Retail Trade in Oregon

by Polly Farrimond

November 10, 2020

Retail trade in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry that employs around 15.2 million people according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies the retail trade sector into two main categories, store retailers with fixed point-of-sale locations, and nonstore retailers. Store retailers will include extensive displays of merchandise and mass media advertising to attract customers.  Nonstore retailers use methods like infomercials, publishing direct response advertising, electronic catalogs, portable stalls, websites, and vending machines. 

In the State of Oregon there are 13,816 retail trade establishments employing 184,754 workers as of the second quarter in 2020. The retail trade sector employs around 9 percent of the total workforce in Oregon. The largest sub-sectors in retail trade are:

  • Food and Beverage Stores:  43,310 jobs
  • General Merchandise Stores:  40,376 jobs
  • Supermarkets and other Grocery Stores: 34,085 jobs
  • General merchandise stores, Warehouse Clubs: 31,359 jobs
The largest occupations in retail trade include retail salespersons, cashiers, stock clerks and order fillers, and supervisors and managers of retail sales workers. The average pay of these positions is about $17 per hour. The occupations that pay a higher wage in the retail trade industry include chief executives, computer and information system managers, sales managers, and art directors. These upper-level management positions pay on average $73 dollars per hour. The median wage in the retail trade industry as a whole is $15.43 per hour. 

In regard to education in the retail trade industry, most of the jobs require a high school diploma with no prior work experience. This industry is perfect for the high school student looking for basic work skills and a place to develop soft skills as well. The majority of the workers in Oregon who were employed in this industry had some college education or an associate degree. In 2019, 42 percent of the workers were between the ages of 25 and 44 years old. The number of workers that identified as males and females was nearly evenly split in the retail trade labor force. 

The Pandemic and Beyond

During the COVID-19 pandemic, retail trade was one of the hardest hit industries. Initial unemployment insurance claims in this sector peaked during the week of April 4, 2020 at 7,109 applications. By the week of August 8, 2020, initial claims returned to pre COVID-19 levels. Stores have done an amazing job of quickly adapting to pandemic conditions and making changes to keep staff and customers safe. The job mix has changed some, as reported by employers responding to the Oregon Job Vacancy Survey, as stockers and order fillers are more in demand to fill orders placed online, serving customers who don’t feel comfortable entering stores.

Between 2009 and 2019 the retail trade industry in Oregon grew each year, adding 26,551 jobs and 618 establishments. The employment projections that were recently released by the Oregon Employment Department incorporated initial job losses of the pandemic recession, but don’t yet account for unexpected disruptions such as wildfires or the continuing effects of the pandemic that we have experienced. Each year these long-term projections will be updated and will reflect the known impacts on all industries. More details on all industry projections can be found here on the website. 
Between 2019 and 2029 retail trade in Oregon will see the most growth in the nonstore retailers, food and beverage stores, and building material and garden supply stores. The projections show jobs in clothing and clothing accessories stores decreasing by 10 percent. The decrease in these stores may be due to many major retailers moving out of the existing malls due to bankruptcy or downsizing.

According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine titled, “Coronavirus will be ‘Final Catalyst’ to weed out excess U.S. Malls:  Study,” 15 to 17 percent of United States malls will no longer be “viable as shopping centers” and will need to be redeveloped for other uses. The findings are from a report created by the investment bank Barclays Capital, which shows that one-third of the loans that are held by tenants in malls are in default. Malls with a vacancy rate of more than 20 percent are considered in the “non-viability danger zone.” The rate of mall vacancies jumped to 28 percent in September of this year, which was a 20 percent increase over last year. Many malls in Oregon are experiencing the same fate during these tough economic times. 

As the holiday season quickly approaches we are still feeling impacted by the fast growing number of COVID-19 cases in our state. Combined with other natural disasters like wildfires, there are many barriers for local retail establishments. Online shopping for gifts and food items is becoming more and more popular, impacting the future of our local stores. One thing is for certain, change is the only constant in the retail trade industry.

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