March 21, 2006
Within retail trade, food and beverage stores and general merchandise stores together accounted for more than 1 in 3 jobs. Employment trends in these two industries can have profound effects on the industry as a whole.
Employment in food and beverage stores has declined steadily since reaching a peak in April 2000, falling by 164,600, or more than 5 percent.
By contrast, employment in general merchandise stores has expanded. From an employment trough in October 2002 to May 2005, the general merchandise industry added 78,700 workers, nearly a 3-percent increase. Notably, the industry has fully recovered the jobs lost during its previous employment downturn (December 2000 to October 2002) and employment is currently expanding.
Since the implementation of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), general merchandise stores are broken down into two main categories: department stores and other general merchandise stores. The category of other general merchandise stores contains the warehouse clubs and supercenters industry.
Much of the reason for the turnaround in the general merchandise industry is the emergence of the warehouse clubs and supercenters industry—this relatively new industry has experienced robust growth in recent years.
These data are from the BLS Current Employment Statistics program. For additional information, see "From supermarkets to supercenters: employment shifts to the one-stop shop," by Michael H. Strople, Monthly Labor Review, February 2006.