Oct 16, 2019 - Economy & Business

A crisis for retail jobs

Erica Pandey, author of @Work

Outside a Target in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A collision of forces — automation, e-commerce and stagnating wages — is squeezing retail jobs in the U.S.

Why it matters: With more than 15 million jobs, the retail industry is America's biggest employer. A hit to this sector would reverberate across the economy.

Driving the news: Led by Amazon, several big American retailers are raising their wages to around $15 an hour. But stores are slashing workers' hours, and robots are supplanting people.

  • "Close to 30% of America's ... retail workers worked fewer than 35 hours a week last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, 17% of workers work below 35 hours a week," reports CNN's Nathaniel Meyersohn.
  • Meyersohn spoke with current and former Target employees who said they struggled to pay rent or buy food due to shrinking workweeks.

Some jobs that have existed for decades — like taking inventory or cleaning aisles — are being automated away.

  • In April, Walmart added nearly 4,000 robots that can mop floors, unload trucks and scan shelves.

And retailers are adding part-time and temporary workers to staff the holiday rush as they cut hours for full-time employees.

  • Close to 40% of Walmart's workforce are part-timers, per CNN.
  • Target has announced plans to hire 130,000 temps for the holiday season.

The bottom line: "It's a much slower process to eliminate people than you might think," says J.P. Gownder, an expert on automation at Forrester. But in retail, "in the longer term and at scale, the economics favor automation."

Go deeper: The inexplicable decline in retail sales growth

Go deeper

Al Sharpton says Floyd family will lead march on Washington in August

The family of George Floyd is teaming up with Rev. Al Sharpton to hold a march on Washington on Aug. 28 — the 57th anniversary of the civil rights movement's March on Washington — to call for a federal policing equality act, Sharpton announced during a eulogy at Floyd's memorial service in Minneapolis Thursday.

Why it matters: The news comes amid growing momentum for calls to address systemic racism in policing and other facets of society, after more than a week of protests and social unrest following the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

59 mins ago - Health

Medical journal retracts study that fueled hydroxychloroquine concerns

Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

The Lancet medical journal retracted a study on Thursday that found that coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine had a higher mortality rate and increased heart problem than those who did nothing, stating that the authors were "unable to complete an independent audit of the data underpinning their analysis."

Why it matters: The results of the study, which claimed to have analyzed data from nearly 96,000 patients on six continents, led several governments to ban the use of the anti-malarial drug for coronavirus patients due to safety concerns.

George Floyd updates

Text reading "Demilitarize the police" is projected on an army vehicle during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Washington, D.C.. early on Thursday. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

All four former Minneapolis police officers have been charged for George Floyd’s death and are in custody, including Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The latest: A judge Thursday set bail at $750,000 for each of three ex-officers, AP reports.