Retail Leads All Sectors in Job Cuts This Year, Survey Finds

Retail’s brick-and-mortar woes are taking a toll on the workforce, a new survey confirms. Employment firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, which provides outplacement services to laid-off employees, found that of the 36,081 jobs that companies announced plans to cut in April, 7,844 were in retail, far surpassing all other industries.

The latest figures are consistent with the trend so far this year: Retail accounts for 64,370, or more than a third, of the 176,460 job cuts announced in 2018. (The next-closest industry, health care, has cut just 17,450 by comparison.) Challenger blames the changing brick-and-mortar landscape for the slashed workforce, having tracked nearly 2,500 store closures this year so far, on top of the 9,241 announced in 2017. And declines haven’t shown signs of slowing down; retail’s cuts are up 28.4 percent from the same period last year.

While overall, the job market is strong, with rising wages at the high and low end of the pay scale and near-maximum employment, department stores, general merchandise, and clothing and accessories stores have bucked the trend. As automation and e-commerce become increasingly central to the industry, traditional sales floor positions are losing out to warehouse jobs and technology-focused roles, while consumers are spending more on experiential categories like dining and travel.

And while retail bankruptcies and downsizing are of course significant factors in the job cuts, another analysis this week found that sales associates are losing their jobs up to twice as fast as stores are shuttering, thanks to a rise in small-format shops in place of sprawling department stores, and the advent of self-checkout.

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