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Retailers Hiring Again, Especially Giants Like Walmart, But Also Electronics Stores

Retailers are hiring more workers as shoppers return to stores, with that sector of the economy adding nearly 249,000 net new jobs in August. That is up from more than 236,000 net new retail jobs in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.


Retail grew the most of any employment sector in August. With a few exceptions, such as mining and car manufacturing, every sector tracked by the BLS added jobs in August, though the economy is still about 4.4 million jobs short compared with before the pandemic.

Much of the job growth in retail was at general merchandise stores, which includes such giants as Costco and Walmart, a category that added more than 84,000 jobs month-over-month. Even department stores, whose sales and store count have been shrinking since the Great Recession, added workers in August (more than 32,000), presumably as department stores that are still in business started reopening or seeing more foot traffic.

Other retail categories that added a lot of jobs in August include electronics and appliances — more than 20,000 net new jobs — auto dealers (up nearly 17,000 jobs), and health and personal care stores, which added more than 15,000 jobs.

Grocery stores didn't grow by many jobs, only about 3,800, but on the other hand, employment in that retail sector is already higher than a year ago. About 3.12 million people worked at food and beverage stores in August, while during the same month last year, the total was 3.08 million workers.

The addition of jobs in the retail sector follows an uptick in sales in most parts of that industry. Altogether, retail sales grew 1.2% in July compared with June, the Census Bureau reports.

Sales at electronics stores — possibly boosted by the prospect that most students were preparing to continue remote learning in the fall — spiked by 22.9% month-over-month in July.

By contrast, sales at grocery stores were up only 0.4% month-over-month in July. Year-over-year, however, grocery store sales grew 10.6% in July.

“Stores are opening and we’re seeing some pent-up demand,” AlixPartners Managing Director Sonia Lapinsky told The Wall Street Journal. “Still, you need to put it in perspective against the millions of jobs lost this spring.”

Unemployment in retail remains relatively high. The unemployment rate in wholesale and retail trade stood at 8.3% in August, compared with 4.1% during the same month in 2019, according to the BLS.