Retail employment takes unexpected turn
A drop in retail industry jobs drove a weaker-than-expected employment report for December.
Retail industry employment decreased by 20,200 jobs in December from November, according to the National Retail Federation. The number, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, reverses the increase of 20,500 jobs seen in November over October, which the Labor Department revised upward from the original estimate of a 12,900-job gain, likely because of a shift in seasonal hiring patterns.
“Retail numbers were lower than we expected but these are seasonally adjusted figures and can be revised as we saw last month,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “We have to be careful not to judge the health of the industry based on initial employment reports. We saw stronger retail spending during the holiday season and we will need to assess further once we see final holiday spending results from the Census Bureau next week.”
Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs.
Overall, the economy added 148,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department said, missing Wall Street expectations for 190,000.
Average hourly earnings increased by 2.5% year-over-year, and the unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, unchanged from November.
Preliminary reports indicate that retailers hired 565,000 seasonal employees during November and December, NRF said. However, revisions by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics are likely, as seen with the November numbers, and the figure could grow. In October, NRF forecast that temporary holiday employment would increase by between 500,000 and 550,000 jobs over the same time last year.
Construction industry adds 30,000 jobs in December
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 148,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment gains occurred in health care, construction, and manufacturing.
Construction added 30,000 jobs in December, with most of the increase among specialty trade contractors, up 24,000. In 2017, construction employment increased by 210,000, compared with a gain of 155,000 in 2016.
In December, the unemployment rate was 4.1% for the third consecutive month.The number of unemployed persons, at 6.6 million, was essentially unchanged over the month.
Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.6 percentage point and 926,000.
Long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or more, was little changed at 1.5 million in December and accounted for 22.9% of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed declined by 354,000.
Employment in retail trade was about unchanged in December, down 20,000. Within the industry, employment in general merchandise stores declined by 27,000 over the month. Retail trade employment dropped in 2017 by 67,000 less jobs after increasing by 203,000 in 2016.
Employment in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, changed little over the month, the bureau reported.