All Things Political

Wholesale Trade Industry Job Outlook

supplemental resource: Job Outlook by Profession

Employment in wholesale trade will increase slowly as consolidation into fewer and larger firms occurs, eliminating the jobs of redundant workers, while new technology allows operations to become more efficient. Employment will decline in some occupations but new jobs will be created in others.

Over the 2008–2018 period, wage and salary employment in wholesale trade is projected to grow by 4 percent, compared to 11 percent growth for all industries combined. Consolidation and the spread of new technology are the main reasons for slow employment growth. Employment in the industry still depends primarily on overall levels of consumption of goods, which should grow with the economy. Growth will vary, however, depending on the products and sectors of the economy with which individual wholesale trade firms are involved. For example, because of the Nation's aging population, growth is expected to be higher than average for wholesale trade firms that distribute pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

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The Internet, e-commerce, radio frequency identification systems (RFID), and electronic data interchange (EDI) have allowed wholesalers and their customers to better gather price data, track inventory and deliveries, obtain product information, and market products. Increased automation of recordkeeping, ordering, routing, billing, and processing, and the ability of clients to perform self-service in the ordering process, will result in slower growth or declines for office and administrative support occupations, particularly those directly involved in the ordering and recordkeeping process such as shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks and order clerks.

With these new technologies making it easier for firms to bypass the wholesaler altogether and order directly from the manufacturer or supplier, wholesale firms are putting greater emphasis on customer service to distinguish themselves from these other suppliers. Wholesale firms are offering more services such as installation, maintenance, assembly, and repair work and creating many jobs for workers to perform these functions. As more customers gather information and complete orders through the Internet, more customer service workers and inside sales workers will also be needed to answer questions or meet the demands of clients in a more immediate fashion than outside sales workers are able to.

Consolidation of wholesale trade firms into fewer and larger companies will contribute to relatively slow employment growth in the future. There is strong competition among wholesale distribution companies, manufacturers' representative companies, and logistics companies for business from manufacturers. Cost pressures are likely to continue to force wholesale distributors to merge with other firms or to acquire smaller firms. The consolidation of wholesale trade into fewer, larger firms will make some staff redundant and reduce demand for some workers, especially office and administrative support workers. However, due to the diverse needs and size of clients there will continue to be demand for smaller regional and independent wholesalers in the future.

Although job growth in wholesale trade will be slow, a large number of job openings will arise as people retire or leave the occupation for other reasons. Job prospects are still expected to be good for some occupations.

Growth in electronic distribution channels will create favorable job prospects for computer specialists in the wholesale trade industry. Wholesalers' presence in e-commerce and the uses of electronic data interchanges (EDI) will require more computer specialists to develop, maintain, and update these systems. Computer specialists will also be needed to install and develop radio frequency identification (RFID) systems for those firms that adopt it, and to troubleshoot any problems these systems encounter.

There will also be some opportunities for self-employment, with some managers and sales workers starting their own manufacturers' representative companies. For example, brokers match buyers with sellers and never actually own goods, so individuals with the proper connections can establish their own agency with only a small investment—perhaps even working out of their home.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition

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