November 6, 2017
Retail jobs decline in October as hurricanes continue to skew numbers
Retail industry employment declined by 18,000 jobs in October, the National Retail Federation said today. The number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, the economy added 261,000 jobs, the Labor Department said.
“Retail jobs were down in October while overall employment was up, but it is difficult to draw conclusions because the jobs data is still distorted by the aftermath of the recent hurricanes,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The storms have caused some consumers to defer discretionary spending but at the same time retailers selling building materials saw a significant increase in sales as homeowners and businesses affected by the storms rebuild and make repairs. There continues to be a significant number of job openings in retail, so the drop could reflect a difficulty in hiring given the low unemployment rate. Also keep in mind that retailers are on the verge of adding half a million or more temporary workers for the holiday season.”
“We look forward to seeing how the tax reform bill introduced this week will affect employment,” Kleinhenz said. “We expect that tax reform for employers will go a long way to creating jobs and boosting the nation’s economy.”
The October drop compares with an increase of 4,200 jobs in September, which was revised after initially being reported as a loss of 4,600 jobs. The three-month moving average in October showed a loss of 6,900 jobs compared with the same period a year ago. That was an improvement over a three-month loss of 8,500 in September.
Employment at stores selling building materials and supplies was up by 5,500 jobs in October, reflecting a surge seen since the hurricanes in August and September.
Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department do not provide an accurate picture of the industry because they count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs. Warehouse and storage jobs, for example, were up by 3,100 jobs in October over September but do not count as retail jobs even if the workers are employed by retailers.
Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in October increased by 63 cents – 2.4 percent – year over year. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate decreased to 4.1 percent, down from 4.2 percent in September.
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.