8 117.2 127.7

Apr 2015

111.1 118.6 123.4 116.2 128.7

May 2015

111.4 119.2 124.0 116.4 129.9

Jun 2015

111.5 119.4 124.4 117.5 131.8

Jul 2015

111.8 120.1 124.9 118.1 133.6

Aug 2015

111.9 120.1 125.5 118.3 134.6

Sep 2015

112.1 120.3 126.2 118.9 135.8

Oct 2015

112.3 120.8 127.1 118.7 137.4

Nov 2015

112.5 121.1 127.9 120.0 138.5

Dec 2015

112.8 121.6 128.6 124.4 140.2

Jan 2016

112.8 121.9 128.5 118.6 141.5

Feb 2016

113.0 122.0 128.4 120.8 142.6

Mar 2016

113.2 122.3 128.9 121.9 143.8

Apr 2016

113.4 122.4 129.2 122.7 145.4

May 2016

113.4 122.4 129.1 123.4 146.5

Jun 2016

113.7 122.6 130.2 124.1 147.5

Jul 2016

113.9 122.7 131.1 124.7 148.8

Aug 2016

114.1 122.9 131.5 125.5 149.8

Sep 2016

114.3 123.2 131.6 126.0 151.0

Oct 2016

114.4 123.3 133.1 126.0 152.0

Nov 2016

114.6 123.6 134.0 127.2 153.3

Dec 2016

114.8 123.7 134.9 132.0 154.8

Jan 2017

114.9 124.1 135.6 125.9 155.8

Feb 2017

115.1 124.2 136.3 128.1 156.3

Mar 2017

115.2 124.1 136.6 127.8 157.1

Apr 2017

115.4 124.2 136.7 128.7 158.8

May 2017

115.5 124.2 136.9 129.9 160.1

Jun 2017

115.7 124.2 136.9 130.6 162.1

Jul 2017

115.9 124.4 136.5 130.8 163.2

Aug 2017

116.1 124.3 135.9 132.0 165.1

Sep 2017

116.1 124.2 136.2 132.7 166.4

Oct 2017

116.3 124.5 136.2 134.0 168.7

Nov 2017

116.5 124.7 135.9 133.0 171.4

Dec 2017

116.7 124.7 135.9 135.2 172.7

Jan 2018

116.8 124.8 136.2 133.6 174.1

Feb 2018

117.1 124.9 136.4 135.5 176.0

Mar 2018

117.3 124.9 136.8 137.4 178.0

Apr 2018

117.4 124.8 137.3 139.8 178.6

May 2018

117.7 124.7 136.5 141.3 180.1

Jun 2018

117.8 124.9 136.6 142.4 180.6

Jul 2018

118.0 125.0 137.0 144.2 180.7

Aug 2018

118.2 125.0 137.1 145.6 182.1

Sep 2018

118.2 125.0 137.3 147.4 183.7

Oct 2018

118.4 125.2 137.0 149.8 185.7

Nov 2018

118.5 125.0 136.9 151.0 186.2

Dec 2018

118.7 125.3 136.4 149.2 185.4

Jan 2019

118.9 125.2 136.5 154.5 187.2

Feb 2019

118.9 125.3 137.1 153.1 187.8

Mar 2019

119.1 125.4 136.6 153.9 188.0

Apr 2019

119.2 125.8 136.5 154.3 188.4

May 2019

119.3 125.9 136.3 155.0 188.5

Jun 2019

119.5 125.9 135.9 156.5 188.7

Jul 2019

119.6 126.0 135.4 158.0 189.2

Aug 2019

119.8 126.4 135.1 159.0 189.2

Sep 2019

120.0 126.7 134.1 159.7 189.6

Oct 2019

120.1 126.8 134.0 160.5 189.4

Nov 2019

120.4 127.4 133.8 163.6 189.5

Dec 2019

120.5 127.6 132.6 163.8 189.4

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey.

Medium-growth industries

From 2010 and 2019, building material and garden supply stores; food and beverage stores; and gasoline stations experienced moderate employment gains. Employment growth was relatively stronger in gasoline stations (16 percent), and in building materials and garden supply stores (15 percent). (See chart 3.)

