Female workers bore the brunt of job losses in the retail industry over the last year. As the retail industry grappled with store closings and bankruptcy filings, it lost 54,300 jobs from October 2016 to October 2017. During that time, women lost 160,300 retail jobs, while men actually gained 106,000 jobs, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research's (IWPR) analysis of the December employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The disparity seems to be coming from shifting trends in the retail industry, including more warehouse and fulfillment jobs that have typically gone to men. Furthermore, most of the industry’s job losses came from general merchandise stores (including department stores), which employed more female workers than men. According to BLS data, general merchandise stores shed 161,000 female employees while adding nearly 88,000 male workers from October 2016 to October 2017.
Total Retail's Take: As consumers increasingly choose to shop online — and forego trips to shopping malls and brick-and-mortar stores — we're seeing a shift in retail jobs from storefronts to distribution centers. Those warehouse positions, historically, have been held by men. Furthermore, some of the more successful retail verticals in the past year — e.g., home improvement, auto dealerships — have a higher concentration of male workers, while department stores, whose struggles have been well-documented, traditionally have employed a higher percentage of women than men.
“This seems to be a situation where men are in the right places and women are in the wrong places,” said Heidi Hartmann, president and CEO of IWPR. "What we have to work on is getting women into the jobs where they are growing."