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Unemployment Unchanged in December, but Retail Job Losses Continue

U.S. employers added 148,000 jobs in December, leaving unemployment unchanged at 4.1%, the lowest rate since its prior heyday of 2000, according to recent data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During 2017, more than 2 million jobs were added to the U.S. economy.

Although December overall job creation wasn’t quite as robust as many analysts hoped for, its performance dwarfed that of the retail industry, which by contrast lost 20,000 jobs, bringing the total 2017 decline to 67,000, reducing employment in the sector to a total of 15.8 million.

The majority of the lost jobs in December came from general merchandise stores, where a total of 27,000 positions were eliminated, of which 8,000 were in department stores. Specialty stores lost 4,000 jobs during the month.

For the full year, general merchandise stores lost 90,000 jobs, with 29,000 gone from each of the key apparel sectors of department stores and specialty stores.

Non-store retail, which is dominated by pure-play e-commerce, saw its net employment remain stable at 564,000 in the month. During 2017, the sector added 17,000 positions, most of which are at Amazon.

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After growing in each of the prior eight months, employment in the sectors that comprise retail logistics, specifically warehouse and delivery companies, fell by 3,000 in December, bringing total employment there to 1.65 million. Year-to-date, logistics employment has increased by 34,000 net new jobs.