WASHINGTON – The U.S. employment picture continued to deteriorate in May, with the economy losing 49,000 jobs in the month and the unemployment rate rising to 5.5 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The unemployment rate increase was the largest since February 1986. Department stores slashed 14,900 jobs to employ 1.51 million in May, continuing a pattern of declining employment. Specialty stores gained 1,300 jobs to employ 1.5 million, after cutting 1,000 jobs in April.

The manufacturing sector also lost jobs in May. Domestic apparel manufacturers trimmed 2,200 jobs to 194,800, while textile producers cut 1,500 jobs. The decline was driven in part by a loss at textile mills that make apparel fabric of 1,100 jobs to 155,000 positions. Textile product mills, which manufacture home furnishing textiles, cut 400 jobs to 152,100 positions.

For more, see Monday’s issue of WWD.