Reporters' Tip: Amazon & Retail Job Churn

In response to many inquiries we have received since releasing our study, Will Amazon Fool Us Twice?, about aggressive subsidy-gathering behavior by the online retail giant (and to mark Amazon's made-up "Prime Day"), Good Jobs First issued a WARN Act tip for reporters on how to add additional context to Amazon.com's claim of "creating" 100,000 jobs.

 

As we argued in a follow-up blog, Amazon is not creating net new industry jobs, but rather driving "job churn" within retail, as other retail chains close facilities and lay off workers. Consumers do not have more money to spend simply because they have another way to spend. 

 

Indeed, given how hyper-efficient Amazon.com is, like Walmart before it, the online retailer is, as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues, apparently shrinking total retail employment (by 149,000 nationwide as of the end of 2015, ILSR estimates; see page 35 of its study).

 

The best way to document this churning trend for your local readers is to juxtapose Amazon facility openings with other retailers' closures.  And the quickest way to obtain closure data is from your state's online collection of notices it has received pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the federal law requiring 60 days advance notice before a mass layoff or business closure. 

 

Although WARN notices don't capture every layoff, and a small number of states don't post them, these lists are must-see starting points to tell the full retail-jobs story. For example, in Virginia in FY 2017, out of 64 notices, at least 31 were retail-related, representing 49 percent of lost jobs; so far in 2017 in Florida, at least 33 out of 84 notices are in the industry; and in Colorado at least seven out of 15 WARN Act notices are in retailing.