WASHINGTON — Retailers added jobs to payrolls across the board in October as the overall unemployment rate dipped, according to a Labor Department report released Friday.
Apparel and accessories stores added a seasonally adjusted 1,400 jobs to employ 1.4 million last month compared with September, while department stores boosted payrolls by 5,400 to employ 1.5 million. General merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, added 10,000 jobs last month to employ 3 million.
Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, said October is typically a “hinge month” with merchants trying to clear back-to-school merchandise in advance of the holidays.
The fact that employment was up compared with September, as well as on a year-over-year level in all three apparel retail sectors, is a harbinger of what Customer Growth expects to be a good holiday season for retailers.
“Apparel and accessories store employment was up 3.2 percent year-over-year, and that is a very good sign,” said Johnson. “The apparel employment part of retail is growing twice as fast as the overall economy on a year-over-year basis, and that augurs well.”
Department store employment was a more modest 0.9 percent higher in October compared with a year earlier, and Johnson said that is largely due to contraction in the department store sector.
Retail employment rose in October despite weakness in comparable-store sales last month.
“The comp-store results…may have been disappointing, but still in the aggregate they were positive,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics.
On the manufacturing side, apparel manufacturers added 500 jobs to payrolls last month to employ 156,100, although still below the year-earlier level of 156,600. Mills making apparel fabric shed 1,100 jobs to employ 120,100, while employment at textile product mills, which make mostly home furnishings and industrial fabrics, fell 600 to 113,100.
In the overall economy, the unemployment rate fell to 9 percent in October from 9.1 percent in September, as employers added a net total of 80,000 jobs.
“Overall, this report shows the economy still growing modestly and still adding jobs, but not at a pace that would bring unemployment down on a sustained basis,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. “We expect to see this pattern continue in coming months, barring a more severe shock from Europe.”