View Chart Data

Chart 3. Employment in moderate-growth industries, seasonally adjusted, January 2010–December 2019, January 2010=100
Year Total private Building materials and garden supply stores Food and beverage stores Gasoline stations

Jan 2010

100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Feb 2010

99.9 100.3 99.6 99.9

Mar 2010

100.1 100.7 99.6 99.8

Apr 2010

100.2 100.4 99.7 100.0

May 2010

100.3 100.2 99.6 100.0

Jun 2010

100.4 99.2 99.5 99.9

Jul 2010

100.5 99.0 99.5 100.4

Aug 2010

100.7 99.1 99.6 100.1

Sep 2010

100.8 99.1 99.6 100.4

Oct 2010

101.0 99.1 99.6 100.3

Nov 2010

101.1 98.9 99.6 100.3

Dec 2010

101.2 99.4 99.6 100.4

Jan 2011

101.2 99.7 99.7 100.7

Feb 2011

101.4 99.6 99.7 100.6

Mar 2011

101.7 100.5 99.8 100.9

Apr 2011

102.0 101.5 100.2 101.1

May 2011

102.1 100.7 100.0 101.4

Jun 2011

102.3 100.8 100.2 101.7

Jul 2011

102.5 100.6 100.2 101.9

Aug 2011

102.6 100.9 100.2 101.9

Sep 2011

102.9 100.9 100.3 101.6

Oct 2011

103.0 101.2 100.4 102.1

Nov 2011

103.2 101.5 100.3 102.4

Dec 2011

103.4 101.6 100.5 102.4

Jan 2012

103.7 101.9 100.7 102.5

Feb 2012

104.0 102.2 100.7 102.5

Mar 2012

104.2 103.4 101.0 102.7

Apr 2012

104.3 103.9 101.0 103.0

May 2012

104.4 103.3 101.3 103.0

Jun 2012

104.5 103.2 101.3 103.0

Jul 2012

104.6 103.5 101.4 103.0

Aug 2012

104.8 103.1 101.6 103.1

Sep 2012

104.9 103.3 101.8 103.4

Oct 2012

105.1 103.4 101.9 103.4

Nov 2012

105.3 103.7 102.5 103.8

Dec 2012

105.5 104.2 102.6 104.2

Jan 2013

105.7 104.4 102.8 104.2

Feb 2013

105.9 105.0 103.0 104.8

Mar 2013

106.1 104.8 103.0 104.9

Apr 2013

106.2 105.1 103.2 105.2

May 2013

106.5 105.3 103.5 105.4

Jun 2013

106.6 106.0 103.6 105.8

Jul 2013

106.8 106.4 103.8 106.6

Aug 2013

107.0 106.8 104.4 106.4

Sep 2013

107.2 107.2 104.6 106.8

Oct 2013

107.4 107.7 104.9 107.3

Nov 2013

107.6 107.9 105.0 107.0

Dec 2013

107.7 107.8 105.4 106.9

Jan 2014

107.9 107.7 105.2 107.0

Feb 2014

108.0 107.6 105.4 106.8

Mar 2014

108.2 106.6 105.6 107.1

Apr 2014

108.5 107.7 106.2 107.2

May 2014

108.7 108.1 106.2 107.5

Jun 2014

109.0 108.5 106.4 107.6

Jul 2014

109.2 108.7 106.8 107.8

Aug 2014

109.4 108.6 106.3 108.1

Sep 2014

109.7 108.5 107.2 108.2

Oct 2014

109.9 108.4 107.6 108.5

Nov 2014

110.1 108.4 107.8 109.0

Dec 2014

110.4 108.1 108.1 108.8

Jan 2015

110.5 108.3 108.4 109.2

Feb 2015

110.8 108.4 108.4 109.5

Mar 2015

110.8 107.5 108.4 109.7

Apr 2015

111.1 108.3 108.5 110.1

May 2015

111.4 108.6 108.6 110.2

Jun 2015

111.5 108.4 108.9 110.8

Jul 2015

111.8 108.4 108.9 110.8

Aug 2015

111.9 108.4 108.9 111.1

Sep 2015

112.1 108.7 109.0 111.1

Oct 2015

112.3 109.0 108.7 111.5

Nov 2015

112.5 109.3 108.5 111.6

Dec 2015

112.8 109.8 108.3 112.0

Jan 2016

112.8 110.1 108.4 112.1

Feb 2016

113.0 110.5 109.2 112.4

Mar 2016

113.2 111.1 109.3 112.5

Apr 2016

113.4 111.5 109.4 112.6

May 2016

113.4 111.6 109.5 112.6

