From 19th-century shop girls to 20th-century buyers, modern retailing has been a female-friendly work environment. Just look at the photos today’s department stores use to illustrate their commitments to diversity. Women typically outnumber men at least two-to-one, a ratio that reflects reality. At Nordstrom, for example, 70 percent of all employees and 69 percent of managers are women.
So the “retail apocalypse” means fewer jobs for women. Retail trade employment barely budged over the past year, with an increase of less than 0.4 percent, or about 58,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For general merchandise retailers, where women predominate, employment fell by about 50,000 jobs.
The collapse of traditional retailing reverses a much-heralded trend: Jobs that involve working with things are disappearing, while those that demand a winning personality — celebrated as “emotional intelligence” — are growing. Men lose while women win, especially at the bottom of the educational and income ladder.
“The labor market continues to shift away from traditionally male jobs toward traditionally female jobs,” Jed Kolko, the chief economist for job site Indeed, told USA Today last week. That’s a particular problem for less-educated men, half of whom are in occupations where at least four-fifths of the workers are male, compared to 20 percent of men with bachelor’s degrees. “Fast-growing male jobs that require lots of education don’t really help men without a college degree who have been in traditionally male jobs and for whom work is part of male identity,” Kolko wrote in a blog post.
That’s true but incomplete. Reports on economic changes tend to reflect two biases. They emphasize losers over winners, the seen over the…