There are signs that the economy is improving – declining unemployment rates and new jobs. And many of those new jobs are in retail trade, which promises strong growth. It is the second largest employment sector behind government with just over 80,000 workers – about one in every eight across the state.
Retail growth can be a barometer of how the economy is doing. Generally when people have more disposable income retail sales grow and more workers are needed to meet that demand.
But employment growth has not been uniform across all components of retail trade.
Strong growth between 2010 and 2020 is expected for general merchandise stores at 25.5 percent and motor vehicle and parts dealers at 29.1 percent. Growth will be slower in electronics and appliance stores, projected at just 9.6 percent, and food and beverage stores with growth at 6.6 percent.
Changing consumer buying habits are likely responsible for the uneven growth. Electronics and appliance stores in recent years have lost sales to online retailers. Best Buy is an example. During the past few years Best Buy has reported quarterly losses and been forced to close stores across the nation because of sales lost to Internet retailers such as Amazon.com and TigerDirect.com.
While general merchandise and auto parts are also sold online, the demand for online purchasing of them is much less than other products, and stronger growth in these retail sectors is expected.
Outlets selling food and beverages enjoy a degree of immunity not only from online competition but also from recessions. Regardless of economic conditions, people still need to buy groceries so it is not surprising to see little projected growth in this area due to the economic recovery since demand for food and beverages is affected less by economic downturns or recoveries.
Regionally, eastern Idaho is expected to see retail jobs increase from 9,800 to 12,000, over 22 percent through 2020. Likewise southwestern Idaho, the state’s population center, can expect retail jobs to increase 18 percent from 32,400 in 2010, to 38,300.
Regions where the recovery from the recession has been slower are projected to have slower retail trade growth. Growth is forecast at 9.6 percent in north central Idaho and 10.9 percent in northern Idaho through 2020.
This projected retail trade employment is a positive indicator that Idaho’s economy is gaining strength. But slower growth is some retail sectors such as electronics and appliances indicates that Internet retailers are likely taking away sales from Idaho’s brick and mortar businesses.
Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 236-6710 ext. 3713
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