WASHINGTON — Specialty stores and discounters boosted payrolls in May, while department stores cuts jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly employment report revealed Friday.
Apparel and accessories stores added a seasonally adjusted 8,500 jobs to employ 1.38 million in May, while department stores cut 4,500 positions to employ1.32 million. General merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, added 4,800 jobs to employ 3.1 million last month.
“There is a lot of volatility with specialty stores,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics. “The good news is it seems to be adding jobs. So far this year, it is adding 3,000 to 4,000 jobs a month on average.”
He said department stores are “clearly still hurting” and employment is “weakening” in the sector. On a year-over-year basis, employment at department stores was down 24,500. Hoyt attributed that to several factors, including ongoing consolidation, weakness in consumer spending on apparel, and e-commerce sales that are eating into brick-and-mortor store sales.
Jack Kleinhenz said retailers are “in sync” with the overall gain in employment.
He noted there were gains in all ‘business lines” in May, with apparel and accessories stores behind the largest increase in employment.
“We are smack dab in the middle of the spring buying season. Many industries benefit especially retail as housing market gains strength,” Kleinhenz said. “Employment gains should provide confidence for business and consumers in terms of spending.
In the broader economy, employers added 280,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent in April.
Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said the May report exceed expectations.
“[It is] consistent with IHS’s view that the first quarter slump in the economy was a blip and that growth is rebounding in the second quarter and will continue to do well in the second half of the year,” Behravesh said. “The recent evidence on the U.S. job market points to sustained solid average monthly employment gains of roughly 200,000 in the coming year.”
In manufacturing, employment at textile mills making apparel fabrics and yarns rose 600 to 119,400, while employment at mills making home furnishing products increased 100 to 115,000. Apparel manufacturing employment was up 600 last month to 136,800.