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Department and Specialty Stores Cut Jobs in Holiday Season

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Retail employment growth continued to lag behind overall employment in December, according to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

During the last three months of 2015, retail employment increased by a total of 61,000 jobs, or 7 percent of the 850,000 jobs added to the economy in the period. Many of those jobs added in the fourth quarter were seasonal, however.

For the full year, retail employment increased by 272,000, compared to 274,000 in 2014. Total nonfarm employment in the U.S. increased by 2.65 million in 2015.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, retail employment grew by 1.6% in December, compared to almost 2 percent for total employment. 

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Within the apparel-heavy segments of department and specialty stores, however, the picture is a bit different. The department store segment lost 15,000 jobs during the last three months of 2015, and specialty store employment declined by more than 9,000, bringing the loss to the combined sectors to 25,000.

With Macy’s and other large retailers announcing plans to close stores and reduce overall brick and mortar footprint, it is unlikely we will see a reversal of this trend in the near future.

On a smoothed basis, department store employment fell by 3 percent in December, while specialty stores saw a 1.1% drop.

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