How the Ecommerce Boom Could Benefit Workers of Color

By / 5.29.2018

On May 8, PPI participated in a congressional roundtable on the impact of retail automation on workers of color.  The roundtable was led by Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, and moderated by Spencer Overton of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.  I presented PPI’s latest research on the impact of the ecommerce boom on black and Hispanic workers.

We found that roughly 24% of ecommerce workers identify as black or African-American, compared to 12% of workers in brick-and-mortar retail. This is based on BLS surveys. We also found that roughly 20% of ecommerce workers identify as Hispanic or Latino, compared to 17% of workers in brick-and-mortar retail (Table 1).

We also found that ecommerce industries are hiring workers of color at a rapid rate. From 2007 to 2017, the number of black /African-American workers in ecommerce rose by 51%, compared to a 15% gain for all jobs. The number of Hispanic/Latino workers in ecommerce rose by 73%, compared to 27% for all jobs. (Table 2)

Taken together, these results suggest that the ecommerce boom could benefit workers of color, assuming we have the right policies to allow access to the new jobs.  We need to train workers for the new jobs in ecommerce, brick-and-mortar retail, and the next wave of growth in local custom manufacturing. These jobs will require a combination of technical, design, and people skills.

Moreover, we need to provide financing to enable a diverse population of entrepreneurs to take advantage of the new opportunities created by the ecommerce revolution. States must set up programs which allow potential entrepreneurs to experiment with the latest 3D printing and robotics technologies.

Summary of my remarks attached here.