The job losses suffered by coal miners often take the forefront in discussions of the U.S. economy.
These job cuts have been devastating to many cities and towns, and both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made that a major talking point in last year's presidential campaign.
But that narrative misses something big: Department stores have lost 18 times more workers than coal mining since 2001. And they've shed nearly 100,000 jobs since October.
So, why doesn't the decline in retail jobs get the same political attention as coal jobs?
Derek Thompson, a senior editor at The Atlantic where he writes about economics and labor markets, has some ideas.
• Coal mining jobs are clustered. Thompson said 60 percent of coal mining jobs are in just four states: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Wyoming. Retail is spread across the country.
When a mine or manufacturer closes, the effects are highly noticeable, and they can decimate communities. But when, for example, a Target store closes, the impact appears more subtle on a national scale.
"There are mining towns or steel towns where that industry goes away and the ripple effect is enormous," Thompson said. "There aren't really 'mall cities.' There aren't department store cities."
• Demographics matter. Thompson noted that coal mining jobs are held by a crowd that's 95 percent white, 95 percent male. Department store workers are far more likely to be held by women or minorities.
"I do think that it's possible that there is an emphasis at the national level, at the political level, on jobs that white and male and even burly," Thompson said.
He said that the "muscular" jobs of America's past create a strong image for people. Ringing up items at a cash register doesn't have the same optics.
Though cashiers and retail salespeople are "the two most common occupations in America," Thompson said, "they aren't necessarily metaphorically indicative of the American worker the same way that a steel worker is."
Thompson and Carol Spieckerman, president and CEO of Spieckerman Retail consultants, joined MPR News host Tom Weber to discuss the decline in retail jobs.
They talked about what's at the heart of retail's woes. Is the digital economy to blame, or is that too simple an explanation?
To hear the full discussion, use the audio player above.