Jun 2016

113.7 111.8 109.9 112.4

Jul 2016

113.9 111.6 109.9 112.9

Aug 2016

114.1 112.3 110.0 112.6

Sep 2016

114.3 111.7 110.1 113.4

Oct 2016

114.4 111.5 110.0 113.6

Nov 2016

114.6 111.6 109.9 112.9

Dec 2016

114.8 111.7 109.8 113.4

Jan 2017

114.9 111.5 109.8 113.5

Feb 2017

115.1 111.1 109.8 113.6

Mar 2017

115.2 111.2 109.8 113.7

Apr 2017

115.4 111.3 109.5 113.6

May 2017

115.5 111.2 109.4 113.7

Jun 2017

115.7 111.4 109.4 113.7

Jul 2017

115.9 112.0 109.3 113.6

Aug 2017

116.1 112.1 109.3 113.6

Sep 2017

116.1 112.8 109.1 113.5

Oct 2017

116.3 113.4 109.1 113.6

Nov 2017

116.5 113.8 109.4 113.9

Dec 2017

116.7 114.0 109.4 113.5

Jan 2018

116.8 114.4 109.3 113.8

Feb 2018

117.1 115.2 109.3 113.8

Mar 2018

117.3 115.6 109.2 113.9

Apr 2018

117.4 115.2 109.2 113.9

May 2018

117.7 115.3 109.2 113.9

Jun 2018

117.8 115.0 108.7 113.8

Jul 2018

118.0 114.8 108.9 113.8

Aug 2018

118.2 114.1 108.9 113.8

Sep 2018

118.2 113.7 108.7 114.0

Oct 2018

118.4 113.4 108.7 113.7

Nov 2018

118.5 113.4 108.8 114.2

Dec 2018

118.7 113.4 109.0 114.5

Jan 2019

118.9 113.4 108.9 115.0

Feb 2019

118.9 113.5 109.0 115.0

Mar 2019

119.1 113.4 108.9 114.6

Apr 2019

119.2 113.2 109.0 114.6

May 2019

119.3 113.2 108.9 115.0

Jun 2019

119.5 113.5 108.9 115.4

Jul 2019

119.6 113.7 109.1 115.8

Aug 2019

119.8 114.4 109.0 115.9

Sep 2019

120.0 114.8 109.4 116.1

Oct 2019

120.1 115.0 109.7 116.4

Nov 2019

120.4 114.5 109.7 116.3

Dec 2019

120.5 114.8 109.6 116.3

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey.

Employment in food and beverage stores showed the weakest job growth among the medium-growth retail industries, however, it represented the greatest share of industry employment in retail trade at the end of 2019. Food and beverage stores steadily added jobs through 2016, and then employment plateaued through 2019. Since December 2009, the industry added 286,000 jobs. (See table 1.)

Slow-growth industries

General merchandise stores, which sell a wide array of products; furniture and home furnishing stores; health and personal care stores; and miscellaneous store retailers (such as florists, office supply, and pet stores) exhibited sluggish employment growth between 2010 and 2019. Employment growth ranged from 5 percent in general merchandise stores to 7 percent in the other slow-growth retail industries. (See chart 4.) In December 2009, employment in general merchandise stores, at 2.9 million, represented one-fifth of retail trade employment. General merchandise added 138,000 jobs over the 2010–19 period. Employment in other slow-growth industries rose until 2016, and then leveled off through 2019.

View Chart Data

Chart 4. Employment in slow-growth industries, seasonally adjusted, January 2010–December 2019, January 2010=100
Year Health and personal care stores Furniture and home furnishing stores General merchandise stores Miscellaneous store retailers

