WASHINGTON — Retailers buoyed by more positive economic news added a combined total of 29,000 jobs to payrolls in April, in line with a steady gain in employment in the overall economy.
Apparel and accessories stores added a seasonally adjusted 400 jobs to employ 1.44 million last month. General merchandise retailers, including discounters and department stores, added 14,800 jobs to employ 3.12 million. Within the general merchandise group, 7,900 of the jobs came from department stores, which employed 1.49 million at the end of last month.
Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, said with Easter falling in April, retailers were in a hiring mood, but he cautioned that the payroll tax hike, which hit in January, coupled with the full impact of the sequester — the steep federal spending cuts that have hit agencies and led to staggered furloughs — will dampen consumer spending at some point.
“Merchants are a bit nervous about what is going to happen in the future,” Dhawan said. “It’s not that they won’t expand, but they are not going to ramp up. They will keep hiring in the next few months but then they will wait in the summer and fall to see how the Christmas season looks.”
Dhawan said discounters could be hit a little harder because of the end of the payroll tax holiday in January.
“That’s where the caution comes in. Richer consumers have enough savings to make up for the payroll tax [increase], but a person making $50,000 or less a year has no margin. In particular, this person also had to pay higher utility bills because of the colder winter and spring and that will impact spending and stores at that level will feel the impact.”
Overall retail employment rose by 165,000, beating economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate edged down to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent in March
“The bounce back [in overall retail employment] from March to April is very welcome. It doesn’t suggest there are any serious problems at retail in terms of employment or sales,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Global Insight.
Behravesh said that the revised March retail employment numbers showed a 4,000 decline overall, which was followed by the rebound in April of a 29,000 gain.
“Consumers are feeling pretty good, not great, but reasonably good and they are spending accordingly,” he said. “There is not a lot of belt-tightening going on by consumers even though there are serious headwinds, such as the increase in payroll taxes in January, higher taxes for high-end families and the sequester.”
Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said: “Today’s solid employment news combined with positive March revisions may bode well for the broader economy and portend steady retail sales in April. Retailers are continuing to find innovative ways to engage shoppers with the right mix of products, inventory and employment to meet their customers’ demands.”
Kleinhenz said jobless claims are at their lowest level since the recession. That, combined with an increase in personal discretionary spending and consumer confidence, bodes well for retailers.
Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation, warned that the payroll tax increase and impact of the sequester remain a concern.
“Unease over taxes and spending and the upcoming debate on the debt ceiling in Congress may once again stymie business investment and consumer spending,” Shay said.
In the manufacturing sector, apparel employment fell 2,900 to 142,800. Mills making apparel fabrics and yarns trimmed 100 jobs from payrolls to employ 114,500, while mills making home furnishings products cut 700 jobs to employ 115,200.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)