As they prepared for the crucial fourth-quarter selling period, apparel retailers boosted their workforce across the board in October.
Clothing and accessories stores led the way, boosting employment a seasonally adjusted 19.5 percent to 1.4 million jobs compared to September. General merchandise stores posted an 11.1 percent gain to employ 3.2 million, while department stores, which are included in the general merchandise category, saw a smaller 0.3 percent rise to 1.32 million jobs.
Total employment increased by 271,000 in October from September, and the nation’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5 percent from 5.1 percent in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, noting that job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction.
IHS Global Insight Chief Economist Nariman Behravesh said that the payrolls surge of 271,000 jobs in October was above the year-to-date average of 235,000 and well above the 145,000 average of August and September.
“Another blowout month as good as October is…a long shot, so the Federal Reserve will look at smoother averages rather than individual months and will also have the November report before their next meeting,” Behravesh said. “This report cancels fears of weakness rather than exhibiting raw strength.”
In the manufacturing sector, employment at textile product mills making home furnishings rose 0.5 percent to 115,500 jobs, while textile mills making apparel fabrics fell 0.2 percent to 116,500. Apparel manufacturing jobs fell 0.1 percent to employ 136,200.
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “The nation continues to bounce back from our worst economic crisis in generations. October was the most robust month of job growth in 2015…Private employers have now added 13.5 million jobs over 68 straight months of growth, the longest such streak on record. The unemployment rate inched downward to 5.0 percent and has not been lower since February of 2008.”
Perez said wages were up, as average hourly earnings rose 9 cents in October and have seen their largest over-the-year increase (2.5 percent) in more than six years.
“Today’s report comes on top of other promising economic indicators,” Perez said. “As of the end of August, there were 5.4 million job openings, the second most since we have been collecting that data. But our work is anything but done. There is ground to make up and challenges that remain. We need to continue creating jobs. We need a tighter labor market to continue putting upward pressure on wages.”
Behravesh added that, “Next year’s job prospects face additional cooling but not to August-September levels. The dismal trade-off is that the economy needs productivity gains for its ultimate health, but good employment gains for its short-term health. We expect next year to ease toward a balancing of those goals after over a year of bias toward the short-term and good job gains.”