WASHINGTON — Department store jobs fell sharply in October and unemployment reached its highest level in 14 years, while President-elect Barack Obama urged passage of an economic stimulus package in a press conference on Friday.
Amid falling retail sales, department stores slashed 18,000 jobs to employ 1.476 million, and apparel and accessories stores cut 700 positions to employ 1.493 million, the Labor Department said Friday.
Apparel manufacturers cut 4,000 jobs in October to employ 189,400. Textile mills that primarily manufacture apparel fabric trimmed 1,300 jobs to employ 147,900, and textile product mills, which produce industrial and home furnishing textiles, eliminated 500 jobs to employ 147,800.
Reductions in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors propelled the overall loss of 240,000 jobs last month, compared with consensus estimates that predicted a loss of 200,000 jobs. It was the 10th consecutive monthly decline. The unemployment rate climbed to 6.5 percent from 6.1 percent in September, the highest level since 1994.
The economy has shed 1.2 million jobs this year, with more than half of those lost in the last three months. Last month’s declines followed a loss of 284,000 jobs in September, revised from an initial estimate of 159,000. The employment decrease in September was the worst since October 2001, directly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Downward revisions in September and August, combined with the October losses, means more than 400,000 jobs were lost that weren’t expected, said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist at MBG Information Services.
“It doesn’t bode well at all,” McMillion said. “In an environment that is already awful across the board, these figures mean retailers are going to need to be even more aggressive heading into the holiday season.”
Job losses in November “are very likely to be worse,” McMillion said. “Recovery programs are urgently needed that are of the scope and scale of New Deal initiatives.”
Retail sales, manufacturing levels and the service sector have all taken hits in recent months, he said. Those contractions in the real economy combined with the credit crisis have created a “two-wheeled recession.”
The economic situation “continues to decline and the bottom doesn’t appear to be near,” said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research.
The economy is clearly a top priority of the president-elect. Before his first news conference since the election, Obama met in Chicago on Friday with economic advisers. In urging Congress and the Bush administration to enact a stimulus plan, he warned of “difficult choices.”
On Wall Street Friday, retail shares managed to rise 2.1 percent, or 5.74 points, to 273.58. But they were down 9 percent for the week. Investors remained fickle last week, with shares perking up for Election Day only to slump afterward on renewed economic concerns. During Thursday’s trading session, Warnaco Group Inc. plummeted 30.6 percent after the firm lowered profit expectations, and AnnTaylor Stores Corp. fell 25.7 percent after the chain laid off 19 percent of its headquarters staff and revved up its restructuring.
Retailers also reported the worst October sales results in years, with luxury players suffering the largest declines. On Friday, Warnaco rose 1.9 percent to $18.14, leaving it down 39.1 percent for the week, and Ann Taylor was up 2.9 percent to $9.19, down 26.5 percent for the week.
Other retail stocks losing ground from the previous Friday included J. Crew Group, down 21.2 percent to $16.01; Saks Inc., 17.7 percent to $4.94; Coach Inc., 16.6 percent to $17.18; Nordstrom Inc., 14.1 percent to $15.50, and Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 13.3 percent to $25.10.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast