The New York Post has called it “the end of jobs.” About 3.5 million people were employed as cashiers in U.S. stores last year— more than in any other occupation aside from sales. The BLS expects that number to rise just 2% in the next decade, far less than the 7% increase it projects for the entire U.S. economy. Britain’s Retail Consortium is even gloomier. It thinks 1/3 of the industry’s jobs will disappear by 2025, as technology takes over more tasks and human labor is priced out of the supermarket.
Are these forecasts overstated? The number of store clerks in the U.S. is actually slightly higher now than it was in 2005, despite a decade of innovations such as internet retailing and self-scan check-outs. Store staff are needed to keep shoppers honest, but also to keep them loyal. Many customers enjoy a human touch, or are fed up with the vagaries of automated scanners.
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