The National Retail Federation claims the government doesn’t give the full picture on the U.S. retail job market. And WWD has learned that the association is in talks with the Bureau of Labor Statistics urging the government agency to rethink how retail jobs are counted, to take a more comprehensive approach, and to team up with the NRF on the effort.
Government statistics indicate a loss of about 172,500 jobs in the sector in the first half of this year, with department stores losing about 37,000 jobs and apparel and accessory chains shedding about 10,400 jobs.
But the NRF has its own set of statistics indicating that retail jobs in the U.S. are growing in number, and that since 2010, there was an increase of 1.5 million retail jobs. According to the NRF, there are over 1 million retail establishments across the U.S. and retail sales have been growing at almost 4 percent annually since 2010.
“Government data surrounding retail can be very misleading,” the association said Monday. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics, specifically in retail trade, does not account for all the jobs at retail companies, especially all of the e-commerce-specific roles which typically fall into software developers, delivery, warehousing, storage, designers, accountants, marketing, advertising, communications, among others. At the end of the day, a job in e-commerce such as Amazon’s warehouses is still a job within the retail industry.”
According to the NRF, the government basically just counts workers inside stores, and not at corporate headquarters or at e-commerce facilities, warehouses and other behind-the-scenes areas.
Meanwhile, the job controversy comes on the eve of Amazon’s big job day. On Wednesday, 10 Amazon fulfillment centers from 8 a.m. to noon local time will stage the company’s first “Jobs Day” with job offers — thousands of them — both full and part-time, as well as tours and information sessions.
Amazon is inviting job candidates to the centers to learn about working at the company and its technology. The company said it plans to make thousands of “on-the-spot” job offers to qualified candidates.
“We’re excited to be creating great jobs that offer highly competitive wages, benefits starting on Day One and the chance for employees to go back to school through our ‘career choice’ program,” said John Olsen, vice president of Amazon’s worldwide operations human resources.
“These are great opportunities with runway for advancement. In fact, of our entry-level managers across Amazon’s U.S. fulfillment centers, nearly 15 percent started in hourly roles and were promoted into their current positions.”
Amazon is looking for workers to pick, pack and ship customer orders. The company said it is offering ” highly competitive” pay, health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans and company stock. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of paid leave and benefits such as Leave Share which lets employees share their Amazon paid leave with their spouse or domestic partner if their spouse’s employer doesn’t offer paid leave. Amazon also offers Ramp Back, which gives new mothers some control over the pace at which they return to work.
Also, thousands of part-time jobs at sorting centers around the U.S. will be offered.
Amazon fulfillment centers staging the job fairs are in Baltimore, Md.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Etna, Ohio; Fall River, Mass.; Hebron, Ky.; Kenosha, Wisc.; Kent, Wash.; Robbinsville, N.J.; Romeoville, Ill., and Whitestown, Ind.
Additionally, Amazon will be hosting off-site jobs day events from 8 a.m. to noon local time at locations in Buffalo, N.Y., and Oklahoma City, Okla., where applicants will be able to interview for part-time opportunities and walk out with an offer, the company said.
Amazon aside, the NRF suggested that news of store closings have overshadowed news of store openings, including plans at Dollar General to open 1,000 stores this year. On the other hand, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, J. Crew, Michael Kors and many other brands and retailers have announced significant levels of store closings, supporting govt statistics of job declines.
Further making its case for retail job growth, the NRF cited data from the Commercial Real Estate Development Association that there was 86.8 million square feet of new retail construction in 2016, and that retail rents were at their highest level since 2008 through the first quarter of 2017, suggesting demand for space. But in many parts of the country, such as on Madison Avenue, retail rents — while still high — are beginning to ease.