The U.S. economy added a stronger-than-expected 211,000 jobs in April — just not in fashion specialty or department stores.
Apparel and accessory specialty stores overall were basically flat, with the sector shedding a seasonally adjusted 600 jobs compared with March to employ 1.3 million.
Department stores saw exactly the same trend, giving up 600 jobs, leaving total employment at 1.3 million.
Retailers have been shuttering stores — through mass closings and lease expirations — as they seek to address the needs of Millennials, compete with Amazon and online competitors and re-envision their businesses with lower cost structures.
Macy’s Inc. laid out its streamlining effort in early January, setting a tone for what was going to come. The department store, a leader in an extremely difficult space, said it would it was closing 63 doors this spring as part of a broader push that would see a total of 10,000 workers laid off, including 6,200 managers, or 17 percent of the company’s executive workforce.
“We looked at every pyramid of the company,” said Jeff Gennette, who was Macy’s president at the time and has expanded to become chief executive officer. “We looked at benchmarking. We have been planning this very carefully. This is not something we did quickly.”
While retailers struggle, other sectors have been beefing up their workforces.
The leisure and hospitality sector added 55,000 jobs, while health care and social assistance employment swelled by 37,000 and professional and business service companies tacked on 39,000 positions.
In all, the economy added 26,000 more jobs than economists projected for the month and the unemployment rate, which was expected to rise, fell to 4.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent.
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