Kroger ($KR) earnings are next and analysts have been down on the stock - for good reason. The grocery retailer is down 10% already in 2019, and recently, it seems that job openings at the company have started to run out of stock overnight.

Wells Fargo ($WFC) analysts cut their earnings per share target for the company for both the first quarter of its fiscal year and its full-year projections, saying that for the current quarter, the grocer's "unusually long quarter (16 weeks) makes it more exposed to the recent softness" that has arisen in certain pockets of retail and consumer. Kroger's "cost-cutting initiative has flown under the radar, but it appears to have made good progress," the analysts wrote last week. In fact, Kroger's cost cutting may have shown up clearly in its data - but it remains to be seen whether or not the moves will pay off for the company. 

A Big Drop

Kroger's job postings recently plummeted, virtually overnight, with little in the way of an explanation.

In April 2018, the company announced plans to hire more than 10,000 new workers and to raise wages across stores. However, beginning in February, the company reduced its open positions at its website from more than 11,000 to a little more than 7,000 in early June, a 37% decline. Kroger has found other ways to create savings: the company reportedly cut hundreds of jobs shuttering a bakery that supported its operation in February. 

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Kroger's jobs data also yields a specific piece of data relating to its strategy - recently, the company began seeking new hundreds of new hires for pharmacy and pharmacy technician positions. The company owns other grocery store brands, beyond Kroger, and this may be a signal that it will expand these services to more affiliate stores. 

Here is Where the Cuts Were Made

Kroger's deepest cuts came for "Hourly Associates" although it added more roles for "Retail Clerks" this year. It's likely that most of the reductions to its total job postings came specifically from this category - and it could be a sign that Kroger is further into its plan to better implement automation at its stores. 

Reduced hiring for unnecessary roles and expanding customer service could be enough to put the grocery store operator over the top - but Wells Fargo analysts aren't bullish; their Kroger report was titled "All Signs Point To A Tough Q1 And Everyone Knows It." When the company announces its earnings Thursday June 20, analysts are expecting earnings per share of $0.71, according to a group of analysts tracked by Zacks Investment Research. 

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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