Retail Employers Post Big Gains, Adding 41,000 Jobs in December

American employers capped off 2019 weaker than expected — but the retail sector did not disappoint.

Retail saw the most hires by industry, tacking on more than 41,000 jobs during the month. The boom was mostly seen in clothing and clothing accessories stores, which added 33,200 jobs.

Despite broader downsizing across the industry during the year, December saw department stores employ 4,300, while non-store retailers grew with 1,900 jobs. Sporting goods stores, however, saw a 2,900 decline, while miscellaneous store retailers dropped 5,500 jobs.

The results painted a rosier picture for the retail industry — contrasting other reports that suggested significant challenges amid widespread store closures and subsequent layoffs. According to a report this month by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., retail trumped all sectors in the U.S. with the most job cuts in 2019 — most of them due to bankruptcies, restructuring and store closures.

According to the Labor Department, employers in the United States added 145,000 jobs in December — falling short of expectations of a 160,000 increase — while wages also showed a disappointing gain of just 2.9% year over year versus projections of a 3.1% rise.

Overall, the unemployment rate held steady at 3.5%, marking yet another month in that half-century low. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised November’s total to 256,000 from 266,000, while October’s figures were downsized from 156,000 to 142,000.) It’s also the ninth straight year that the economy has added nearly 2 million jobs.

Wall Street has seesawed on the heels of the report, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 25 points as of 10:00 a.m. on Friday. The S&P 500 edged up 5 points, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 22 points.

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