WASHINGTON — Retail employment rose across the board in July for the second consecutive month, as specialty stores, department stores and general merchandise stores all posted increases, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday.
General merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores and discounters, posted the largest increase, adding 5,600 jobs to payrolls to employ 3.18 million last month. Apparel and accessories stores added 1,600 jobs to payrolls to employ 1.39 million in July, while department stores posted an increase of 100 jobs to employ 1.33 million.
In manufacturing, employment in textile mills making apparel fabrics and yarns fell 300 to 118,000, while employment at mills making home furnishings products rose 800 to 115,500. Apparel manufacturers added 200 jobs to payrolls to employ 137,400.
In the broader economy, employers added 215,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.3 percent.
“The employment gains were spread all around,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moodyn’s Analytics. “Retail did pretty well but we also had healthy gains in manufacturing.”
“The fundamentals are good . You’ve got healthy if not strong income growth and rising house prices.,” Hoyt said. “You’ve got a stock market that is not going anywhere but at least it’s not going down; consumer confidence is relatively high and debt burden is low.”
On the retail front, Hoyt said modest growth in retail sales should spur gains in retail employment in the next few months.
He noted the one disappointing aspect to the report was an anemic growth in wages, although hourly average earnings rose 0.2 percent last month.
“Clearly, faster wage growth would be a significant positive for the retail industry and the outlook,” Hoyt said.
But the underlying economic fundamentals are giving employers enough confidence to hire, he said.
“Once again, the employment report points to solid growth and retail continues to make contributions to pushing the trend upward,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “Retail job gains were broad-based and consistent with our expectation of consumer spending and future retail sales.”
In the broader economy, employers added 215,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.3 percent.”
“July was another solid month of jobs gains. It is consistent with other strong data on the labor market,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight. “Jobless claims are near a four decade low and the non-manufacturing sectors, which account for about 80 percent of U.S. employment, are reporting the fastest jobs increases in a decade, according the Institute of Supply Management.”
Behravesh said the data is consistent with an “underlying growth rate” in the economy, which suggests that that “U.S. companies are shrugging off bad news in the rest of the world.”
He also noted that the jobs report “strengthens the case for a rate hike by the Federal Reserve in September.
“If the Fed was looking for further reasons to begin raising interest rates in September, it found plenty in the July report—decent payroll gains, an increase (albeit small) in the labor force, a bounce in manufacturing jobs, and growth in wages (albeit still tepid),” Behravesh said. “That said, a labor force participation rate that remains at a 38-year low and wage gains that could be signaling more slack in the labor market don’t make a September rate hike a slam dunk.”