After months of cuts, it seems many retailers are starting to staff up again.
Even though a record holiday season did not coincide with a typical boost in retail employment, during January specialty apparel and accessories stores added 15,400 workers, almost the exact number of jobs cut between October and December, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also the most jobs added to specialty retail in at least a year.
Department stores added far fewer jobs during the month, only 300, but that’s an improvement over last year, which saw several months of job cuts in the thousands, stemming partially from a string of record hurricanes. Department store job numbers have yet to fully recover, however.
Nonstore, or online, retailers got in on the hiring action as well last month, adding 3,500 jobs. The sector, so often pointed to as the main driver of growth in retail, added surprisingly few jobs last year and even cut thousands in some months. As with specialty retail, January was one of the biggest employment jumps since early last year.
Jack Kleinhenz, an economist with the National Retail Federation, said the strong numbers are a reflection of retail’s record holiday season.
“There’s always a loss of jobs after the holidays, but this year at least some of the extra staffing has carried over,” Kleinhenz said. “We expect spending to continue to be strong this year, and that’s good for retail jobs.”
Some areas of the sector did drag down the January numbers. Sporting goods stores cut 6,300 positions, general merchandise stores cut 6,200 and health and personal-care stores cut 2,900. Even with continued gains in building supply and home goods retail, overall the industry added 15,400 workers. In December, the industry cut 26,000 positions.
The NRF noted, as it has often, that the government numbers “do not provide an accurate picture of the industry” because it does not count positions at corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and “innovation labs” in its data.
U.S. employment on the whole remained stable in January, holding a 4.1 percent unemployment rate for the fourth straight month, despite adding 200,000 jobs. Workers were added mainly in construction, restaurants, health care and manufacturing, the government said.
Although President Trump has repeatedly claimed, including during his first official State of the Union address earlier this week, that his administration is responsible for record-low unemployment rates for black and Hispanic workers, the unemployment rate for those populations increased during January to 7.7 and 5 percent, respectively. In recent years, employment for both groups had been improving steadily.
For More, See: