Retail sales

Months of job declines in department and specialty stores continued in August.

Apparel and accessories speciality stores cut another 2,400 jobs last month, after shedding 10,000 positions in July, bringing the sector’s total employee count to about 1.33 million, according to new seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Department stores also cut 600 jobs in August after adding 3,000 in July, leaving it with about 1.28 million employees.

Meanwhile, non-store or online retailers continued to grow their employee ranks, adding another 700 workers during the month.

Employment in the retail trade as a whole grew, albeit moderately, adding 800 jobs in August, leaving 15.83 million retail workers. Growth is primarily coming from automotive parts dealers, furniture stores and building and materials retailers, which added 4,500 jobs during the month.

Overall, non-farm work continued to grow as well, with the entire sector gaining 156,000 jobs, aided by manufacturing and construction jobs, but the unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.4 percent.

The NRF recently contended that retail jobs have been growing steadily since 2010 and said the government’s reporting fails to give a full economic picture of the retail job market. In an effort to rectify this, the NRF is pushing the BLS to change the way it counts retail jobs to include those who may work in less traditional roles for retailers.

Hurricane Harvey, which rocked Texas for the last week, did not affect the numbers for the month, as the survey was completed before the weather event began, the bureau said.

It’s possible that after-effects of the storm, which flooded at least 100,000 houses and caused an estimated tens of billions in total economic damage, will have an impact on the September jobs report.

Several retailers in the area, including Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon, shut down during and in the days after the storm, but as the area begins to dry out, they are turning the lights back on.

A Macy’s spokeswoman said all company stores in the Houston area are now open with modified hours, as is a distribution center in the area, but that its two Bluemercury beauty stores remain closed.

The retailer is also operating a shop for employees in the area to “receive necessities without charge,” and the spokeswoman said this, along with donations the company has made to relief efforts “is only the start.”   

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