Retail Jobs: Who Makes What, Where?

Posted by Peter Barnes on November 20 2014

As Great Rated! honors some of the best employers in retail this week, we thought it might be useful to add some context on the jobs and pay within this expansive part of the economy.

Retail trade – which encompasses the sales of goods as diverse as shoes, groceries and gasoline – employs about 11 percent of the American workforce. All told, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the sector employed 15,436,500 people in October who earned an average of 17.09 per hour and worked an average of 31.4 hours per week. (Non-supervisory employees earned less, at $14.47 per hour and 30 hours per week.)

Broad averages, though, tell only part of the story. This is how those jobs break down among retail's most populous positions:

Here's a closer look at the largest category, retail salespersons, in the five industries employing them in the greatest numbers:

BLS retail data

Bearing in mind that an estimated one in three people in retail sales work part time, this map gives a breakdown of how retail wages vary across the country:

BLS retail pay map

Looking ahead, the Labor Department expects job growth in retail sales roughly to keep pace with other sectors of the economy:

BLS retail data

That being said, some jobs will grow at a more tepid pace than others. Motor vehicle parts salespeople, who tend to make above-average pay for the retail sector, are expected to see job growth of only 7 percent between 2012 and 2022. Likewise, automation and e-commerce are expected to take a significant bite out of the number of cashier jobs, which are expected to increase only 3 percent in that period. Across positions, some of the biggest growth is expected in general merchandize stores, like supercenters and warehouse clubs. The number of jobs in that setting is expected to grow by 28 percent by 2022, while the number of jobs at traditional department stores is expected to increase by only 5 percent.

Regardless of the market they serve, retail companies' benefits and advancement opportunities can vary as widely as the goods they sell. Whole Foods, for example, stands in contrast to many of its competitors by paying 94 percent of the cost of employees' health plans and 76 percent of the cost for dependents. Plus, the company throws in $300 to $1,800 annually for co-pays and other health expenses. Likewise, L.L.Bean offers its team members frequent training, online courses and $5,250 in annual tuition reimbursement. Its other perks include free or deeply discounted outdoor gear rental and gym membership reimbursements.

As the statistics above make clear, the average pay in the retail industry falls below the average hourly wage of $25.54 across the private sector. That makes it all the more important for retail job seekers to look for stand-out companies that offer a real investment in employees' well-being.