October Retail Hiring Lowest In Six Years

Fewer major retailers have announced large-scale hiring announcements so far this year, which reflects the drop in the number of October employment gains in the sector. Gains fell 8 percent from last year to 136,700, the lowest October gain since 2011, when the sector added 134,200 jobs, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

This year marks the second year of declines following two consecutive years of record job gains in October. In 2015, BLS data showed that retail employment grew by 183,300 compared to the year before, when retailers added 182,800 new workers in October. Last year, October gains reached 149,400, 18.5 percent lower than 2015.

Overall, seasonal retail hiring has fallen each year since 2013. Last year’s gains of 641,000 fell almost 10 percent from the previous year, when 708,800 jobs were added in retail.

“The shrinking job gains in retail during the holiday season are indicative of the changing consumer habits and overall transition the industry is experiencing,” said John Challenger, Chief Executive Officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

As of October, there were 15,827,700 Americans employed in this sector, 56,600 fewer jobs than the 15,884,300 employed in October 2016, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the BLS.
Meanwhile, employment in the transportation and warehousing sectors stood at 5,151,400 in October of this year, 111,400 more jobs than in October 2016.

“The ‘Amazon Effect’ and consumers’ online shopping habits are definitely shifting seasonal job gains from traditional retailers to warehousing and transportation positions. New technology in retail also eliminates the need for some back-office operations, which may lead to less hiring,” said Challenger.

“However, this new technology may just change the nature of the work rather than replace workers altogether. For instance, Walmart instituted shelf-scanning robots in their stores that flag issues for human workers to fix,” added Challenger.