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Retail Lost 22,000 Jobs, Defying Overall Employment Gains

In June, retail lost almost 22,000 jobs, largely offsetting gains made in May.

The U.S. job market grew by 213,000 jobs in June. And on average the economy has created 211,000 jobs per month throughout the second quarter, reflecting a positive revision of employment numbers for both April and May, which increased 159,000 and 175,000 respectively.

While education and health services, professional and business services and manufacturing, were among the sectors that saw healthy employment gains in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported retail employment was down by 21,600, compared to the previous month. The industry was one of the only arenas to suffer losses, which were the result of 17,500 jobs taken out of general merchandise stores like warehouse clubs and supercenters. Department stores also shed 4,000 workers during the month.

Clothing and accessories stores, however, added 6,900 jobs during the same period and so-called non-store, or online, retailers picked up 1,700 new workers.

Year on year, retail was up 0.5% percent or 82,900 jobs.

The National Retail Federation also released employment numbers on Friday. Its calculations differ from the government’s because the group counts store employees as well as those working in the store headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs.

The association reported retail jobs were down by 25,800 employees in June when compared to the previous month. According to the NRF, the economy lost 1,300 retail jobs in the second quarter. However, June 2018 numbers dwarfed those of the same period last year by 50,200 jobs.

“This is another solid, robust payroll increase that nicely closes out the second quarter and affirms a very strong economy,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, adding those gains could keep consumers spending.

Kleinhenz offered one word of caution though, saying if the trade war persists, it could result in a “turning point” after which spending would slow.

Average hourly wages were reported to be up 2.7% or 72 cents over last year this time.

The unemployment rate ticked up by 0.2% (or 499,000 people) to 4 percent in June, a slight improvement over 2017 when the jobless rate was 4.3%.