WASHINGTON — Clothing and accessories stores added to payrolls in May, while department stores and general merchandise stores cut back modestly, the Labor Department said Friday.

Showing the only sign of continued strength in the apparel retail sector, clothing and accessories stores added 500 jobs to employ 1.42 million last month.

Department stores cut 300 jobs from payrolls, lowering employment to 1.49 million, while general merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, reduced payrolls by 100 to employ 2.98 million.

The overall employment rate edged up to 9.1 percent in May from 9 percent in April. Companies added a modest 54,000 jobs, primarily in professional and business services, health care and mining, marking a much slower pace of job growth than in the previous three months. More people entered the labor market looking for jobs last month but were unable to find them, which pushed up the unemployment rate.

Further down the supply chain, mills making apparel fabrics added 100 jobs to employ 122,000 in May. Payrolls at textile product mills, which make mostly home furnishing and industrial fabrics, fell 300 to 115,900. Apparel employment rose 300 to 157,400.

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