Jan 2010

100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Feb 2010

99.6 100.2 100.2 99.8

Mar 2010

99.5 100.2 101.4 99.7

Apr 2010

99.5 99.8 100.5 99.5

May 2010

99.7 100.0 101.1 99.0

Jun 2010

99.7 100.2 101.7 98.9

Jul 2010

99.4 99.5 102.2 99.0

Aug 2010

99.3 99.5 102.5 98.4

Sep 2010

99.2 100.0 102.7 98.3

Oct 2010

99.3 100.5 102.9 98.6

Nov 2010

99.3 100.1 102.3 98.7

Dec 2010

99.1 100.5 102.1 99.0

Jan 2011

99.0 100.1 103.1 99.4

Feb 2011

99.0 100.2 103.7 99.5

Mar 2011

98.9 100.4 103.8 100.2

Apr 2011

99.2 100.5 104.2 100.2

May 2011

99.5 100.2 104.1 100.1

Jun 2011

99.4 100.1 104.7 100.6

Jul 2011

99.8 100.3 105.1 102.2

Aug 2011

99.9 100.0 105.0 100.7

Sep 2011

100.1 100.2 105.1 101.2

Oct 2011

99.9 100.6 105.3 100.9

Nov 2011

100.1 100.4 105.5 100.5

Dec 2011

100.1 100.1 105.4 101.2

Jan 2012

100.4 100.3 106.9 101.9

Feb 2012

100.8 99.9 105.0 102.4

Mar 2012

101.1 100.2 104.7 102.6

Apr 2012

100.9 99.8 104.7 102.9

May 2012

100.8 100.1 104.3 103.3

Jun 2012

100.8 99.9 103.5 103.1

Jul 2012

101.1 99.7 103.3 102.9

Aug 2012

101.3 99.9 103.0 103.7

Sep 2012

101.4 99.8 103.0 104.6

Oct 2012

102.2 100.1 103.0 104.5

Nov 2012

102.3 100.6 103.0 104.4

Dec 2012

102.1 101.0 102.8 104.2

Jan 2013

102.1 100.8 102.5 103.9

Feb 2013

102.2 101.1 102.6 104.1

Mar 2013

102.5 101.1 102.9 103.7

Apr 2013

103.2 101.7 103.1 104.2

May 2013

102.7 101.8 103.4 104.4

Jun 2013

102.4 101.5 103.7 105.5

Jul 2013

102.8 101.7 103.9 105.2

Aug 2013

103.3 100.5 104.0 105.1

Sep 2013

104.1 101.1 104.2 104.7

Oct 2013

103.9 101.7 104.3 104.8

Nov 2013

103.6 102.3 104.5 104.5

Dec 2013

104.0 103.4 104.8 104.3

Jan 2014

103.5 102.9 105.0 105.1

Feb 2014

102.4 102.6 105.1 105.8

Mar 2014

103.1 102.7 104.9 106.0

Apr 2014

103.1 103.0 104.9 106.2

May 2014

103.4 102.9 105.1 106.6

Jun 2014

103.5 103.1 105.2 106.2

Jul 2014

103.8 103.5 105.3 106.3

Aug 2014

103.9 104.7 105.3 106.9

Sep 2014

104.2 105.5 105.2 107.2

Oct 2014

104.5 106.5 105.3 108.1

Nov 2014

104.7 105.9 105.3 107.2

Dec 2014

104.4 105.4 105.5 107.1

Jan 2015

104.5 105.8 105.6 107.2

Feb 2015

104.9 106.5 105.7 107.1

Mar 2015

104.8 106.4 106.2 107.1

Apr 2015

104.8 106.7 106.3 107.1

May 2015

104.8 106.9 106.4 107.4

Jun 2015

105.1 107.1 106.4 107.3

Jul 2015

105.2 107.2 106.4 107.6

Aug 2015

105.1 107.1 106.3 107.6

Sep 2015

105.1 107.0 106.3 107.6

Oct 2015

104.7 106.6 106.2 107.3

Nov 2015

104.6 106.3 106.3 108.6

Dec 2015

104.7 105.8 106.3 109.9

Jan 2016

104.9 106.6 106.6 108.7

Feb 2016

105.4 106.9 107.2 107.9

Mar 2016

105.9 107.1 108.0 107.8

Apr 2016

106.6 107.2 107.7 108.1

May 2016

106.6 107.6 107.6 108.1

Jun 2016

107.2 108.2 107.7 108.4

Jul 2016

107.3 108.4 107.6 108.4

Aug 2016

107.5 108.8 107.7 108.7

Sep 2016

107.5 108.2 107.7 108.4

Oct 2016

107.7 107.8 107.8 109.2

Nov 2016

107.9 107.2 107.5 108.5

Dec 2016

108.3 107.7 107.4 108.3

Jan 2017

108.8 108.7 107.4 108.0

Feb 2017

108.9 109.0 106.5 108.2

Mar 2017

108.6 108.4 105.9 108.1

Apr 2017

108.4 108.4 105.9 108.1

May 2017

108.8 108.3 105.5 108.0

Jun 2017

108.1 108.1 106.0 108.1

Jul 2017

108.0 108.1 106.1 107.8

Aug 2017

107.8 108.4 106.2 108.0

Sep 2017

107.7 108.4 106.0 108.8

Oct 2017

107.6 108.7 105.6 107.5

Nov 2017

107.9 109.2 105.2 106.8

Dec 2017

108.0 109.5 104.6 107.4

Jan 2018

107.8 109.0 104.7 107.8

Feb 2018

107.6 109.2 105.1 107.9

Mar 2018

108.0 109.2 105.0 108.6

Apr 2018

107.8 109.1 105.1 108.7

May 2018

107.8 108.9 105.1 108.4

Jun 2018

107.9 108.8 104.4 108.5

Jul 2018

107.5 108.5 104.8 108.8

Aug 2018

107.9 108.2 105.7 108.9

Sep 2018

108.1 108.3 104.7 108.6

Oct 2018

107.9 108.8 104.3 108.0

Nov 2018

108.1 108.4 105.6 109.5

Dec 2018

108.1 108.6 104.4 110.1

Jan 2019

108.0 108.6 104.0 109.5

Feb 2019

106.9 108.0 103.3 109.3

Mar 2019

106.3 108.3 102.9 109.3

Apr 2019

106.7 108.1 102.6 109.1

May 2019

106.5 108.0 102.8 109.3

Jun 2019

106.4 107.8 102.7 109.0

Jul 2019

106.5 107.6 102.6 108.9

Aug 2019

106.6 107.4 102.4 108.2

Sep 2019

106.2 107.4 102.6 108.1

Oct 2019

107.4 106.8 102.7 107.8

Nov 2019

106.8 106.7 103.6 107.6

Dec 2019

107.1 107.3 103.8 107.0

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey.

