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Retail jobs accounted for 12% of November’s overall job growth

BY Marianne Wilson

Retail companies — led by the general merchandise segment — gave a big boost to job market in November.

Retail industry employment in November increased by 18,600 jobs seasonally adjusted from October, accounting for 12% of the 155,000 job increase reported Friday by the Labor Department for the economy overall, according to the National Retail Federation. (The NRF retail numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

“It’s significant that retail accounts for roughly one out of eight of the jobs created across the economy in November, which shows the importance of retail to job creation,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “And general merchandise – which includes department stores – accounted for a quarter of the nation’s job gains.”

Year-over-year, retail employment was down by 16,300 jobs unadjusted as a tight labor market made it difficult to fill positions, the NRF said.

“In retail, the tight labor market has created sizable challenges in hiring – there are actually more retail jobs available than there are people to fill them,” said Kleinhenz. Retailers would hire more workers if they could find them.”

“It’s significant that retail accounts for roughly one out of eight of the jobs created across the economy in November, which shows the importance of retail to job creation,” Kleinhenz said. “And general merchandise – which includes department stores – accounted for a quarter of the nation’s job gains.”

November saw monthly gains 39,300 jobs at general merchandise stores, which include department stores and warehouse clubs, and that number alone accounted for a quarter of job gains seen economy-wide in November. Jobs increased by 9,800 at miscellaneous stores; 2,900 at food and beverage stores and 2,100 in non-store, which includes online. There were losses of 11,100 jobs at sporting goods and hobby stores and 10,900 at electronics and appliances stores.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in November were up 6 cents over October to $27.35 and up 81 cents from a year ago, a year-over-year increase of 3.1%. The Labor Department said overall unemployment remained at 3.7%, its lowest level since December 1969.

November’s retail job numbers followed a revised loss of 9,100 jobs in October from September. The three-month moving average as of November showed a loss of 6,700 jobs. Unemployment for all of retail was 4.2%, which combined with October’s 4.1% makes the lowest two-month average since the Great Recession.

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