NEW YORK - Recruiting and retaining quality retail workers has never been an easy task. But with the U.S. unemployment rate at 3.9%, the lowest in almost 18 years, many store operators are facing serious challenges, according to Drug Store News.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that about 700,000 retail jobs were open in March. On a seasonally adjusted basis, this figure is nearly double the number of open positions a decade ago and near the highest level of unfilled retail positions ever recorded.
Due to the tight labor market, many retailers have boosted starting wages and benefits to attract employees. These increases got a helping hand from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which, as of the end of 2017, reduced the federal corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and produced financial windfalls for many companies.
Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Target and Kroger, among others, have announced plans to reinvest their tax savings into employee wages and benefits. But officials say it will be the end of the summer before there is adequate data to indicate how much of the tax cut has been invested in labor.
According to a report from Glassdoor, a job-finding and recruiting website, retail salaries have been on the rise in the past four years. The report claims strong pay gains in retail roles, such as store manager, which saw an increase of 7.9% in March compared to March 2017. Nearly 800,600 job postings in U.S. retail were listed on the Glassdoor website at that time.
Target and Walmart have been increasing starting wages in an effort to find and retain store-level employees. Target raised its starting hourly wage to $11 last October and saw a 30%-plus spike in applications for seasonal work, along with a stronger pool of talent.
At Kroger, a new education reimbursement plan, Feed Your Future, was introduced. The company now offers up to $3,500 annually—$21,000 over the course of employment—toward education and development, including a high school equivalency exam, professional certifications and advanced degrees. Both full- and part-time employees qualify for the benefit after six months of employment.