MDRC in the News

As Store Layoffs Mount, Retail Lags Other Sectors In Retraining Workers



Harry Friedman has run a consultancy training entry-level retail workers in customer service and other basics for 35 years. But in all his years, he has not retrained retail workers for new skills.

“Nope; we do none of it,” he says. “I don’t know that anybody does any of it.”

Many retail workers are undergoing what economists call “job displacement,” meaning they are losing their jobs largely because of major technological shifts. Layoffs in traditional retail have accelerated sharply this year, with hundreds of store closings and nine U.S. chains filing for bankruptcy so far in 2017.

Most of those losing their jobs are low-skilled, entry-level workers, while retailers look instead to bolster the e-commerce sides of their businesses, hiring for higher-skilled positions such as logistics and warehousing. Whereas some industries invest to retrain their workers with new skills for new times, to date the retail industry has not successfully done that.

And Friedman says that is not good news for the laid-off workers. “It’s a pretty bleak picture, I’m sorry to say”…..

…..Frieda Molina, deputy director of MDRC, a social research group, says many retail workers simply don’t want to stay in the industry.

“It’s hard to make that case to them, given the more negative reputation of retail, and the fact that many people at that lower level don’t have the resources to be able to invest time and effort and lost wages potentially, in getting additional training,” she says….

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