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How Ecommerce Helps Less-Educated Workers

By / 4.3.2018

Ecommerce has been a major job creator for less-educated workers, at a time when many of their traditional positions have been disappearing.

Between 2007 and 2017, overall US employment of workers with at least a high school diploma and less than a bachelor’s degree dropped by almost 1 million jobs. That’s according to our tabulation of the Current Population Survey.

However,  ecommerce leaders such as Amazon, Walmart, and Chewy.com have been bucking that trend by building fulfillment centers that employ large numbers of workers without college degrees. The ecommerce industries–electronic shopping, warehousing, and couriers and messengers–created jobs for  roughly 270,000 less-educated workers between 2007 and 2017. Most of those gains have come in the past three years.

These workers are tech-enabled–they do not have college degrees, but they work closely with robots and other technology. As a result, as we have shown, real wages for production and nonsupervisory workers in the warehousing industry have been rising rapidly. Real hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in the warehousing industry are up by 6% over the past year

By comparison, brick-and-mortar retail companies have reduced their employment of less-educated workers by roughly 100,000 over the 2007-2017 stretch. That means ecommerce plus brick and mortar retail combined have been a net plus for less educated workers.  (Note that our analysis intentionally omits workers who do not yet have their high school diploma).