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Retail Jobs Among the Most Common Occupations

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Despite the growth in online retail sales, the retail workforce continues to have a substantial presence in the U.S. labor force and the number of people employed in retail jobs has grown this decade.

In 2018, 9.8 million workers had jobs as cashiers, retail salespersons or first-line supervisors of retail salespersons, up from 9.6 million in 2010. Together, these occupations accounted for 6.3% of the total U.S. labor force.

Cashiers were among the lowest-paid members of the retail workforce.

Young, less educated women earning low wages characterize the typical retail worker in the United States. Minorities are overrepresented in retail work but non-Hispanic Whites still make up the majority (60%) of the retail workforce.

Using data from the American Community Survey, a new Census Bureau report profiles three sales and related occupations – retail salespersons, cashiers and first-line supervisors, collectively referred to as retail workers.

In 2018, there were 9.8 million people employed as retail workers in the United States. Retail salespeople and cashiers include about 3.3 million workers each, followed by first-line supervisors of retail sales workers with 3.1 million workers. 

How retail workers compare to the total workforce:

  • Retail workers are younger. Over half of all retail workers were ages 16 to 34.
  • Women were more likely to work in retail jobs. About 56.5% of retail workers were women, compared with 43.5% who were men.
  • Blacks and Hispanics were overrepresented in retail work. Blacks comprised 12.5% of the retail workforce compared to 11.4% of the total workforce; Hispanics were 18.7% and 17.5%, respectively.
  • Retail workers were less likely to have a bachelor’s degree or more. In 2018, 18.1% of retail workers had a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with 35.2% of all workers.
  • Retail workers were more likely to live in poverty. In 2018, 10.1% of retail workers lived in poverty. In contrast, 6.0% of all workers lived in poverty.
  • Retail workers were more likely to have Medicaid. In 2018, 15.3% of retail workers had Medicaid compared to 9.0% of the total workforce. Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides health coverage for low-income people. 

Retail Workers by Industry

In 2018, around 1.3 million retail workers were employed by grocery stores. The count of retail workers in general merchandise stores, including warehouse clubs and supercenters, was around 865,000. In addition, 535,000 worked in department stores.


Earnings of Retail Workers

Cashiers were among the lowest-paid members of the retail workforce.

In 2018, the median earnings for full-time, year-round cashiers were $22,109, compared with $35,301 for retail salespersons and $42,421 for first-line supervisors of retail salespersons.

In contrast, the median earnings for all full-time, year-round workers was $48,565 in 2018.



D. Augustus Anderson is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.


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Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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