Skip to main content

Apparel Retailers Slashed Jobs in October; White House Warns More Cuts to Come if TPP Doesn’t Come Into Effect Soon

Thousands of jobs were lost at clothing and accessories stores last month, the latest sign that retailers are retooling their businesses as consumer shopping habits change.

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, released Friday, clothing and accessories stores laid off 15,600 people in October. That massive monthly decline offset gains in general merchandise stores—including department stores—as well as sporting goods stores and nonstore retailers, resulting in the loss of roughly 1,100 jobs in the retail industry overall last month.

General merchandise retailers added 9,800 jobs in October. Within that category, department stores added 2,800 jobs—their third consecutive month of hiring. Meanwhile, sporting goods stores gained 1,200 positions last month, and nonstore retailers, which mainly comprise e-commerce, hired 1,500.

On the manufacturing side, the employment situation at textile mills was unchanged from September, but 2,400 jobs were cut from textile product mills and apparel producers lost 1,800.

Overall, the U.S. economy added 161,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.9%. Employment mainly ticked up in health care, professional and business services and financial activities.

Friday’s jobs report came on the heels of a study released by White House economists Thursday that said failure to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the “lame duck” session after next week’s presidential election could have dire consequences for the U.S. economy. Namely, 35 goods-producing industries employing close to 5 million workers are directly at risk of increased competitive pressure from China in the Japanese market if the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between 10 Pacific Rim countries goes into effect.

Both Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and Republican nominee Donald Trump have come out against TPP, with Trump drawing comparisons between it and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that he claims killed U.S. jobs. But while the deal did result in the loss of nearly 700,000 positions over 15 years, Friday’s report highlighted that job gains have averaged 176,000 per month over the past three months—roughly three-quarters the number lost due to NAFTA.