- Computerization could take over 7.5 million retail jobs, says the Guardian, citing a Cornerstone Capital Group study. Hardest hit could be the nation's 3.5 million cashiers, 73% of whom are women and, according to the public policy organization Demos, mostly African American and Latino.
- High-tech grocery stores without cashiers could decrease the current number of labor hours by two-thirds, says the Guardian, citing a separate McKinsey report. These results predict that millions of U.S. retail jobs could face extinction. A string of store closings — some 8,640 in 2017 alone — is accelerating retail job loss.
- Retail workers account for 10% of the 16 million people in the labor force, and now outnumber those in manufacturing and mining, the Guardian says.
Automation will take away some jobs across industries, and usher in new ones, say economists. But incoming jobs will likely require technological skills not usually found among retail workers. Automation and nationwide closings by Sears, K-Mart and other big-box stores are putting retail workers on the frontline of a workforce in transition.
Most of the respondents (76%) in the 2017 Randstad Employer Brand Research said they would upgrade their skills if automation took over their jobs. Retail workers might need to do the same to stay employed, but training can be costly. Walmart has two employee training programs, one for workers on a managerial track and the other for entry-level staff. But critics of the programs say the training is limited to workers' roles at the company and offers no career-development value in the long run.
Earlier this month, Amazon held job fairs at select Amazon fulfillment centers nationwide, aiming to hire 50,000 new full-time and part-time employees, primarily to fill warehouse positions. It remains to be seen, however, whether the retail giant can offset other retail jobs lost, especially as warehouse fulfillment jobs become susceptible to automation, too.