WASHINGTON — Specialty stores and discounters boosted payrolls in November, while department stores trimmed jobs as the economy posted strong gains overall and the unemployment rate remained unchanged, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly employment report released Friday.
Apparel and accessories stores added 11,300 seasonally adjusted jobs to employ 1.39 million in November. General merchandise stores added 1,200 jobs to employ 3.1 million last month, while department stores shed 4,400 jobs to employ 1.33 million.
“Today’s report shows a broadening improvement in the labor market and confirms strength in an expanding economy,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “Solid seasonal demand, reduced prices at the pump, and the high though erratic levels of business and consumer confidence all are supportive of job gains.”
Kleinhenz said retailers are hopeful that the economy is gaining enough momentum to support a “normal labor market” in the short run, which he said should spur wage and salary growth.
Scott Hoyt, senior director of economics at Moody’s Analytics, said the November employment number points to an economy that is gathering steam.
“We’re seeing confidence strengthen, both by businesses and by consumers,” Hoyt said. “Investment is taking place and we are starting to see interest rates fall and a stronger balance sheet.”
“We think the outlook is bright for hiring, especially if we can continue getting good wage numbers,” Hoyt said. “The stronger wage growth should directly lead to more consumer spending, which will generate sales for businesses, which will result in more hiring and get a beneficial economic cycle going.”
In the overall economy, employers added 321,000 jobs, far outpacing economists’ expectations, as the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8 percent in November. Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, said November’s jobs gain was the largest in more than two years.
“A portion of this growth is attributable to above-average seasonal hiring and consumers spending their savings from low pump prices, but these effects do not change the core conclusion that this was a darn good month for the labor market,” Handler said.
He noted that retailers, shippers and other firms add extra staff for the holidays, but the November data indicates that more hiring than normal was occurring.
“Retailers added 50,200 jobs in November, which is about double the average over the past year,” Handler said. “This unusually high monthly number suggests that firms are indeed anticipating stronger than normal holiday sales and planned their staffing levels accordingly.”
In manufacturing, textile mills making apparel fabrics and yarns added 200 jobs to employ 116,800, while mills making home-furnishing products trimmed 500 jobs to employ 112,000 in November. Apparel manufacturing employment fell 700 to 130,600 in the month.