By  on April 5, 2013

WASHINGTON — Gains in general merchandise retail employment were insufficient to offset a steep decline in jobs at apparel specialty stores in March as cold weather contributed to the first decline in the retail workforce in nine months.

While the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent in February, apparel and accessories stores cut 15,300 seasonally adjusted positions last month to employ 1.43 million, according to the Labor Department’s monthly employment figures, released today. General merchandise stores, including discounters and department stores, added 3,400 jobs to employ 3.1 million. Department stores added 1,900 jobs for a total of 1.48 million.

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