After a sluggish few months, retail added an impressive 28,800 jobs in May, buttressing a strong jobs report that saw the overall U.S. economy gain 223,000 jobs and the unemployment rate drop to 3.8 percent, the lowest since early 2000.
Analysts had predicted a more modest 188,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. Wages also grew by 0.3 percent, or 2.7 percent year over year, beating the 0.2 percent estimate.
Retail’s boost, which is seasonally adjusted and excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, was driven by categories that have faced the headwinds of e-commerce and retailer bankruptcies: General merchandise stores showed the biggest gains, with 13,400 new jobs, the majority of which came from department stores; clothing and clothing accessory stores increased by 6,500; and building and garden supplies were up 6,000.
The industry’s chief trade association celebrated the news, attributing the recovery in part to the recent tax cuts and strong consumer spending. “May’s rebound in jobs, together with yesterday’s report of solid income growth and the rise in consumer confidence, points to the economy functioning very well,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “Solid fundamentals in the job market are encouraging for retail spending as employment gains generate additional income for consumers and consequently increase spending.”
Markets trended upward on Friday in response to the report, though the announcement wasn’t without controversy: President Donald Trump hinted at the strength of the numbers in a tweet an hour before they were released, an unprecedented move that many experts have criticized as a potential violation of federal guidelines prohibiting officials from commenting on unreleased data.
Entry-Level Retail Jobs Are Demanding More Skills Than Ever
The Fastest-Growing Job in Retail Isn’t on the Sales Floor