The retail industry has been a major player in the recent jobs reports. According to the Department of Labor, the retail sector added 28,000 jobs to the economy in May—building on the average of 20,000 new jobs per month over the prior 12 months. For the millions of retail workers in this sector, this would be good news if these jobs came with decent wages and benefits that can support a family. But too many of them don’t.
Although the retail sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with inconsistent hours and few benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the retail industry typically make about $25,000 per year—a far cry from the nation’s average annual pay of $45,790.
Academic studies, including last year’s report by Demos, provide quantitative evidence that retailers, workers and the U.S. economy can benefit if retail companies invest in their workforce. According to the Demos report, raising wages for full-time retail workers at the nation’s largest retail companies (those employing at least 1,000 workers) would result in improving the lives of more than 1.5 million retail workers and their families who are currently living in or hovering above poverty.
The retail sector has an enormous influence on the standard of living for millions of Americans and our country’s economic outlook. It’s time for the leaders in this sector to step up and make sure that these jobs are good jobs with benefits that can support a family.