WASHINGTON — Discounters and department stores boosted payrolls in September, while specialty stores trimmed back as the economy posted strong gains in employment and the unemployment rate fell, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly employment report released Friday.
Apparel and accessories stores cut a seasonally adjusted 2,900 jobs to employ 1.38 million in September, while department stores added 3,000 jobs to employ 1.34 million last month. General merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores and discounters, added 5,400 jobs to employ 3.1 million.
Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics, said specialty stores have posted job declines in the past four months.
“I think it is probably to some degree a reaction to weak sales growth that we saw earlier this year,” Hoyt said. “Planned hiring has scaled back as a result.”
Hoyt noted that department stores had four straight months of job gains and the apparel sales, which he called a “trend toward improvement” in the sector.
“Economic data released in September supported payroll growth and employment,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation.” The report tells the Fed [Federal Reserve] there is no evidence of wage pressures.”
Kleinhenz said the “solid” employment number “sets the table for a positive” fourth-quarter outlook.
“The only disappointment might be that average hourly earnings remain flat,” he noted.
In the overall economy, employers added 248,000 jobs as the unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent from 6.1 percent in August. Some economists cautioned that the unemployment rate fell for the wrong reasons, driven by a decline in the labor force participation rate.
In manufacturing, textile mills making apparel fabrics and yarns trimmed 100 jobs to employ 116,600, while mills making home-furnishing products cut 600 jobs to employ 112,200 in September. Apparel employment rose 100 to 131,500 in the month.