The Who’s Better Off Game:Retail Sales Workers

Critics have suggested that America is becoming a Wal-Mart economy — a nation of part-time employees earning meager wages and getting few benefits — and nowhere is that contention better supported than in Wal-Mart’s own sector, retail. While the budget-priced giant is growing, there are fewer Americans working in retail every year, and those who still have jobs are earning less and less…

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Wal-Mart remains a retail powerhouse, and the health of the general retail industry largely reflects the health of the Arkansas-based discount giant. That’s bad news for retail employees.

As Wal-Mart has grown, retail jobs and wages have declined. In 2000, there were more than 991,000 retail salespeople working in the U.S. By mid 2003, that number had dropped to just over 961,000 — a dip of more than 3 percent. And wages remain low — among the lowest of any group in the nation. Today, the average annual salary for retail salespeople remains below $20,000, and real income has grown by only about 1.5 percent since Bush took office.

Cashiers are doing slightly better — no surprise, as the retail growth has been driven by companies like Wal-Mart that employ more cashiers than actual salespeople. Still, wages for cashiers remain crushingly low — less than $17,000 a year nationwide — and real income growth has hovered below 1 percent.

In some states, like Ohio and Michigan, retail workers are doing particularly poorly. In Ohio, nearly 10 percent of all salespeople jobs were eliminated between 2000 and 2003, while 3.5 percent of cashier jobs in Michigan were lost.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate