Only 160,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest employment situation report, released Friday, and retailers did not contribute to that growth.
After hiring about 50,000 people in the first three months of the year, the retail sector removed 3,100 jobs from its payrolls in April to employ 15.915 million. While that number is more than the 15.58 million on the books in the year-ago period, it’s down slightly from the 15.918 million employed by the industry in March.
Clothing and accessories stores and sporting goods retailers each reported declines of 4,000 jobs. Layoffs were also felt in the general merchandise division, which includes department stores, as 800 positions were cut across the country to employ 3.19 million people.
“Job readings consistent with a number of economic indicators point to modest and uneven growth in April,” NRF’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, stated. “Consumers’ apparent caution may reflect data which point to some loss in economic momentum, but seasonal adjustment factors may also explain the surprisingly muted growth.”
While overall unemployment remained at 5 percent, the report also pointed out that hourly wages in the private sector increased by 0.3% on average, resulting in year-over-year growth of 2.5%.
“Average hourly earnings did increase by $0.08 last month, but real wages for most workers have barely risen at all since the late 1970s. So many people, despite working harder and producing more, are earning essentially the same,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a statement.
On the manufacturing side, textile and textile product mills cut 400 and 600 jobs respectively. However, apparel manufacturers hired 100 people to employ a total of 133,700.