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.
Exclusive: Nicola Formichetti is parting ways with @diesel after nearly four years. Formichetti, who served as Lady Gaga’s stylist in 2009, joined Diesel in 2013 as creative and artistic director. His first show debuted in Venice with a show held at the Venetian Arsenal. #wwdfashion #wwdnews
The polo shirt - an icon of preppy style - is roaring back into fashion in many creative guises, like this A-line polyester top from @carven, worn with @31philliplim cotton and elastane pants. Designers stretched a fashion classic into all kinds of new permutations this season. See how @mayteallende styled the preppy trend on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📸 : Kinya)
(Market Editors: @andrew_shang and @elmercer, Makeup: @amandawilsonmakeup using @fentybeauty, Hair: @gonn24, Model: @bara_holotova at @women360mgmt)
“I do like period [projects] a lot because I like creating those worlds, a world that is different from today," costume designer Mark Bridges said about the '50s British couture featured in @phantomthread. Bridges created the overall aesthetic and individual fashion looks for the film, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. Pictured here is a gown he designed for Krieps who plays Alma – the love interest of Day-Lewis' character, Reynolds Woodcock. #wwdfashion
@prada is embracing the holiday season with a series of short movies about the art of gift-giving. "The Postman's Gifts", which was directed by American filmmaker Autumn de Wilde, focuses on the brand's signature Prada Galleria bag and features Elijah Wood as the postman. In the first two episodes, Wood's delivers the iconic bag to @emmaroberts, who plays herself as a movie star, and Sasha Frolova. #wwdfashion
“I think I never met the person while we were working,” Vicky Krieps said of Daniel Day-Lewis, who she plays the love interest of in “Phantom Thread.” Day-Lewis remained perennially in character, so much so that she feels she’s just meeting him now. “It’s interesting to see how different he is in real life to the character,” Krieps said. WWD sat down with the 34-year-old actress to talk about her new role in the period film, which brings the fifties’ gender dynamics into the mix. Read more on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
@gucci has expanded its “Places” project to include six new cities. The initiative, which was first unveiled in July, aims to invite people to explore inspirational locations for the brand. On the list is the Biblioteca Angelica library in Rome pictured here. See the other five new venues on WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @massimo_listri_official)
#ad From tools to lashes, WWD rounded up wellness and beauty products guaranteed to take your skin care and makeup routines to the next level in 2018. Follow along as @laceandleatherbyelyse, @ashnfashn and @elleisalwayshere experiment with these products on their Instagram profiles and blogs. #NewYearBetterYou
Blogger @camilacoelho is one of the fastest growing beauty influencers around the world. The bilingual blogger has worked with brands like @revolve Beauty, @dior, @louisvuitton and more and has an Earned Media Value of $34,338,441, according to @tribedynamics. But Coelho isn’t the only influencer making a major impact — head to WWD.com to see the other fastest-growing influencers in six key global markets. #beautyfridays (📷: @zefashioninsider)