WASHINGTON — Specialty chains, discounters and department stores all increased payrolls in June, as employment in the overall economy rose strongly and the unemployment rate ticked down, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly employment report released Thursday.
Apparel and accessories stores added a seasonally adjusted 1,700 jobs to employ 1.4 million in June, while department stores added 1,400 jobs to employ 1.3 million. General merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, added 5,000 jobs to employ 3.1 million last month.
Scott Hoyt, director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics, said retailers have gained confidence in hiring based on healthy sales gains.
“Sales are good and certainly everything is on an improving trajectory right now, and if they are paying attention to economists and other forecasters, the outlook for the second half is fairly bright,” Hoyt said. “I think all of that is giving retailers a reason to prepare for modestly better things in the future.”
Hoyt noted that year-over-year employment growth is also healthy, particularly for specialty stores and general merchandisers. Employment at specialty stores was up 13,000 in June from a year earlier, while employment at general merchandise stores was up by 64,400 year-to-year. Department store employment was down 3,100 year-over-year, but Hoyt noted that was still “encouraging” compared with much larger losses in the prior year-to-year comparisons.
“Details in the national report were uniformly positive and showed that the labor market continues to provide more muscle to a growing economy,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “It is the best three-month trend since early 2012. With the unemployment rate at the lowest since September 2008, there is less slack in the labor market…The momentum in the labor market translates into stronger expectations for the second half.”
In the overall economy, employers added 288,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.3 percent in May. Hoyt warned that some of the job gains can be attributed to “pay back” after the harsh winter kept employment levels depressed, but he said the June employment report was still a positive.
“It is definitely true that the economy is gathering momentum and this bodes well for the second half of the year,” he said.
Mills making apparel fabrics and yarns added 100 jobs to employ 116,900 last month, while mills making home furnishings products trimmed 400 jobs to employ 110,100. Apparel employment remained unchanged at 132,000.