A new study finds that women lost 160,300 shopping-related gigs in the past year, while men gained over 100k jobs
The “retailpocalypse” is spreading its pain unevenly.
Even as changing shopping patterns and the dominance of Amazon threatens the traditional retail model, some boutiques are thriving at the expense of others. So it is with retail gigs. Though Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate the industry shed 54,300 jobs in the year between October 2016 and October 2017, the vast majority of those losses were borne by female shop workers, and not their male counterparts.
That’s according to a recently published analysis of BLS data conducted by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. The D.C. thinktank found that women retail employees lost 160,300 jobs in that 12-month period, whereas men gained 106,000 positions in the trade. As a result, women now make up a minority of retail workers, with their share of the profession dropping from 50.4% to 49.6% The IWPR called the trend the “longest stretch of job losses in the industry for women or men since the Great Recession.”
What explains the divergence? Heidi Hartmann, the IWPR’s president, told the Washington Post that it’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions, though she thinks it may have something to do with the goods Americans are buying in stores. As the economy grows at a rapid pace, spending on items with higher sticker prices like tech appliances grows, even as secular trends see shoppers stay away from buying new clothes. Men are more likely to hold retail jobs in the former field.
Even though women bear the bulk of job losses in the retail trade, they did get employed in select other industries at a faster clip than men. The IWPR analysis found that females gained 328,000 new jobs in education and health services in the past year, whereas just 143,000 men were freshly employed in those fields. The professional and business services sector also added 325,000 women and 223,000 men.
At a time when unemployment is at a decade low, the loss of retail jobs is less painful than it otherwise might be. That said, jobs in education and health services, for example, often have higher barriers to entry than retail gigs. The latter, in particular, has long been a starting ground for those without educational or licensing qualifications.
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