By and  on September 5, 2014

Specialty chains and department stores trimmed payrolls in August, while discounters added jobs as the nation’s unemployment rate fell slightly, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly employment report released Friday.

Apparel and accessories stores cut a seasonally adjusted 6,200 jobs to employ 1.39 million in August, while department stores shed 900 jobs to employ 1.34 million last month. General merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores and discounters, added 7,600 jobs to payrolls to employ 3.1 million.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said, “The weaker job growth presents a mixed picture of the economy compared with other indicators, implying the economy is growing. Today’s report calls into question how much momentum the U.S. economy will show in the second half of the year. On a positive note, average hourly earnings picked up. But it still remains modest at 2.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.”

In manufacturing, textile mills, which are seeing a surge in factory investments, saw an uptick — mills making apparel fabrics and yarns added 500 jobs to employ 117,200 last month, while mills making home-furnishing products added 100 jobs to employ 112,800. Apparel employment fell 500 to 130,800 in the month.

In the overall economy, employers added 142,000 jobs as the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent in July.

“With today’s report, businesses have added more than 10 million jobs over the last four and a half years,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “That makes 54 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate ticked down to 6.1 percent in August, a significant decrease from 7.2 percent in August 2013.”

However, Perez noted that there are still 3 million long-term unemployed Americans and “that’s why, this year, the Labor Department is investing more than $1 billion in job-­driven training initiatives that will help more people acquire the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century.”

Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, said, “August’s employment report is clearly not as strong as the previous six months, but it’s not weak enough to declare that a turning point is imminent with respect to economic growth. We look forward to a September report that will demonstrate the August result to be a blip rather than a trend.”

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