Retail employment was up across the board in June, as department stores, specialty chains and general merchandise stores all posted gains, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
General merchandise stores led the way with 10,400 jobs added to payrolls to employ 3.17 million last month, aided by its subcategory of department stores that saw a gain of 2,700 positions to reach 1.33 million. Apparel and accessories store added 1,800 jobs to employ 1.39 million.
In manufacturing, employment in textile mills making apparel fabrics and yarns fell 1,900 to employ 117,300, while employment at mills making home furnishings products declined 500 to employ 114,700. Apparel manufacturing employment rose 400 last month to 136,600.
In the broader economy, employers added 223,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent after rising to 5.5 percent in May.
IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh noted that all the jobs gains were in the private sector, with strong growth in areas such as trade and transportation, retail, business services, education and health.
“While solid, June’s report was a bit of a mixed bag, especially for the Fed,” Bahravesh said. “On the one hand, jobs growth in the 200,000 to 225,000 range is consistent with an economy that is growing in the 2.5 to 3.0 percent range. This means Fed officials can take comfort from the growing evidence that the recovery is on track.”
He said two things in this report are likely to worry the Fed. The first is that the drop in the unemployment rate to pre-recession levels was partly the result of a sharp fall in the labor force. Secondly, the decline in the labor force participation rate to levels last seen 38 years ago “is both a puzzle and a worry,” Bahravesh said.
“Just as worrisome is that wage growth — after showing some signs of life in recent months — has faltered again,” he added. “This weakness, along with a historically low labor force participation rate, will bolster the arguments of those on the Federal Open Market Committee who think that there is still a lot of slack in the labor market.”
Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez noted that the number of long-term unemployed fell 381,000, the second largest month-to-month decline on record and now account for 25.8 percent of the overall unemployed, compared to a Great Recession high of 45.5 percent in April 2010.
Perez added that businesses have now created 12.8 million jobs over the last 64 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, pointing to that as evidence of continued economic recovery.