The First Jobs Report of 2018 Is Out — and Retail Lost Over 20,000 Jobs

Black friday shoppers
Black Friday shoppers in Manhattan.
Rex Shutterstock

The U.S. economy added 148,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today.

While the rise in jobs last month extends the longest stretch of growth on record, it missed economists’ forecast for 190,000 new jobs during the month.

Amid challenges stemming from digital shifts and a wave of store closings, retailers shed about 20,300 jobs in December, with department stores losing 8,200 and general merchandise stores ditching 27,300.

Overall, wages were a bright spot in the December report, with average hourly earnings rising 9 cents to $26.63, bringing the year-over-year increase to 2.5 percent. (Amounts refer to all employees on private nonfarm payrolls.)

While traditional footwear-and-apparel retail has been highly affected by booming digital growth — necessitating the rationalizing of an excess number of brick-and-mortar outposts — the industry showed signs of rebounding during the 2017 holiday season.

Department stores Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. on Thursday reported comparable store sales gains during the all-important period, of 1 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Mastercard’s SpendingPulse report last week revealed retail sales from Nov. 1 to Christmas Eve increased 4.9 percent versus last year — the highest growth rate since 2011. At the same time, online sales increased more than 18 percent.

On the brick-and-mortar side, trends seemed to improve as well.

Retail insights firm Shoppertrak said last week that in-store retail traffic on the all-important Super Saturday — the final Saturday before the Christmas holiday — increased 20 percent this year when compared with last year’s. Meanwhile, traffic on Saturday, Dec. 16, and Sunday, Dec. 17, saw a 2.8 percent increase when compared with last year’s Super Saturday weekend.