Retail Holds Steady as U.S. Economy Adds 200,000 Jobs in the First Month of 2018

Job growth is on the rise as the U.S. economy added another 200,000 jobs in January, with the unemployment rate remaining unchanged at 4.1 percent for the fourth consecutive month, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today.

The number, which topped Wall Street expectations of 180,000, revealed significant job gains in construction with 36,000 new hires, food and drink services at 31,000, healthcare businesses at 21,000 and manufacturing at 15,000 jobs. Despite the modest uptick and a record 88 consecutive months of hiring increases, other major industries, including the retail trade, wholesale trade, and professional and business services, changed little over the month.

In December, retailers cut down about 20,300 jobs, with general merchandise stores shedding 27,300 and department stores losing 8,200. Within the last month alone, retail challenges including the competition from digital and consumer shifts toward experiential spending have plagued big department store names such as Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney, all of which announced plans to close doors in 2018 — decisions that inevitably contribute to more layoffs in the retail sector.

However, rising by 9 cents an hour to $26.74, average earnings posed a silver lining for workers, with a quick recovery growth that rose 2.9 percent over the past year. Eighteen states, including New York, California and Hawaii, have raised their minimum wages at the start of the year, boosting overall wage growth.

The report comes three days after Trump delivered his first State of the Union address, where he cited strength of the American economy, particularly in blue-collar sectors.

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