Survey: Despite Economic Uncertainty, 74% of Retail Workers Looking for New Jobs in 2023

Sarah Archambault
April 03, 2023
5 min read

Faced with economic uncertainty and inflation, American retail workers share their feelings about the state of the current retail job market, the importance of pay transparency and a less stressful job hunt, the impact a wage increase would have on their job search, and other related feelings about this challenging and uncertain economic time.

It is no secret that the retail industry has always had a lot of turnover, with retailers often replacing more than half of their workers every year. But in this tight labor market and post-pandemic economy, retailers are faced with even more challenges staffing up – especially with the upcoming peak shopping seasons and consumer shifts back to brick and mortar buying.

In these uncertain economic times, American employers are still finding it a struggle to find and keep staff. The retail industry is one of the most heavily impacted business sectors with around 70% of jobs remaining unfilled, according to a US Chamber of Commerce analysis of Labor Department data. And since the pandemic, the retail industry is not only having trouble finding workers, but is also facing quit rates around 4% (Fall 2022) – nearly double the falling national average of 2.7%.

Understanding how retail workers are feeling during these unsettled economic conditions may be able to help retail organizations find better ways to attract and retain top talent. Checkr surveyed retail workers to get their feedback about switching jobs, what would keep them at their current job, how they feel about the job search process, and what their top turn-offs are during a job search, among other key learnings.

How many retail workers are job hunting in 2023 and why?

In a Checkr survey of American workers, 77% plan to switch jobs this year. Retail workers seem to be following this national trend with 74% of the retail workers we surveyed telling us that they are either already searching for a new job or are thinking about it for 2023. While 20% are currently looking for their next role, another 20% have definite plans to start a job hunt this year, and 34% are open to the idea. Of the retail workers that have started new jobs, 30% said they had no issue switching jobs again right away if it was in their best interest.

74% of the retail workers say they are

We drilled a little deeper to understand why employees in retail may be thinking about switching jobs. It turns out that 34% of retail workers simply want higher wages. But there were other reasons, too. Retail workers want better benefits and perks, more flexible work location options –  including remote and hybrid roles – and a stable job where they do not have to be concerned about layoffs. Other retail workers were considering changing jobs to escape toxic bosses or make career changes away from the industry.

How many retail workers are searching for jobs in 2023?

Data from Checkr proprietary survey American retail workers.

Job search: The good and the bad

To stay on top of retail recruiting best practices, it’s important for employers to understand how retail workers are feeling about looking for jobs in 2023. Getting ahead of what’s working and what’s not for candidates, can help you plan strong strategies to boost your recruitment practices and improve your hiring process. So, how are retail workers feeling about the idea of job hunting in 2023?

40% of retail workers find the process of searching for a new role stressful. Why? More than one-third (32%) of retail workers have mixed feelings about their past interactions with hiring managers and the companies that they applied to. Not only has the experience itself been unpleasant, it turns out that 51% of retail workers feel like it was impossible to even find a new job because their applications were not actually seen by hiring managers.

Do retail workers trust the application process?

Data from Checkr proprietary survey American retail workers.

During past job searches, retail workers reported not being overly concerned with unclear job responsibilities, poor communication with the hiring team, flexibility in the workplace (e.g. remote or hybrid options), or even a lack of alignment with the company culture. More than half of retail workers also felt that fair hiring practices to avoid discrimination and hire based on merit were not a concern.

Instead, 23% found the biggest roadblock during the job search proved to be lack of pay transparency, while another 23% of retail workers were most turned-off by the length of time the hiring process took – from searching, to applying, and interviewing.

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Retail workers will stay for a raise, and leave for more money

Wondering what your retail organization can do to successfully attract and retain new talent? The answer is simple: consider paying retail workers more money. Major retailers, including Costco, Target, and Walmart are already jumping on this trend and have bumped their minimum wage for store workers to at least $15 an hour.

And keeping retail workers happy may not take as much of a wage increase as you think. While 91% of retail workers would switch jobs for more money, it might not take as much of a pay increase as you think. 11% said they would switch jobs for as little as a 5% bump in pay from their current job, and 18% would switch for a modest 10% increase. Another 53% of retail workers, however, would need a 15-25% raise to consider jumping jobs.

But what if you want to also retain your current employees? Turns out they also want to earn higher wages. So, we dug a little deeper to find out just how much of a salary increase employees would need to stop them from looking for a new job in 2023. According to our survey, 10% of retail workers would stay for a modest 5% wage increase and while 16% would accept a 10% raise. However, it is worth noting that 48% are looking for raises somewhere between 15-25%.

How many retail workers would leave their jobs for a raise?

Data from Checkr proprietary survey American retail workers.

Are retail workers experiencing economic anxiety?

Although analysts believe that inflation has finally peaked and annual price increases continue to slow, inflation still has motivated 73% of retail workers to find a new job that pays more. Yet, 72% feel that their general economic anxiety and fears of recession-driven layoffs make it less likely they will be able to have success starting a job hunt or the ability to leave their current employer.

While forecasters have pushed back the timing of a pending recession to begin later in 2023 than originally thought and outlooks are a bit better for the economy and job market, more than two-thirds (77%) of respondents are still worried that a recession could have a negative impact on their job search this year.

Is economic anxiety impacting the retail job market and talent pool?

Data from Checkr proprietary survey American retail workers.

The bottom line

Inflation, a pending recession, continued low unemployment rates, and even the recent failure of several banks is proof the economy continues to remain unsteady in 2023. But despite these rocky economic times, the insights discovered in Checkr’s retail worker survey can help retail organizations better brace for 2023 hiring.

Understanding what retail workers are looking for not only in the job hunt itself, but salary, can help you attract new talent and retain top performers. From offering higher wages to both new employees and existing workers, to streamlining your hiring process, now is a great time to start brainstorming talent strategies for the upcoming busy seasons.

Whether you’re looking to hire a handful of new retail workers or hundreds, Checkr’s scalable background check solutions and technology can help you create a less strenuous job hunting experience with quicker turnaround times, more accurate results, and tools to keep both hiring managers and candidates informed every step of the way.

Survey methodology

All data found within this report is derived from a survey by Checkr conducted online via the survey platform Pollfish. In total, 3,500 adult Americans were surveyed. For this specific report, Checkr filtered for those respondents working in the retail sector alone. Respondents were found via Pollfish’s age and employment filtering features. This survey was conducted over a two-day span, and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities.

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Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

Sarah writes about small business topics and corporate communications. She has written on a wide range of topics, including background checks, hiring trends, company culture, and employee training and development. Her work includes educational articles, press releases, newsletters, and employee onboarding collateral. 

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