The retail industry lagged well behind the overall U.S. economy in terms of employment growth in August, shedding 5,900 jobs to the country’s 201,000 gained, according to the latest jobs report, released Friday.
The largest cuts came from clothing and clothing accessories stores, which slashed nearly 21,000 positions during the month, despite the sector’s solid performance on Wall Street and the strong traffic many stores have reported for the back-to-school season. The losses outweighed more modest gains at sporting goods stores (9,200 jobs) and general merchandise stores, including warehouse clubs and supercenters (6,100 jobs).
Also notable was the uptick in wage growth, an indicator that many economists have pointed to as a sticking point on the path to an economy that benefits the majority of Americans. Average hourly wages rose by an annual rate of 2.9 percent in August, the fastest year-over-year gain in eight years.
At a time in which consumer confidence is already riding high, raises could encourage even more spending throughout the latter half of the year, including the holiday season, bolstering retailers’ bottom lines.
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Still, inflation is remains high enough that these wage gains alone may not significantly affect shoppers’ spending power. The Consumer Price Index in July held steady at 2.9 percent, matching wage growth.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also shed some light on e-commerce’s growing influence: Couriers and messengers ranked second among the fastest-growing industries in August, with payrolls up 8.8 percent year over year. Non-store retailers came in seventh at 4.9 percent, and warehousing followed not far behind at 4.2 percent.
The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.9 percent, up slightly from May’s 18-year low of 3.8 percent.
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