Contracting industries

Electronics and appliance stores; clothing and clothing accessories stores; and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores made up the group of retail industries that lost jobs between 2010 and 2019. Employment in clothing and clothing accessories stores shrank by 3 percent over the period, while employment in each of the other contracting industries declined by 6 percent. (See chart 5.)

Electronics and appliance stores experienced cyclical employment trends over the 10-year span, however the industry had employment declines over the last 4 years, resulting in a net loss of 29,000 jobs from December 2009 to December 2019. Employment in sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores also showed cyclical changes, but lost 37,000 jobs through 2019, with more job losses occurring between 2018 and 2019.  (See table 1.)

Table 1. Employment in selected industries, seasonally adjusted, December 2010 and 2019, in thousands
Industry December 2009 Dcember 2019 Change Percent change

Total private

107,306 129,319 22,013 21

Retail trade

14,335 15,672 1,337 9

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

1,617 2,057 440 27

Furniture and home furnishings stores

439 470 32 7

Electronics and appliance stores

508 480 -29 -6

Building material and garden supply stores

1,138 1,306 168 15

Food and beverage stores

2,802 3,088 286 10

Health and personal care stores

983 1,056 73 7

Gasoline stations

819 952 133 16

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

1,333 1,287 -46 -3

Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores

580 543 -37 -6

General merchandise stores

2,923 3,061 138 5

Miscellaneous store retailers

767 822 54 7

Nonstore retailers

427 552 125 29

Selected transportation and warehousing industries

Couriers and messengers

493 846 353 72

Warehousing and storage

629 1,192 563 90

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores had a net job loss of 46,000 jobs between 2010 and 2019; and was less cyclical, compared with the other contracting industries. Clothing and clothing accessories stores showed little net change from 2010–16. Beginning in 2017, employment in this industry fell through 2019.

View Chart Data

Chart 5. Employment in contracting industries, seasonally adjusted, January 2010–December 2019, January 2010=100
Year Electronics and appliance stores Clothing and clothing accessories stores Sporting good, hobby, book, and music stores

