Employment at specialty apparel retailers, which had been increasing over the past several months while department stores reduced staffing, took a breather in September, while department stores added jobs, according to government employment data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employment at apparel specialty stores fell by 2,000 in the month, to a total of 1.39 million. Department stores, on the other hand, increased their staffs by a collective 3,000, as many began to gear up for the holiday season, bringing its total employed to 1.33 million. Total retail employment increased by 24,000 jobs in September, to a total of 15.7 million.
Jobs at general merchandise stores, which includes department stores and discounters, rose by 10,000 jobs to 3.19 million.
In recent weeks, however, several big retailers, including Walmart and Neiman-Marcus, have announced layoffs, putting future job stability at big stores in question.
Total nonfarm employment increased by 142,000 jobs in September, to 142.3 million. Unemployment remained unchanged at 5.1%.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, total employment increased by 1.7% in September, with retail up by 1.9%, driven by a 2.2% increase at specialty stores that more than offset the 1.4% drop at deparment store retailers.
The retail sector has remained a relatively stable 11 percent of total employment for the last decade. However, apparel specialty has grown its share from 8.9% to 9.3%, while department stores have dropped from 10.4% to 8.4%.
On the supply side, total employment in the textile sector was down by 100 jobs to 231,700, while apparel manufacturers cut 800 jobs in the month, bringing that sector’s total employment to 135,600 positions. In the past two years, U.S. apparel manufacturers have reduced employment by 8,000, or 5.6%.