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U.S. retailers cut hiring amid industry downturn

Hiring is down at major retailers across the United States, and industry experts pin part of the problem on a shrinking applicant pool. Fewer Americans are seeking jobs—even seasonal or part-time jobs—in brick-and-mortar shopping outlets.

Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and other retail heavyweights all said that they will hire the same or fewer seasonal workers this holiday season than they did last year. Walmart and several others will not be hiring temporary workers at all.

Outside market pressures are a factor, according to some observers. They note that brick-and-mortar retailers are under intense competitive pressures from e-commerce vendors such as Amazon. Malls and store outlets have been laying off staff and filing bankruptcies at historically high rates.

But even stores that can afford to hire are having trouble finding applicants, according to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for the employment website Glassdoor. Many adults are finding better-paying work in other sectors, as the unemployment rate for the whole U.S. economy has fallen to its lowest in 16 years.

Meanwhile, teens and college students looking for summer work are finding it new “gig economy” ventures such as driving for Uber or Deliveroo. An Uber driver earns $14.76 an hour on average, according to Glassdoor, whereas the hourly mean wage for entry-level sales personnel at U.S. retailers was only $11.96 as of May 2016.

“There just aren’t enough people who are looking for work … to be put in those positions,” Chamberlain said of retailer jobs.

Glassdoor’s listings suggest that retailers are reducing their vacancies accordingly. The site listed 875,000 job openings in mid-October 2016 and only 829,599 retail job openings at the same time this month.

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