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Retail Industry Continues to be Largest Private-Sector Employer, According to New Report

The retail industry supported 55 million full-time and part-time jobs in 2022, accounting for 26% of total U.S. employment.

Graphic of direct economic contributions of retail subsections to US economy
The retail industry's furniture and home furnishings subsector employs 493,500 million employees, and general
merchandise retailers more than 3.1 million.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The retail industry supported 55 million full-time and part-time jobs in 2022, accounting for 26% of total U.S. employment, according to a new report released by the National Retail Federation. The figures are up from 52 million jobs and 25% of total U.S. employment in 2018. Conducted by PwC, The Economic Contribution of the U.S. Retail Industry examines the direct, indirect and induced contribution of the retail industry to the U.S. economy.

“The retail industry continues to expand in every way possible, from the number of jobs it supports to the number of retail businesses, and its total impact on GDP,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “As the largest private-sector employer, American families and workers depend on a strong retail economy for continued growth and opportunity in communities large and small across the country.”

According to the report, the retail industry’s total labor income contribution was approximately $3 trillion, or 20% of total national labor income in 2022. The industry’s total gross domestic product (GDP) contribution was $5.3 trillion, accounting for 20.4% of U.S. GDP.

In terms of direct economic contribution, the report found that there were nearly 4.6 million retail establishments in 2022, which accounted for 11.1% of all business establishments in the country. Retailers also directly provided 32.2 million jobs for American workers.

While retailers can range from small, local businesses to global operations, the study found that the vast majority (98.6%) had fewer than 50 employees in 2022. These firms accounted for 40.1% of all retail jobs and 35.6% of total labor income in the retail industry. Those with 50 or more employees accounted for a significant portion of retail employment (59.9%) and labor income (64.4%).

The report also examined retail’s economic impact for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The states with the largest total number of retail establishments in 2022 were California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia.

The report was released in advance of NRF’s fourth annual State of Retail & the Consumer virtual discussion on the health of the American consumer, the U.S. economy and the retail industry.

Read the full report here.

As the leading authority and voice for the retail industry, NRF conducts research throughout the year, staying on the pulse of the industry and consumer behavior as they evolve.
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