If consumer spending habits are any measure, signs of life in the retail sector of the economy should be considered good news. A new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by bizjournals.com shows 32 states adding retail jobs in a 12-month span from mid-2011 to mid-2102.
In and of themselves, retail job gains don’t exactly make communities do cartwheels. They tend to be lower paying and don’t do much in terms of drawing new talent. But because they are so closely tied to consumer spending, consumer confidence and overall growth, they are a strong indicator of how the economy is going – or not.
The numbers are significant on several fronts. California added 25,000 retail jobs in the 12- month study period, the most among states, followed by New York, Florida, Texas and Ohio. While it stands to reason large population states would add the most jobs in raw numbers, given how the overall economies were lagging in California, New York and Ohio, job gains in a sector tied so closely to consumer spending are certainly encouraging.
Retail is also a key economic component of many regions from a tourism-hospitality standpoint, drawing nonresidents who pump dollars into local economies and local tax coffers. Cabarrus County in North Carolina, for example, is home to the 200-store Concord Mills retail complex, the most visited attraction in the state.
From Niagara Falls, NY, to McAllen, TX, outlet malls in border locations are magnets for shoppers from other countries. In northern Washington, the demand – fueled in part by a stronger Canadian dollar and higher food and commodity prices in Canada – are bringing Canadian by the carload to U.S. retailers and causing friction among neighbors.
Retail also has a strong impact on other sectors, such as wholesale trade and transportation. South Carolina, for example, has attracted a slew of retail-related distribution including addidas, QVC, Walmart and Ross Stores.
In New Jersey, which added 4,700 retail jobs in a 12-month span, major national retailers the likes of Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us and Home Depot have set up logistics and distribution operations.
It may not be the sexiest economic segment, but retail vitality is a sign of underlying growth and strength. Retail follows rooftops and rooftops follow jobs. What’s your assessment of retail job growth and does it matter in your community? Share your thoughts.