WASHINGTON – Retail industry employment saw a modest decline in August, decreasing 900 jobs from July, the National Retail Federation said today. The number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. The economy overall saw gains of 156,000 jobs in August.
“Despite the slight decrease, the three-month average of 185,000 job gains combined with July’s personal income and spending release confirm solid economic momentum and should provide retailers positive guidance as they gear up for the upcoming holiday season.” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “August has a history of being a quirky jobs report. The data must adjust for teachers returning to school with different start dates, along with summer jobs winding down at various times. This makes the seasonal adjustment difficult if not tricky. The initial release is often below trend and subject to subsequent revisions.”
Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department don’t paint an entirely accurate picture of the industry because they count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business like corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs.
The composition of August’s retail employment was mixed with building material and garden supply registering a gain of 4,500 jobs and furniture and furnishing stores increasing by 1,200. This gain was offset by declines in the health and personal care, clothing and sporting goods, which lost a combined 6,300 jobs.
Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in August grew 0.1 percent to 2.5 percent year-over-year, where it has held steady the last four months. The Labor Department said August unemployment increased to 4.4 percent, from 4.3 percent in July.
NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.