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Economy Adds 211,000 Jobs in April, but Only 6,000 in Retail

U.S. employers added 211,000 jobs in April, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released last week, surpassing economists’ estimates. The unemployment rate fell to 4.4%, its lowest level in more than a decade.

Retail had a net increase of only 6,000 jobs, however, further indication that industry headwinds have less to do with the economy and more with the secular disruption taking place in the sector. 

The dramatic shift to online from brick-and-mortar, the declining store foot traffic, gains in retail technology, and growth of leaner-staffed off-price stores are all contributing to store closures and a reduction in staffing.

The biggest increase in employment occurred at general merchandise stores, where a total of 8,000 jobs were added. Combined employment at department and specialty stores shrank by 1,000 jobs. Non-store retail, which includes e-commerce merchants, added 2,000 jobs. 

Several major retailers, like Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s and others have announced plans to lay off employees this year due to store closures and reduced square footage.

The drop in industry employment has only been partially offset by gains at online retailers and their logistics suppliers. Since January, retail employment has dropped by 50,000 jobs, while transportation and warehousing employment has increased by 16,000 and non-store retail jobs by 8,000.