Byline: Alison Maxwell

WASHINGTON — The overall U.S. unemployment rate held at a 29-year low of 4.1 percent in November, but the apparel and textile employment situation continued to deteriorate, according to Labor Department figures released Friday.
The apparel industry in November employed a seasonally adjusted 661,000 workers, down 4,000 from October and a hefty 64,000 below year-ago levels.
Textile employment jumped by 1,000 workers during the month to 551,000 from 550,000 in October, but still remained 36,000 below November 1998.
Analysts pinned the long-term downward trend on the decline of domestic manufacturers and significant increases in imports.
Although up significantly over a year ago, employment at apparel and accessory stores declined by 9,000 jobs in November. Against November 1998, employment increased by 42,000. Employment at department stores increased by 2,000 in November, and 4,000 year-over-year.
Normally, when the holiday season starts, seasonal employment at retail stores increases significantly. Stephan Thurman, deputy chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said with heavy sales predicted and an employee shortage, shoppers might have to wait in longer lines.
According to the Labor Department, 234,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, following a revised increase of 263,000 in October. The economy has created 2.4 million jobs so far this year, and more than 20 million since January 1993, when Bill Clinton became president.
Average hourly earnings, a key gauge of inflation pressures, rose by 2 cents in November following a revised increase of 4 cents in October.
The low wage increase could ease Federal Reserve policy-makers’ fears that tight labor markets will cause companies to increase wages to attract or retain employees, which could eventually lead to higher prices at the consumer level.
The financial markets surged after the report’s release. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 247.12, or by 2.2 percent, to close at 11,286.18 — just 40 points shy of the record close of 11,326.04 reached on Aug. 25. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 24.26 to 1,433.30, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 67.85 to 3,520.63.
The average apparel work week in November was 37.3 hours, down slightly from October’s 37.4 hours and the same as November 1998’s work week. For textiles, the average work week last month was unchanged from October at 41.2 hours. Last year, the textile work week averaged 40.8 hours.

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