E-Commerce Jobs Rise and Store Jobs Sink as Unemployment Hits 49-Year Low

The U.S. added 134,000 jobs in September, missing economists’ estimate of about 185,000 but pushing unemployment to its lowest point since 1969, according to the latest report from the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate declined from 3.9 to 3.7 percent last month, cinching an already-tight labor market at a time many retailers are ramping up their holiday hiring efforts.

The jobs report also shed some light on the industry trend toward shedding traditional brick-and-mortar retail roles in favor of e-commerce-geared positions. While the retail sector lost 20,000 jobs last month, including 3,900 from clothing and accessories stores and 4,000 from general-merchandise stores, employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 24,000, with some of the biggest gains coming from warehousing and storage, which added 8,000 jobs, and in couriers and messengers, which gained 5,000.

This shift has also been evident in how some retailers are rethinking their seasonal hiring plans. Last month, for instance, Macy’s announced that it would hire a total of 80,000 temporary workers for the upcoming holiday season, with 23,500 located at online fulfillment centers, an increase of 30 percent over last year.

The overall job gains may have been cooler than expected, in part due to fallout from Hurricane Florence, which caused flooding and damage throughout North Carolina and South Carolina in mid-September.

Despite the healthy economy and strong employment trends, wage growth still remains tepid, however: Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent last month, and August gains were revised down to 0.3 percent. On an annual basis, average hourly earnings have increased 2.8 percent, about on par with inflation.

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