For millions of retail workers around the country, the past decade has been a tumultuous time, but as many analysts have noted, the so-called “retail apocalypse” has had a disproportionate impact on certain areas.
Low-traffic rural and suburban malls, for instance, have experienced mounting vacancy rates due to the loss of anchor tenants like Sears and J.C. Penney, while more profitable malls (which are often closer to metropolitan areas) have been able to hold on to department stores and attract interest from alternative tenants such as fitness centers and co-working spaces.
The disparity extends to employment trends, too: Retail job losses since 2007 have been concentrated largely in New England and rust-belt states, data from the the Bureau of Labor Statistics show, areas that have struggled to recover in the decade since the Great Recession.
While every state shed retail jobs during that period — and the retail trade as a whole lost more than a million jobs between 2008 and 2010, according to the BLS — the majority have since mostly recovered. Some, like Washington and Florida, have even seen employment in the sector surge more than 20% from 2009 lows. Still, this hasn’t been the case everywhere, and in many other states, retail now employs tens of thousands of fewer workers than it did before the recession.
Here are the 10 states that have seen the steepest declines in retail trade employment between February 2007 and February 2019, the most recent month for which state-level BLS data are available:
- West Virginia: 10.5% decline
- Rhode Island: 7.9% decline
- Vermont: 7.7% decline
- Ohio: 7% decline
- Connecticut: 6.8% decline
- Wyoming: 6% decline
- Maryland: 5.9% decline
- Pennsylvania: 5.9% decline
- Illinois: 5.1% decline
Store closures are one factor shaping geographic trends in retail employment, and are likely to continue to do so as analysts predict that another 75,000 will shutter by 2026. The rise of online shopping is also shifting jobs to warehouses and distribution centers, which have seen employment soar more than 81 percent in the past decade, though they tend to be more spread out, concentrating jobs in certain areas.
Overall, the retail industry today employs 15.8 million workers, up from 14.7 million in 2009 and 15.5 million in 2007, per government data.
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