Retail Loses Nearly 22,000 Jobs After Rebounding in May

After what seemed like a promising rebound, retail lost nearly 22,000 jobs last month, largely offsetting May’s gain of 28,800 in the sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 213,000 jobs in June despite the unemployment rate rising to 4 percent, from 3.8 percent, and average hourly earnings inching up 5 cents to $26.98. (The year-over-year gain is now 2.7 percent.)

However, as growth was noted in professional and businesses services, manufacturing and health care, retail trade saw a steep decline, most notably through general merchandise stores, which lost 21,500 jobs, compared with May’s addition of 13,400 — the biggest gain in the industry that month.

While clothing and clothing accessories stores increased by 6,900, miscellaneous store retailers and non-store retailers remained fairly stable, gaining 700 and 1,700, respectively.

The report comes as anxieties continue to brew over the U.S.-China trade war after the Trump administration imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, leading Beijing to retaliate with an equal amount on American products. The industry’s chief trade association lamented the impact not only on consumers but also on workers.

“These tariffs will do nothing to protect U.S. jobs, but they will undermine the benefits of tax reform and drive up prices for a wide range of products as diverse as tool sets, batteries, remote controls, flash drives and thermostats,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation.

The employment landscape has seen increased competition, hitting an 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May. Recent job cuts from retailers that have shuttered their doors or significantly downsized their brick-and-mortar footprints have contributed to more than a third of the workforce’s job cuts this year, according to employment firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

The closure of roughly 800 Toys R Us store locations nationwide — the bankrupt chain marked its final day in business on June 29 — has also been cited across retail as a key contributor to rising vacancies and layoffs.

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