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Jennifer Marks

Sobering Stats

July 11, 2011

Lord, it don't come easy. The June jobs report released late last week showed a gain of just 18,000 jobs - drastically lower than economists had expected and even worse than the original May report's 54,000 job increase.

About an hour before the report was released, I was reading a piece about job growth on The Atlantic Monthly's website that offered some sobering statistics:

"According to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, the U.S. economy remains on track to generate 15 million new jobs over the next decade. 6.8 million of them will be high-skill, high-wage work in the knowledge, professional, and technical sectors of the economy. The other half will be much lower-paying, low-skill work in the routine service sector of the economy. More than 45 percent of the U.S. workforce - 60 million workers - already do this kind of work, and they earn just half of what factory workers make - and only a third of what professional, technical and knowledge workers are paid."
The italics are mine.

Whenever the economy downshifts, there's a lot of talk about the squeeze put on middle-tier retailers. Then the economy gets humming again and discount store shoppers start splurging a tier above their pay grade, while mid-tier shoppers splurge at full-on department stores.

What the BLS report suggests is more of a permanent wage realignment. Pray that it's not so, but if the projections prove out it calls into question the recently re-invigorated pace of new store openings by all retailers lacking the word "Dollar" in their nameplate. Stores catering to the traditional middle class professional segment could find themselves battling for a shrinking market.

As for suppliers who have been hoping for a return to higher quality standards ... don't hold your breath too long.