Companies like Wal-Mart boast that their jobs offer “quality compensation and benefits.” Wal-Mart says its jobs are “among the best in the retail industry, and always competitive in local markets.” But being competitive in the retail industry doesn’t pay the bills. Wal-Mart is now the largest private employer in America, and its wages are among those that have a considerable impact on the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage report on retail employment. According to the BLS, the average retail worker in America made $9.46 an hour in the year 2000, and worked only 28.9 hours a week. That means their gross pay was only $273.39 a week, or roughly $1,189 a month, or $14,268 a year. That means a single woman working at Sprawl-Mart, with one child at home, is eligible to get Food Stamps from the U.S.taxpayer. She can then use those food stamps to buy groceries at the local sprawlmart where she works. Thats “quality compensation” supported by taxpayers. There were nearly 23 million Americans working retail jobs in 1999. By comparison, the average manufacturing job in 2000 paid $14.38 an hour for 41.6 hours a week, or a paycheck of $598.21 per week — more than twice the retail rate. All other major industrial classifications earned more than retail. Wholesale trade made an average hourly wage of $15.20. Transportation, $16.22. Construction, $17.88. Services, $13.91. Financial & Real Estate, $15.07 an hour. Retail workers were at the bottom of the pile in terms of both wages and hours worked.
The next time someone from Wal-Mart or Kmart or Target gets up at your local town meeting and starts talking about jobs, pull out these statistics, and remind your friends and neighbors that we cannot build a strong economy on jobs that entitle people to welfare supplements. Retail workers want a fair wage, not food stamps.