Customers check out at a Target store on Black Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, USA, 24 November 2017. The day after Thanksgiving known as 'Black Friday' kicks off the holiday season of shopping. Thirty percent of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas, according to the National Retail Federation.Black Friday shopping, Alexandria, USA - 24 Nov 2017

Jobs in apparel and accessories retail have been harder to come by so far this year, even as holiday hiring kicked in.

Apparel and accessories specialty stores cut 5,600 jobs in November, after shedding 5,800 in October and 2,800 the month before, reductions that came in the wake of weeks of record-breaking hurricanes. Department stores however added 3,100 positions, according to new data from the labor department, after nixing close to 5,000 over the previous two months.

Even with department stores’ relatively modest hiring, the numbers aren’t anywhere near the 7,000 jobs and more than 13,000 jobs Macy’s and Nordstrom, respectively, said they were looking to add as of October. Those stores may be well on their way to that level of hiring, but it’s clear others are still reducing workforces.

Non-store, or online, retail also cut 2,600 jobs last month, and lost another 1,000 in September.

The National Retail Federation pointed out that the government numbers generally exclude employees that don’t work in stores, including at corporate headquarters, distribution centers and call centers.

“Warehouse and storage employment, was up by 8,100 jobs in November, but the positions do not count as retail jobs even if the workers are employed by retailers,” the retail group said.

Nevertheless, this holiday season is shaping up to be a solid sales period for retailers and vendors, with many reporting strong third quarter sales and expressing confidence for the rest of the year, led by a boon in shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But the employment picture for the retail industry as a whole is much brighter. Overall, the sector added 18,700 jobs during November, a strong comeback after losing 8,200 in October, largely attributable to hurricane effects.

Hiring was led by grocery and beverage stores, adding 5,600 jobs, health and personal care stores adding 3,600 jobs, and general merchandise stores, adding 6,800 jobs.

“This was one of the strongest gains we’ve seen all year,” Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, said. “You expect employment to be up during the holiday season and retailers are expecting strong holiday sales with related job growth, but overall growth in the economy has to be recognized here as well.”

Kleinhenz also noted job increases in industrial sectors outside retail, which “means more demand for retail goods and a need for more retail workers.”

Total nonfarm employment was even better, with 228,000 workers added during November, leaving the unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, or about 6.6 million people. While the average months growth in jobs this year is about 174,000, that’s less than last year’s average of 187,000.

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