By  on August 6, 2010

WASHINGTON — Apparel retailers and manufacturers expanded payrolls in July, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday, but the broader economy continued to suffer from a reluctant recovery.

Specialty stores added a seasonally adjusted 3,000 jobs in July to employ 1.39 million and department stores added 4,400 positions to employ 1.49 million, the Labor Department said. General merchandise stores, which include department stores, added 10,900 jobs to employ 2.95 million.

July’s employment figures for specialty apparel retailers hit their highest point since January 2009 and department stores reported their highest employment figures since November 2008, said John Lonski, chief economist with Moody’s Investor Services.

Some of the retail hiring could be attributable to nominal increases in sales in July, Lonski said. Same-store sales results in July were uneven from chain to chain, driven by a variety of factors, including promotional activity, but apparel stores overall eked out average sales increases, according to data released by retailers on Thursday.

Nationwide payrolls declined 131,000 in July, slightly worse than expected. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent.

Apparel manufacturers expanded payrolls by 600 to employ 165,300. Textile mills that produce apparel fabric added 1,000 jobs to employ 124,900. Textile product mills, which manufacture primarily home furnishing and industrial fabrics, added 100 jobs to employ 123,100.

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