In our new paper, we develop a methodology for tracking ecommerce jobs and pay. Applying that methodology to today’s jobs report, we find that the ecommerce sector has added 97,000 jobs over the past year. This figure includes fulfillment centers. Surprisingly, general retail–which includes the retailers competing most directly with ecommerce–has added 27,000 jobs over the same stretch.
The ecommerce jobs pay much better than general retail. For example, production and nonsupervisory workers in the ecommerce sector, including fulfillment centers, earned an average of $17.41 per hour in 2016, compared to $13.83 in general retail—a 26 percent premium.
Based on official data, it looks like the ecommerce sector is adding new, better-paying jobs without actually reducing existing jobs in retail. Moreover, as our paper shows, these jobs are widely distributed around the country, including states such as Kentucky and Indiana.
Background: In our new paper, “The Creation of a New Middle Class?: A Historical and Analytic Perspective on Job and Wage Growth in the Digital Sector, Part I,” we explore the possibility that the job and wage growth generated by the digital boom is creating a new middle class, with gains across the entire country. Our historical benchmark is the first half of the 20th century, when superstar industries companies such as Ford, General Motors, General Electric, and DuPont accomplished what had seemed impossible at the time: create hundreds of thousands of jobs while paying good wages and offering consumers lower prices than their rivals. We provide evidence that
For the purpose of this analysis, we define the ecommerce sector to include what the government calls the “electronic shopping and mail order house” industry (NAICS 4541) and “general warehousing” (NAICS 49311). Based on careful examination of the data, this second industry apparently contains the bulk of fulfillment centers and similar establishments.
We define the general retail sector to include those retailers that compete most directly with ecommerce, including electronic and appliance stores (NAICS 443); clothing, shoes, and jewelry stores (NAICS 448); sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores (NAICS 451); and general merchandise stores, including department stores and supercenters (NAICS 452).
Because of the way that the BLS collects data, it is possible that the general retail sector includes some workers involved in ecommerce. That would mean we are underestimating ecommerce jobs and overestimating brick-and-mortar general retail jobs by the same amount.
For the results reported in this blog post, we use 12-month averages.