President Donald Trump championed himself as a savior of the American worker during his campaign.
But he has been largely silent on the biggest crisis facing these workers: the collapse of the retail industry.
According to government data, general merchandise stores like Macy’s and Sears have bled more jobs since October — about 89,000 total — than the total number of people employed by the entire US coal industry, which Trump repeatedly pledged to revive both on the campaign trail and in office.
Since 2001, department stores alone have lost half a million jobs. The coal industry by comparison has lost about 22,000 jobs in the same time period.
The job exodus in the retail industry, which still employs about one out of every 10 American workers, is only expected to continue.
Created with Highstock 4.2.7All Employees: Retail Trade: Department Stores20102002200420062008201220142016200020101,2001,3001,4001,5001,6001,7001,800
Thousands of Persons
Shaded areas indicate U.S. recessions
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
More than 3,200 retailers have announced store closures so far this year, and Credit Suisse analysts expect that number to grow to more than 8,600 before the end of the year. For comparison, 6,163 stores shut down in 2008 — the worst year for closures on record.
The retail industry typically pays low wages but provides employment to people in every age bracket, as well as those who are low-skilled and need flexible scheduling options.
So when these workers lose their jobs, they can have a hard time finding other employment.
Meanwhile, retail workers who remain employed are seeing their hours cut — so their paychecks are getting smaller — and some are doing twice the work now, as companies look for ways to shrink labor costs.
Trump has not made any public statements about the decline of the retail industry. He held a meeting with eight retail CEOs in February, but it was reportedly more focused on tax reform than jobs. At the time, the retail industry was lobbying heavily against a proposed border adjustment tax on imports that the White House was considering.
The Trump administration has since tabled that proposal, according to The New York Times.
On the federal minimum wage — an issue that has an enormous impact on the low-paying retail industry — Trump has made few and somewhat conflicting statements. He has said the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25, should be raised to $10, but he has also said that states — not the federal government — should set the minimum wage.
‘I have to do the work of my entire team’
At companies like Sears, which owns both Sears and Kmart stores, store closures and shrinking paychecks are having a devastating effect on workers.
Sears has closed more than 150 stores this year…