WASHINGTON — Retail employment posted big seasonally adjusted gains, while apparel and textile factory employment stabilized somewhat in July, a Labor Department report revealed Friday.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, department stores added 13,000 jobs to their payrolls in July to 2.554 million, but that was still 20,000 fewer jobs than in July 2001. Apparel and accessories store employment rose by 2,000 to 1.176 million in July, but that was still 15,000 below year-ago levels.

"There are a lot of back-to-school sales, and stores have probably added for that," said Rajeev Dhawan, director of economic forecasting at Georgia State University.

Meanwhile, textile mills lost another 3,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in July against June to employ 429,000, which is 46,000 fewer than July 2001. Apparel factories, on the other hand, added to payrolls with an increase of 2,000 jobs in July, plus another 1,000 jobs due to a revision in June, to employ 526,000. That is still 40,000 fewer than July 2001, however.

"Even though the textile industry lost 3,000 jobs, it still showed a continuing relative stability as the industry digests the large cutbacks from last year," said Charles McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services.

The volatile stock market and waning consumer confidence could have a big negative impact on employment in the near term, McMillion said. Dhawan said the only bright spot for the apparel and textile sector is the weakening dollar, which will allow domestic makers to be more competitive with low-cost imports.

Economists were not optimistic about the overall unemployment rate, which held at 5.9 percent in July.

"There is virtually no job growth," said Dhawan. "You have seen that over the past five to six months, and that means this is a jobless recovery and the economy is still fragile." Companies are not planning to add to their payrolls, which will have more of a dampening on consumer demand, he said."It basically means that consumption strength has been holding up well, but the ability to spend will decrease the longer the jobless recovery lasts," he added.

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