Woman in a safety mask looking at clothes in a shop. New post covid-19 normality

Retailers’ payrolls shrank last month — at least within the four walls of the store — as the sector brought on fewer seasonal workers for a COVID-19 Christmas, according to the Labor Department’s latest monthly employment tally. 

Retailers gave up a seasonally adjusted 34,700 jobs in November, compared with October, as social distancing kept shoppers away. That accounts for jobs within stores. Many retailers have been ramping up to fulfill online orders and those jobs are accounted for elsewhere, such as warehousing and storage, which added 36,800 jobs, or couriers and messengers, which added 81,900 workers. 

Department stores gave up 13,800 positions to employ one million while apparel and accessories specialty stores cut 2,400 jobs to employ 967,600. 

The Labor Department said the retail declines were “reflecting less seasonal hiring” and also noted that “employment in retail trade is 550,000 lower than in February,” just before the coronavirus largely shut down the retail economy.

Overall, the U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs last month, pushing the unemployment rate down to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent in October.

The Labor Department said: “These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it. However, the pace of improvement in the labor market has moderated in recent months.”

That sets up what could be an extremely lean time for retail between the holiday shopping season and once vaccines help people come back out to socialize and shop.

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