Pink slips replaced paychecks for 8,400 workers at apparel and accessories stores last month as store closures and bankruptcies continued to take their toll up and down the mall.
The sector still employed 1.33 million and has a larger workforce than department stores, which have been struggling mightily for months, but in June added 3,600 to their payrolls in June to employ 1.28 million.
Many retailers facing e-commerce competition and the spending habits of Millennials and their own finances are flailing — Payless Holdings, Rue21 Inc. and BCBG Max Azria Global Holdings are among those falling into insolvency. But even relatively strong players are closing stores, trimming staff and cutting costs to right-size.
American Eagle Outfitters Inc., for instance, is in something of a controlled retreat, looking to shutter 25 to 40 doors this year. “We just don’t want to close stores to close stores,” said Jay Schottenstein, chairman and chief executive officer, in May. “We want to figure out how to optimize and maximize those sales so when we do close, we’re able to keep the majority of [the sales].”
While retailers in general have been vexed by e-commerce and found their positions eroded, particularly by Amazon.com, the category of “nonstore retailers” has not been adding as many jobs as stores have been losing. Nonstore retailers brought in just 400 workers last month, bringing their total payrolls to 563,500.
Overall, U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew by 222,000 last month, well ahead of the 177,000 that economists projected. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent — still exceedingly low, although many criticize that the official tally does not capture many people who can’t find work or have stopped looking.
For those working, average weekly earnings rose 0.4 percent to $905.63 — which translates into a gain of 2.8 percent.
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