After Solid Start to 2018, Retail Shed 4,000 Jobs in March

The U.S. Department of Labor today released a disappointing jobs report for the month of March, with the economy adding just 103,000 jobs, well below analysts’ estimates of 185,000.

Although the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent for the sixth consecutive month, the news comes after February saw a significant hike at 313,000 jobs.

While the manufacturing, health care and mining sectors noted growth, retail, which saw upticks in the first two months of the year, shed 4,000 jobs after surging 47,000 in February.

Employment declined by 13,000 in general-merchandise stores, with a 7.9 drop in department stores, offsetting last month’s gains. Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw a decrease of 7.3 percent, but sporting goods stores and miscellaneous store retailers showed a less grim picture, with the former observing little change at a 1 percent growth and the latter earning a 4.1 percent rise.

Across industries, wages rose for March, with average hourly earnings inching up 8 cents to $26.82.

March’s job numbers reflect a retail environment that has faced challenges amid digital competition, shifts in consumer spending habits and a number of new store closings that have plagued the industry to varying degrees for the past three or more years. The first two months of 2018 suggested that the industry might be rebounding on the employment front, although last month’s shortfall signals that challenges remain.

The Labor Department revised February’s job growth estimates upward from 313,000 to 326,000 jobs but posted sharp downward revisions for January’s figures from 239,000 to 176,000 jobs, resulting in a net loss of  50,000 jobs for both months combined, compared with previously reported numbers.

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