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The Next 10 Million Jobs, Part II–Retail, Ecommerce, and All that

By / 10.22.2019

This is the second in our series of posts on “The Next Ten Million Jobs,” the types of jobs being created between now and 2030, based on the latest BLS employment projections. In our first post we looked at the importance of healthcare and social assistance jobs for driving employment growth between now and 2030. In this post we consider the future of retail, ecommerce and related jobs. More particularly, is there a coming “retail apocalypse”? And can we expect a big loss of jobs in the “consumer distribution sector”–wholesale, retail, trucking, couriers and messengers, and warehousing?

The short answer: Not according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Based on our extension of the BLS projections, the number of jobs in retail drop by 1.2% between now and 2030, a net loss of 184K jobs. Wholesale jobs are anticipated to drop as well, by 118K between now and 2030.

On the other hand, our extension of the BLS projections show a gain of 294K in the total of warehousing (fulfillment centers), couriers and messengers (local delivery) and trucking. These projected job gains, focused on ecommerce, compensate almost completely for the projected job declines in retail and wholesale. The net projected change for the “consumer distribution” sector between now and 2030? -8K job, practically nothing. So while consumer distribution is not a big contribution to the next ten million jobs, it’s not a big drag either.

It’s worth noting that these projections are somewhat more pessimistic than recent reality. Based on 12-month moving averages, retail employment fell by 40K over the past year. But employment in wholesale, trucking, couriers and messengers, and warehousing rose by 234K, for a net gain of 195K consumer distribution jobs over the past year (on a 12-month moving average basis).

That’s extraordinary. Despite all the claims of job loss, the consumer distribution sector–including retail and ecommerce–is still one of the largest job creators in the economy.

Take a look at the chart below, which shows the 12-month moving average for employment in consumer distribution.