Justification of Need

Need for the ACT-On Program

The ACT-On grant addresses the need for high-quality retail leaders by attracting people to the industry and offering relevant, accessible, and accredited educational opportunities. The consortium of colleges funded by the grant identified that by focusing on retail, they provided an important opportunity for unemployed and underemployed adults in their regions. This need, and the opportunity for students, relates to the following issues:

Retail's Changing Role in the Economy

The retail sector constitutes one of the largest industries in the United States. With more than 15 million jobs, retail constitutes the U.S.’s largest employer, and accounts for more than 4 trillion dollars in annual revenue spread across 1 million stores.[1] Within this sector, 3.4 million people work in grocery retail, which was the original industrial focus of the grant. The retail grocery industry in 2015 reported sales close to $650 billion and net profits of $9.75 billion.[2] Grocery retail represents a diverse composition of stores that range in size, goods, and regional structure.

Technological Advances Require Higher Skilled workers

The workforce that comprises the retail industry (and the grocery industry in particular) is diverse and ever-changing.[3] Retail stores must now contend with the encroachment of multi-national and online competitors, more sophisticated and informed customers, and an aging workforce.[4] As a result, the industry has undergone many changes in technological sophistication and capabilities over the past 10 to 15 years. These changes have posed a significant challenge to businesses; particularly, businesses have struggled to find a skilled and quality retail workforce. The rapidly changing skills that employees need to succeed in retail jobs and the fact that those employees have low levels of postsecondary degree or certificate attainment places a strain on the pipeline of qualified retail managers. Additionally, the low level of education perpetuates the stereotype that the retail industry does not provide a viable career path and meaningful career to workers. The ACT-On grant intends to address these workforce challenges by enhancing the labor supply of high-quality retail managers.

Key Findings

Labor Demand for Retail Leadership Occupations

The ACT-On Consortium aims to increase the number of trained and qualified retail managers to meet the rising labor demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 1.53 million first-line supervisors of retail sales workers employed across the United States in 2014.[5] BLS projects first-line supervisors’ employment will increase to 1.6 million by 2024, a 4.4 percent increase from 2014, which is slightly below the expected growth for all occupations across the country at 6.5 percent. Despite overall employment levels increasing slightly, BLS projects that slightly more than 411,000 job openings will occur from 2014 to 2024. This estimate includes job openings due to growth in the industry and the replacement needs that will result from workers retiring from or permanently leaving an occupation.

Labor demand for retail positions in the four states that the grant served—Alaska, California, Oregon, and Texas—was higher than the national average.

For this study, we have imported Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) hiring and earnings data from 2011 to 2015 for the counties in each of the four grant states. For each state and for each year, one can see the total number of jobs and the number of jobs per capita for each count. These data are displayed in the maps linked below.

Key Findings

For a more detailed look at how retail labor demand has evolved, click above to open interactive labor demand and earnings maps of the grant college states


[5] BLS Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Code 41-1011 First-line supervisors of retail sales workers

Retail Management Salaries

Estimates related to retail management salaries vary depending on the data source and the job title. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages for first line supervisors at the national level in 2015 were $38,310 or $18.42/hour. Other data sources, for instance www.glassdoor.com (a popular salary aggregation website), estimate that national median average salaries for retail store managers is around $45,000.

Key Findings