Jan 2010

100.0 100.0 100.0

Feb 2010

99.4 100.2 100.8

Mar 2010

99.9 100.8 99.6

Apr 2010

99.6 101.1 99.6

May 2010

99.9 100.6 99.1

Jun 2010

99.9 100.5 99.1

Jul 2010

100.1 100.1 98.7

Aug 2010

101.3 99.6 98.4

Sep 2010

102.3 99.5 99.0

Oct 2010

102.9 100.1 99.2

Nov 2010

103.0 99.2 99.7

Dec 2010

102.2 97.9 100.0

Jan 2011

102.0 99.4 99.5

Feb 2011

101.8 99.2 100.1

Mar 2011

102.2 99.1 99.7

Apr 2011

103.0 99.7 99.3

May 2011

103.1 99.9 99.1

Jun 2011

103.5 100.3 99.4

Jul 2011

103.5 100.1 100.4

Aug 2011

102.3 100.7 100.1

Sep 2011

101.0 101.8 100.4

Oct 2011

100.2 101.8 98.8

Nov 2011

100.2 101.7 98.0

Dec 2011

99.7 101.7 95.8

Jan 2012

99.4 101.3 96.1

Feb 2012

99.8 101.7 97.7

Mar 2012

99.4 102.0 99.2

Apr 2012

99.6 101.7 100.2

May 2012

98.6 101.9 101.1

Jun 2012

98.3 101.7 102.0

Jul 2012

98.1 101.5 101.5

Aug 2012

97.1 101.5 101.6

Sep 2012

96.5 103.0 101.1

Oct 2012

95.1 103.6 100.2

Nov 2012

97.9 106.0 100.1

Dec 2012

96.5 104.2 98.1

Jan 2013

98.1 103.9 101.1

Feb 2013

96.2 103.4 101.3

Mar 2013

94.6 102.6 101.2

Apr 2013

94.4 101.3 101.3

May 2013

94.7 101.8 101.7

Jun 2013

94.5 102.3 102.6

Jul 2013

94.6 102.3 103.4

Aug 2013

95.4 102.5 103.9

Sep 2013

96.0 102.0 104.5

Oct 2013

97.5 101.2 105.6

Nov 2013

98.0 100.9 106.3

Dec 2013

97.4 104.0 106.3

Jan 2014

97.6 102.1 104.9

Feb 2014

95.0 101.6 103.9

Mar 2014

94.5 101.3 104.9

Apr 2014

93.3 102.0 105.3

May 2014

93.4 101.7 105.6

Jun 2014

94.7 101.1 105.6

Jul 2014

95.2 101.0 105.2

Aug 2014

96.0 101.1 105.4

Sep 2014

97.1 100.0 106.9

Oct 2014

97.8 99.9 108.9

Nov 2014

98.3 101.2 108.5

Dec 2014

99.0 101.2 108.4

Jan 2015

99.5 99.8 108.7

Feb 2015

99.7 99.5 108.0

Mar 2015

100.0 99.6 107.9

Apr 2015

100.0 99.1 107.8

May 2015

100.4 99.7 107.1

Jun 2015

100.8 99.9 106.6

Jul 2015

101.1 99.9 107.0

Aug 2015

101.2 100.2 106.0

Sep 2015

102.1 99.3 106.2

Oct 2015

102.3 101.5 106.2

Nov 2015

102.3 101.1 107.4

Dec 2015

102.2 100.1 107.2

Jan 2016

102.6 100.1 108.2

Feb 2016

102.7 100.2 108.0

Mar 2016

101.8 99.8 108.0

Apr 2016

101.5 99.7 106.9

May 2016

101.2 99.7 106.8

Jun 2016

101.3 99.7 106.4

Jul 2016

101.2 100.4 106.3

Aug 2016

100.7 100.4 106.2

Sep 2016

100.3 101.1 105.6

Oct 2016

98.8 101.0 105.2

Nov 2016

98.7 100.1 105.7

Dec 2016

98.4 101.6 105.5

Jan 2017

99.7 102.8 104.1

Feb 2017

98.5 102.2 103.6

Mar 2017

99.1 102.3 103.1

Apr 2017

98.5 102.5 103.1

May 2017

97.8 101.9 103.0

Jun 2017

97.0 101.7 103.2

Jul 2017

96.5 100.9 103.5

Aug 2017

96.6 100.6 103.5

Sep 2017

95.7 100.3 103.6

Oct 2017

95.4 100.5 104.3

Nov 2017

95.2 99.6 106.6

Dec 2017

95.1 100.0 105.7

Jan 2018

95.2 100.1 100.6

Feb 2018

94.8 100.7 101.3

Mar 2018

95.3 100.8 101.4

Apr 2018

95.6 100.5 102.2

May 2018

95.7 101.0 102.9

Jun 2018

95.4 100.9 102.5

Jul 2018

95.9 101.2 96.6

Aug 2018

95.9 99.8 96.3

Sep 2018

94.8 99.7 96.1

Oct 2018

93.4 98.9 95.3

Nov 2018

92.0 98.9 92.9

Dec 2018

92.6 98.3 92.3

Jan 2019

92.1 98.3 94.2

Feb 2019

92.5 98.1 94.5

Mar 2019

92.4 97.6 95.2

Apr 2019

92.4 97.1 94.6

May 2019

92.2 96.1 94.0

Jun 2019

92.1 95.8 94.3

Jul 2019

91.3 95.6 94.5

Aug 2019

91.0 95.4 95.4

Sep 2019

91.2 94.6 95.2

Oct 2019

92.4 94.2 94.5

Nov 2019

92.8 92.1 93.0

Dec 2019

92.6 94.9 93.2

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey.

From 2017 to 2019, more than 23,000 U.S. retail store closures were announced.3 In 2019, announced store closures peaked at 9,832, representing an increase of 68 percent from 2018. (See table 2.) In fact, the majority of these announcements were made by retailers in the negative- and slow-growth industries.

Table 2. Announced U.S. retail store closures, 2017–19
Year Closures announced

2017

8,000

2018

5,844

2019

9,832

Source: Coresight Research.

Parallels of retail trade and retail sales

The retail trade industry is consumption driven and, in principle, when consumer demand or retail sales increase, employers are likely to hire more workforce to accommodate increased demand. From 2010 to 2019, retail sales and employment in retail trade rose by 49 percent and 9 percent, respectively. The correlation between the two variables was strong.4 That is, as retail sales increased, employment increased, and when retail sales decreased, employment decreased as well. The correlation broke down in 2017 when retail sales continued to trend up, while employment started to trend down. (See chart 6.) Trends in e-commerce provide some insight on this divergence. E-commerce sales increased substantially as a share of total retail sales, from 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2010 to 11.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019.5

View Chart Data

Chart 6. Employment in retail trade and advanced monthly retail sales, seasonally adjusted, January 2010–December 2019
Date Advanced monthly retail sales, in millions Retail trade employment, in thousands

