Retailers cut payrolls slightly across the board in April as general merchandise, department and specialty stores all lost jobs, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday.
In the overall economy, employers added 160,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5 percent, with job gains in manufacturing, professional and business services, health care and financial activities, the Labor Department said.
Clothing and accessories stores had the largest decline, losing 4,000 jobs in April to employ 1.38 million. General merchandise stores lost a seasonally adjusted 800 jobs last month to 3.19 million, while within that category, department stores cut 500 positions to employ 1.32 million.
“Job readings consistent with a number of economic indicators point to modest and uneven growth in April,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “Consumers’ apparent caution may reflect data which point to some loss in economic momentum, but seasonal adjustment factors may also explain the surprisingly muted growth.”
In the manufacturing sector, apparel employers added 100 jobs to employ 133,700, while textile mills making apparel fabric and yarn cut 400 positions to employ 113,600 and textile product mills cut 600 positions to employ 116,700.
“The disappointing April payroll jobs number is mostly due to a ‘seasonal payback’ from strong employment growth earlier in the year, especially in construction and retail,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight. “Many other sectors are still showing strength in job creation. Likewise, the decline in the labor force and household employment — after six months of solid gains — is not necessarily a source of concern. On the plus side, the strong wage growth in April could be an early indicator that the labor market is becoming tight, although there have been many relapses in the recent past.”
IHS believes that the April weakness in payroll jobs is temporary and that in the coming months jobs growth will rebound to at least 200,000 a month. Most indicators of the labor market continue to point to ongoing strength, as the average monthly increase in nonfarm payrolls in the past three months has been 200,000.