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Retail Wages on Par With Other Industries: NRF

A new study finds that retail pay is on an even keel with other industries, despite the perception that the industry offers lower-paying wages.

"The retail industry finally has definitive data to bolster the argument we've been making all along — that wages in our industry rival those of other industries when properly compared," National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "This report shows that careers in the retail industry are financially rewarding and that those who make a full-time career in retail can rise from entry-level positions to well-paid management and executive jobs."

NRF released the Wages in the Retail Industry: Getting the Facts Straight report as part of Retail Jobs Week, its latest effort to educate Washington lawmakers about the value retail jobs deliver for millions of workers and the economy as a whole. The in-depth study was authored by University of Georgia economist Jeffrey Dorfman.

The study shows that government data can give an inaccurate picture of core retail jobs because of the disproportionate number of part-time, temporary and young workers who are not as common in other industries. While these jobs are vital to the industry and provide flexibility sought by many workers, they result in lower averages when retail is compared against other industries, according to NRF.

"Government data on retail pay is skewed significantly," Dorfman said. "Once you create an apples-to-apples comparison, retail wages are clearly competitive with other industries and sometimes significantly higher." 

The main findings of the Wages in the Retail Industry: Getting the Facts Straight study include:

  • Retail jobs pay wages highly competitive with other sectors. Retail workers with similar levels of job skills and experience earn wages comparable to employees in other sectors including manufacturing, transportation and health care. Retail workers earn an average of $30,984 per year compared with $32,004 for non-retail workers. Excluding part-time, seasonal and younger workers in order to make a fairer comparison, retail fares even better.
  • Experienced retail workers earn more than their peers in other industries. Full-time retail workers between the ages of 25 and 54 make an average of $38,376 per year, slightly higher than the $37,968 earned by non-retail workers. Compared with other industries, retail has a higher percentage of workers aged 35 to 54 who make between $48,000 and $72,000 per year.
  • Retail offers a pathway to middle-class life. The report also include case studies from Walmart, Lowe's and Macy's that go beyond the numbers to demonstrate that retail careers offer a pathway to a middle-class life for millions of Americans.

In conducting this study, Dorfman examined 13 categories of the retail industry and 37 categories of comparable industries based on codes under the North American Industry Classification System. The study also drew on a number of reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Washington, D.C.-based NRF is the world's largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. 


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