February's jobs report was great for retail, but the long-term trend isn't changing

Markets Reporter
Yahoo Finance

In February, the U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs. This report beat economist expectations and served as another sign that with the post-crisis recovery entering its tenth year continues to gain strength.

For the retail business, however, the recovery has not seen employment in the industry keep pace with the overall economy. And as Yahoo Finance has chronicled this week as part of the retail revolution, it is the complements to the e-commerce industry are instead seeing benefits while traditional retail struggles.

In February, employment gains in the retail sector were actually quite strong, as 50,300 jobs were added to the space compared to the prior month.

Warehouses and transportation have seen big employment gains while traditional retail jobs have been stagnant since the financial crisis.
Warehouses and transportation have seen big employment gains while traditional retail jobs have been stagnant since the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, employment at nonstore retailers rose by 3,400 in February and employment in transportation and warehousing — which captures the jobs created by Amazon (AMZN) and other retailers increasing warehouse and delivery operations — rose by 15,400 during the same month.

But when you look back at employment in these sectors in February 2017, it’s clear which way the long-term trajectories for these industries are going.

In the last decade, jobs related to e-commerce have seen growth far outpacing the retail industry as a whole. (Source: Yahoo Finance)
In the last decade, jobs related to e-commerce have seen growth far outpacing the retail industry as a whole. (Source: Yahoo Finance)

In February, 15,926,200 people were employed in the retail business, an increase of 35,000 over the same month in 2017. By contrast, transportation and warehousing employment stood at 5,263,400 in February, up 147,600 over the prior year. Nonstore retail employment in February totaled 586,500, up 24,300 from the prior year. Total employment in the U.S. increased by 2.28 million jobs over the prior year in February.

And compared to where these industries were a decade ago, employment in warehousing and transportation is up 15% while retail employment is only fractionally higher.

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, noted that nonstore retailers and couriers and messengers are seeing some of the fastest employment growth of any sector in the economy. In February, there was a 7.4% increase in employment for couriers and messengers over the prior year, a rate of change bested only by support activity for mining.

The strong February for the retail sector, however, can’t mask that when it comes to areas of long-term employment growth, the online shopping revolution — not traditional brick-and-mortar retail — is going to win.

This story is a part of Yahoo Finance Presents: The Retail Revolution, March 5-9, 2018.

Retail Revolution (Illustration by Thomas Porostocky)
Retail Revolution (Illustration by Thomas Porostocky)

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

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