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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

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Oct 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

The winners of the stay-at-home economy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has created a stay-at-home economy worth trillions.

The big picture: While the pandemic is killing scores of businesses that depend on office workers, it's also making way for startups and titans alike to conquer a new industry — powering our remote lives.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

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