Arlington, Va. Information released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that job losses have slowed significantly from a year ago, but the still-high unemployment rate means continued struggles to find work, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
The U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 9.7% in February with 36,000 jobs lost. Following a month where the retail industry added 41,800 jobs in January, retail employment was virtually unchanged, shedding only 400 jobs in February.
Building materials retailers and furniture stores both added jobs for the fourth straight month, and department stores, clothing retailers and sporting goods stores showed new hiring. Gains were offset by modest payroll reductions at grocery stores, pharmacies and auto dealers.
RILA suggested February’s severe storms likely had an impact in reducing the number of hours worked during the month and delaying some hiring (which will likely show up in next month's data). Hourly wages rose slightly and the use of temporary workers rose in February; these both suggest continued improvement in the underlying labor market. Even so, the overall job market remains weak, with 8.4 million jobs lost since the start of the recession in December 2007.
“February’s job figures are consistent with the trends we’ve seen in recent months,” said Sandy Kennedy, president of RILA. “Slowed job losses are a welcomed sign that the economy is improving, however the lack of job growth reminds us that we are not out of the woods yet.”