Paying Retail Workers a Little Better Can Make a Huge Difference

November 27, 2012 | | The Atlantic Cities |

As Americans across the country head out en masse to malls and shopping centers to kickoff the holiday spending season today, it's important to remember that too many of the retail workers bringing us those deals earn meager wages.

The ranks of America's retail workforce have surged to more than 4.5 million workers, making it one of the nation's largest job categories. Their numbers swell further during the holiday crush, as stores take on additional seasonal employees. The U.S. is expected to add another 740,000 of retail jobs by 2020.

Retail workers are among the lowest paid Americans, averaging less than $10.90 an hour or $20,990 annually, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures. One in five retail workers are the sole income earner in their families. More than half contribute 50 percent or more to their family's income. And more than one million retail workers and their families live near the poverty level, according to a recent report by the think tank Demos.