Retail continued to hire in first two months of pandemic; Now most stores, restaurants open, hiring continues

In the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic, retail salesperson ranked as Alabama’s second most advertised job opening on online wanted ads, according to the Labor Market Information Division of the Alabama Department of Labor.

Retail sales frequently shares the top spot for online job postings in the state with nurses. While many retailers had to furlough workers and/or shutdown or limit operations during the months of March and April 2020, certain segments of the industry continued to hire.

Retailers open throughout March and April even hired extra help to handle the volume of business they were doing. Three of the top 10 employers advertising online for jobs in March in Alabama were retailers. Five of the top 10 were retailers in April (See Help Wanted Online graphics).

The Alabama Labor Department found 1,986 online ads for retail salespersons in March and 1,831 in April, a decline of 7.8%, but still the second highest occupation advertising job openings.

Since they were allowed to open their doors, small retailers (April 3o) and restaurants (May 11) have safely brought back furloughed staff or offered jobs to previous staff.  Some have even begun advertising that they are hiring again. Orange Beach restaurants such as Wolf Bay Restaurant, Cosmos Restaurant and Bar, Luna’s Eat & Drink and BuzzCatz Coffee & Sweets began hiring seasonal staff in the past two weeks.

Char Haber, owner of three Wolf Bay Restaurants, inside her Foley location.

Our Gulf Coast area is experiencing an extreme shortage of available work force,” said Char Haber, owner of Wolf Bay Restaurants in Foley and Orange Beach in Alabama. “We’ve only been able to reopen two of our three locations due to this critical issue. We are desperately trying to find enough workers so we can serve our wonderful guests to the best of our ability.” The Wolf Bay Restaurant in the Perdido/Pensacola, Florida, area remains closed at this time.

In April, the retail employment picture in Alabama changed dramatically with 70,200 fewer people working either in retail stores or at restaurants than had been in March, according to Alabama’s May 2020 Labor Market News. In April, 215,800 worked in retail trade and 110,100 worked at food services and drinking places. The 325,900 employed in retail trade/food and drinking places compares to 396,100 employed by those two sectors in March. Retail and restaurant employees continue to file initial unemployment claims, but at much less rates than when many of those business operations were closed or extremely limited.

The Alabama Labor Department compiles help wanted online data from all online job postings in the state, including those posted on the state’s free online jobs database – – and other sources; such as traditional job boards, corporate boards and social media sites.