Jan 2010

308,529 14,401

Feb 2010

308,520 14,397

Mar 2010

316,269 14,447

Apr 2010

318,612 14,427

May 2010

315,356 14,439

Jun 2010

315,250 14,442

Jul 2010

315,546 14,449

Aug 2010

317,345 14,454

Sep 2010

319,914 14,478

Oct 2010

324,043 14,511

Nov 2010

327,635 14,486

Dec 2010

329,741 14,474

Jan 2011

332,140 14,537

Feb 2011

334,674 14,558

Mar 2011

337,935 14,589

Apr 2011

340,149 14,646

May 2011

339,232 14,646

Jun 2011

341,657 14,682

Jul 2011

341,274 14,725

Aug 2011

342,228 14,719

Sep 2011

345,696 14,744

Oct 2011

347,717 14,750

Nov 2011

349,352 14,755

Dec 2011

349,973 14,747

Jan 2012

352,610 14,817

Feb 2012

357,233 14,795

Mar 2012

358,862 14,826

Apr 2012

356,550 14,838

May 2012

356,050 14,834

Jun 2012

352,556 14,818

Jul 2012

353,782 14,812

Aug 2012

358,397 14,817

Sep 2012

361,281 14,854

Oct 2012

362,129 14,869

Nov 2012

363,013 14,945

Dec 2012

364,299 14,914

Jan 2013

367,100 14,936

Feb 2013

372,389 14,951

Mar 2013

369,175 14,949

Apr 2013

367,557 14,968

May 2013

369,337 15,002

Jun 2013

370,962 15,049

Jul 2013

373,426 15,090

Aug 2013

372,414 15,130

Sep 2013

372,091 15,163

Oct 2013

373,352 15,196

Nov 2013

373,819 15,212

Dec 2013

376,575 15,288

Jan 2014

372,607 15,263

Feb 2014

378,256 15,244

Mar 2014

382,077 15,248

Apr 2014

386,506 15,303

May 2014

386,815 15,323

Jun 2014

387,726 15,352

Jul 2014

388,072 15,375

Aug 2014

391,304 15,386

Sep 2014

389,778 15,419

Oct 2014

390,348 15,470

Nov 2014

391,679 15,503

Dec 2014

388,421 15,511

Jan 2015

385,466 15,520

Feb 2015

384,793 15,535

Mar 2015

390,948 15,548

Apr 2015

390,986 15,567

May 2015

394,518 15,596

Jun 2015

395,115 15,619

Jul 2015

397,720 15,639

Aug 2015

397,585 15,638

Sep 2015

396,353 15,643

Oct 2015

394,715 15,675

Nov 2015

396,257 15,695

Dec 2015

397,123 15,699

Jan 2016

395,210 15,725

Feb 2016

398,293 15,772

Mar 2016

397,196 15,810

Apr 2016

398,813 15,814

May 2016

400,435 15,813

Jun 2016

404,859 15,844

Jul 2016

404,315 15,859

Aug 2016

404,345 15,877

Sep 2016

406,628 15,885

Oct 2016

407,991 15,888

Nov 2016

406,761 15,862

Dec 2016

412,753 15,892

Jan 2017

416,600 15,920

Feb 2017

416,224 15,880

Mar 2017

415,464 15,862

Apr 2017

418,010 15,854

May 2017

415,879 15,825

Jun 2017

417,639 15,831

Jul 2017

417,908 15,823

Aug 2017

418,181 15,823

Sep 2017

428,218 15,815

Oct 2017

428,529 15,811

Nov 2017

431,841 15,816

Dec 2017

433,877 15,802

Jan 2018

433,198 15,786

Feb 2018

435,033 15,821

Mar 2018

434,510 15,833

Apr 2018

436,423 15,832

May 2018

441,536 15,836

Jun 2018

439,651 15,798

Jul 2018

441,541 15,785

Aug 2018

440,241 15,788

Sep 2018

441,029 15,742

Oct 2018

446,238 15,703

Nov 2018

446,894 15,730

Dec 2018

435,953 15,704

Jan 2019

443,420 15,697

Feb 2019

442,467 15,667

Mar 2019

449,925 15,643

Apr 2019

452,220 15,631

May 2019

453,522 15,619

Jun 2019

454,847 15,613

Jul 2019

457,485 15,614

Aug 2019

459,938 15,614

Sep 2019

457,277 15,623

Oct 2019

459,978 15,645

Nov 2019

460,760 15,631

Dec 2019

460,512 15,672

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey, and U.S. Census Bureau.

Interplay of e-commerce sales and employment in retail trade

The shopping habits of U.S. consumers have changed over time, as the share of e-commerce sales have permeated most retail trade industries. The relentless growth of e-commerce sales affects individual retail trade industries differently, and, therefore, affects employment trends by industry differently.

Quarterly e-commerce sales and retail trade employment rose from the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2017—when employment peaked. Thereafter, employment trended down through 2019, while e-commerce sales continued to gain shares of total retail sales. (See chart 7.) The diversion of the two series coincided with a period in which thousands of brick-and-mortar retailers closed some or almost all of their locations.

