Increase In Employee Shoplifting May Indicate An Improving Economy, Study Shows

Does More Shoplifting Mean The Economy Is Improving?

In what might be an overly-optimistic report, CNN Money writes that a new study shows that a rise in shoplifting could indicate that the economy is actually improving.

Conducted by the National Retail Federation, the study found that retail theft by employees is on the rise, as costs for "lost" merchandise increased from $33.5 billion in 2009 to over $37 billion in 2010. Employees accounted for much of the thefts, more so than customers or administrative oversights.

The rationale is that when the recession was at its worst, employees would not risk losing their jobs over petty stealing -- paying the bills and feeding their families became more important.

Another factor in the rise in shoplifting numbers, says the report, are the major employee cuts enacted during the recession, which resulted in larger workloads for remaining employees who may then become "disgruntled" and be motivated to steal from employers.

To that end, CNN Money adds that shoplifting rates fell in 2007 significantly but are increasing as the economy improves.

Yet nearly almost every other study indicates that, as conventional wisdom would have it, a poor economy leads to more shoplifting and an improving economy leads to less.

This was widely discussed when the recession hit three years ago -- the New York Times wrote in December, 2008, "As Economy Dips, Arrests for Shoplifting Soar." A year later in 2009, TIME reported, "Recession Sparks Global Shoplifting Spree" and the New York Daily News noted a six percent rise in shoplifting since 2008, according to the Global Retail Theft Barometer Study.

Still, CNN Money reports, inventory losses at retailers reached its highest point in 1994 when the economy was rapidly expanding and have continually declined until a spike last year, according to data from the National Retail Federation.

Over all, it seems that the statistics are conflicting to the point of inconclusiveness. CNN Money's chosen data is particularly shaky, considering their statistic on the continuous rise in shoplifting measures from 2007, before the recession began.

What's more interesting is the notion that employees may be more likely to steal when they have less to lose, i.e. could stand to lose their jobs, and that being overworked can embitter to the point of theft. Either way it seems that shoplifting and/or the recession are still hovering over us, which is good news for no one.

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