Retail workers, many hit by store closures, make up a big part of our workforce

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Restaurant workers are grappling with the industry’s near shutdown in North Carolina due to coronavirus. Another category of workers being hit hard is those employed by the retail sector.

The closures have come swiftly over the past week, engulfing an ever-widening swath of stores locally: SouthPark mall, Concord Mills and Charlotte Premium Outlets have all temporarily closed, along with major retailers such as Nike, Apple and IKEA.

[Read more: Coronavirus impacts food service workers, who play a major role in our regional economy]

Non-food or pharmacy retail accounts for 7.5 percent of the region’s workforce: Over 101,000 out of 1.35 million jobs in the 14-county region including Mecklenburg, with average earnings of $37,756 a year. There are 5,750 payrolled business locations in the retail category. 

Mecklenburg County has the highest number of retail jobs, at 45,874.

Not all retail workers will be impacted in the same ways, as not all outlets would close, even under a shelter-in-place order limiting people to essential jobs. some retailers have said they will pay hourly employees during this temporary closure. Some may be able to shift to online shopping functions as companies turn to e-commerce to fill the gap. 

Retail job concentration in the Charlotte region. Map: Billy Prutzman