OPERATIONS

Retail jobs up in December

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Increasing wages helped companies fill retail positions in December.

Retail industry employment in December increased by 37,600 jobs unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said Friday. Unemployment was 3.9%, up from 3.7% in November, according to the Labor Department.

The retail gains, which exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, were among the 312,000 jobs added nationwide, the Labor Department said.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in December were up 11 cents over November, hitting $27.48. Hourly wages were also up 84 cents from a year ago, a year-over-year increase of 3.2%.

“Today’s numbers indicate that labor demand remains strong and signal that the economy is more stable than what the financial markets suggest,” said NRF’s chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.

“The strong growth in employment confirms that the labor market is still expanding,” he added. “And while the unemployment rate increased, it did so for the right reason – more individuals are seeking to enter the labor force since wages are growing and more attractive.”

December saw monthly gains of 15,000 jobs at general merchandise stores, which include department stores and warehouse clubs, and 4,000 jobs at food and beverage stores. There were losses of 1,100 jobs at online and other non-store retailers, and 9,400 jobs at sporting goods and hobby stores.

December’s retail job numbers built on a revised increase of 31,100 jobs in November from October. The three-month moving average, which had been at a loss of 6,700 jobs as of November, rose to an increase of 15,200 jobs in December.

According to NRF, preliminary numbers show that retailers hired 576,800 seasonal employees during November and December. With the tight labor market making it difficult to fill openings, the number came in lower than NRF’s forecast in October that temporary holiday employment would total between 585,000 and 650,000, up from 582,500 in 2017.

“Retailers would have been happy to hire more seasonal workers if they could have found them,” Kleinhenz said. “Our industry continues to have more job openings than applicants even for full-time positions.”

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