By Quentin Fottrell
Department and big box stores
Retailers keep demanding higher productivity from existing workers while trimming staff to save costs — hence the increasingly unmanned numbers of cash registers. Stores also need less space and less staff working the floor, says Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at J.H. Cohn consultants in Roseland, N.J. In the five year before the 2008 recession, stores accounted for 13.6% of all private-sector jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, during the jobs recovery, which began in March 2010, the sector provided only 9% of the total private sector gains, partly due to online retailers eating into the business of bricks and mortar rivals. “The rise in e-tailing is a long-term trend, which has only accelerated,” O’Keefe says. Department stores lost 33,800 jobs in March, but added 6,400 in April, according to the Labor Department. Clothing stores lost 1,300 last month. Still, Betsey Stevenson, assistant professor of business and public policy in The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says it’s too soon to say whether this downward trend will continue throughout 2012.