View Chart Data

Chart 7. Quarterly average retail trade employment and quarterly e-commerce sales, seasonally adjusted, 2010–19
Period Quarterly average employment Quarterly e-commerce sales

Q1 2010

14,415 39,289

Q2 2010

14,436 41,303

Q3 2010

14,461 43,474

Q4 2010

14,490 45,075

Q1 2011

14,562 47,020

Q2 2011

14,658 48,815

Q3 2011

14,730 50,140

Q4 2011

14,750 53,123

Q1 2012

14,813 55,144

Q2 2012

14,830 56,363

Q3 2012

14,828 58,449

Q4 2012

14,909 60,815

Q1 2013

14,946 62,458

Q2 2013

15,006 64,383

Q3 2013

15,127 66,457

Q4 2013

15,232 69,005

Q1 2014

15,252 71,108

Q2 2014

15,326 74,290

Q3 2014

15,393 76,943

Q4 2014

15,494 79,024

Q1 2015

15,534 81,837

Q2 2015

15,594 84,704

Q3 2015

15,640 87,754

Q4 2015

15,690 90,687

Q1 2016

15,769 94,057

Q2 2016

15,823 97,459

Q3 2016

15,874 100,519

Q4 2016

15,881 103,952

Q1 2017

15,888 108,157

Q2 2017

15,837 112,644

Q3 2017

15,820 115,419

Q4 2017

15,810 121,019

Q1 2018

15,813 124,936

Q2 2018

15,822 128,616

Q3 2018

15,772 130,625

Q4 2018

15,712 134,291

Q1 2019

15,669 139,713

Q2 2019

15,621 146,348

Q3 2019

15,617 153,274

Q4 2019

15,649 156,581

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistic survey and U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2018, e-commerce sales (part of the strong-growth industry group) were particularly notable as they represented 65 percent of total nonstore retail sales. This is an unsurprising result, as electronic shopping and mail-order houses accounted for 68 percent of jobs in the nonstore retail industry in 2019. Also, e-commerce sales accounted for 3 percent of 2018 sales of motor vehicle and parts dealers, due in part to e-sales occurring within automotive manufacturers, dealerships, and other digital car sellers.6 E-commerce sales made up 2 percent to 4 percent of all sales in the contracting industries. (See table 3.)

Table 3. Annual estimated retail trade sales in select industries, seasonnally adjusted, in millions of dollars, 2018
Industry 2018 E-commerce as percent of total
Total E-commerce

Total retail trade

5,269,468 519,635 9.9

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

1,191,321 35,348 3.0

Furniture and home furnishings stores

116,895 1,533 1.3

Electronics and appliance stores

100,205 2,056 2.1

Building material and garden supply stores

381,313 2,795 0.7

Food and beverage stores

745,736 4,837 0.6

Health and personal care stores

347,454 744 0.2

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

268,163 10,981 4.1

Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores

81,179 2,617 3.2

Nonstore retailers

696,849 453,584 65.1

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Summary

Differences in employment growth by the retail industry over the 2010–19 period reflect a changing retail paradigm. As retail sales shift from traditional storefronts to e-commerce, employment grew in the strong-growth and medium-growth industries—motor vehicle and parts dealers; nonstore retailers; building material and garden supply stores; food and beverage stores; and gasoline stations. However, sluggish growth and protracted employment declines occurred in the slow-growth and contracting industries, respectively.

This Beyond the Numbers article was prepared by Osman Alhassan, economist, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Telephone: (202) 691-5286. Email: Alhassan.Osman@bls.gov.

Information in this article will be made available upon request to individuals with sensory impairments. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200. Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339. This article is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.

Notes

1 For more information on the North American Classification System, see https://www.bls.gov/bls/naics.htm.

2 For more information on total vehicle sales, see https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TOTALSA.

3 Hayley Peterson, “More than 9,300 stores are closing in 2019 as the retail apocalypse drags on—here's the full list,” Business Insider, December 23, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/stores-closing-in-2019-list-2019-3.

4 Pearson correlation coefficient (0.89) is used to measure the association between employment and retail sales.

5 For more information on monthly retail trade data, see https://www.census.gov/retail/index.html.

6 Mark Brohan, “How ecommerce will change automotive retail,” Digital Commerce 360, November 19, 2019, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2019/11/19/how-ecommerce-will-change-automotive-retail/.

 

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Publish Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Suggested citation:

Osman Alhassan,   “Employment trends in retail trade, 2010–19,” Beyond the Numbers, vol. 10, no. 2 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan 2021), https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-10/employment-trends-in-retail-trade-2010-19.htm (visited October 18, 2021).

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