Apparel Retailers Add Jobs in January

Department stores and discounters trimmed payrolls.

WASHINGTON — Apparel specialty retailers added jobs in January, while department stores and discounters trimmed payrolls, a Labor Department report showed Friday.

Economists said the fiscal uncertainty at the end of the year over the fiscal cliff, which was temporarily resolved, did not appear to have a significant impact on hiring in January, as was feared.

Apparel and accessories stores boosted payrolls by 10,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in January to employ 1.47 million, while department stores cut 2,300 jobs from payrolls to employ 1.47 million. General merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, trimmed 1,400 jobs from payrolls to employ 3.1 million.

Scott Hoyt, director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics, said, “I think it is a market-share game. Consumers are switching from getting clothing from department stores to specialty stores and right now specialty stores seem to be more in favor.”

Hoyt said the Labor Department’s annual revision, released every January, showed significant changes in the three retail segments in the December employment data.

Employment at specialty stores was revised upward by 41,000 jobs in December compared with November, while employment at department stores was revised downward by 36,000 and employment at general merchandise stores fell 400.

“It is suggesting faster growth than we had seen before at specialty apparel stores and faster declines for department stores,” Hoyt said.

In the manufacturing sector, apparel employment rose 600 jobs to 149,300. Mills making apparel fabrics and yarns trimmed payrolls by 300 to employ 116,500, while mills making home furnishings products added 200 jobs to employ 118,000.

In the overall economy, 157,000 jobs were added in the month, while the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in December.

“Employment growth held up well in the fourth quarter despite all the fears over the fiscal cliff,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. “Since we now face a new headwind from the expiration of the payroll tax cut, it wasn’t realistic to see employment growth accelerating early in 2013. But the economy’s fundamentals are gradually improving and we should at least match 2012’s employment growth this year, and then do better still in 2014.”