NRF: Retail Job Picture Mixed

Retail industry employment fell by 6,400 jobs seasonally adjusted in March but gained 30,800 unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation, which cited United States Department of Labor data.

The total excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, the U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs, NRF noted.

Monthly gains occurred in non-store, which includes online employment, a sector that added 4,300 jobs in March from February. Employment also gained in miscellaneous stores, up 4,100, furniture stores, up 2,000, building and garden supplies, up 1,900, and electronics and health/personal care, each up 1,700. Three sectors that suffered month over month employment declines in March from February were general merchandise stores, down 12,600, clothing and clothing accessory stores, down 7,300 and grocery stores, down 3,200.

Across the U.S. economy, average hourly earnings in February increased by eight cents, or by 2.7% year-over-year, and the unemployment rate was 4.1%, unchanged for the sixth straight month.

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz pointed out that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department only count employees who work in stores and, so, exclude, retail workers in other parts of the industry including corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs.

“March was weaker than February but the trend is in the right direction,” Kleinhenz said. “This time of year can be quirky given weather and the timing of Easter and Passover. We should be pleased with the broader picture because the economy is growing, creating substantial job gains at this time during the expansion. Even with this month’s dip, retail employment is still substantially higher than the beginning of the year and this time last year. Retail has not taken a step backward.”