WASHINGTON — The latest job figures could confirm widespread fears of a recession as both retailers and manufacturers posted steep employment losses.
Retailers cut payrolls by a seasonally adjusted 14,100 workers in February as the overall economy lost 63,000 jobs, the worst loss in five years, the Department of Labor reported Friday. However, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent last month from 4.9 percent in January.
Textile producers cut 2,000 jobs, with l,000 lost jobs at both textile mills and textile product mills, respectively. Apparel producers added 200 workers last month.
Figures were not good for retailers, economists said. The Department of Labor statistics showed a loss of 3,000 specialty store jobs to 1.5 million and 11,100 department store jobs to 1.6 million.
"The debate should no longer be about whether there is or is not a recession, only about how deep it will be. Private employment has now fallen for three months in a row," said Nigel Gault, chief economist of Global Insight, in his analysis of the February statistics.
The drop in private employment was widespread across a number of sectors, including a sharp decline in retail trade jobs, which is also a bad indicator, he said.
The decline in the unemployment rate, Gault said, looks odd on the surface, but the steep losses in the labor force numbers were worse than employment.
Retail job losses in February aren't surprising, said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research Corp. A certain number of layoffs are expected after the holiday season, which many say includes January, but nonetheless the job declines last month were steep.
"What we saw [in the Department of Labor statistics] is that workers simply weren't needed in February. They were either not replaced when they quit or they were dismissed," Yamarone said.
Economists said the job losses are expected to continue in the months ahead as recession fears appear more likely to come to pass.
"The report confirms that the economy has slowed very sharply," Gault said.
Yamarone said the declining job numbers could be expected to continue for at least the next six to nine months, with some sectors feeling the pinch more than others."Women's apparel in particular is going to come under stress in the next couple of months," predicted Yamarone.
Uncertainty will be driven by higher apparel prices from China, broader economic issues and a tendency among the primary household shoppers, women, to buy necessary goods instead of discretionary items like apparel, he said. The combination of factors will continue to drag down the sectors where women shop, as has already been seen in recent same-store sales figures for some companies, Yamarone said.
Not all economists think a recession is imminent or already in effect, however. Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, said the current state of affairs shows a bifurcated economy. Sectors related to housing and some home manufacturers are suffering, but a number of sectors, including education, health care and hospitality, added jobs in February. Job losses would be across the board if a recession had truly started, he said.
"It's splitting hairs, but technically we may end up avoiding a recession. This period of iffy or no growth will last for a long time; it will be another year and a half before we see growth," he said.
It is noteworthy, however, that the corporate sector is now showing job losses that weren't there a few months ago, Dhawan said.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews