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Retail Added 35,000 Jobs In October — a Fraction of the Half a Million Roles Stores Need to Fill This Season

The downward trend for overall U.S. job growth has finally reversed. But the retail sector is still falling short of hiring goals this season.

In total, 531,000 non-farm payrolls were added this past October, according to Friday results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The results beat economists’ predictions for an increase of 450,000 jobs expected, and marked an increase from the 194,000 jobs added in September.

The unemployment rate fell by a 0.2 percentage points to 4.6% in October, versus an expectation of 4.7%. Overall, 7.4 million people were unemployed last month, continuing a downward trend since April. Unemployment levels are still above pre-pandemic levels.

Job gains were seen across the hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing industries. Retail employment rose by 35,000 jobs, though employment in this sector is still 140,000 jobs lower than levels in February of 2020.

The retail jobs added represent a fraction of the roles that retailers have targeted to fill this year amid a general labor shortage across the industry. As the holidays approach, major retailers are holding hiring events and offering sign-on bonuses and higher wages to attract enough workers to meet consumer demand this season.

Altogether, Walmart, Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lululemon, Target, Belk, Nordstrom, and Macy’s Inc. have announced hiring goals that collectively total over 500,000 jobs across stores, warehouses, and call centers.

Since July, the U.S. has added a net total of just 56,000 retail jobs, which accounts for gains in October as well as losses in August and July.

A reluctance for workers to return to stressful retail jobs with low pay and unreliable hours has led to a major labor shortage across the retail industry. To attract and retain talent, some retailers have introduced increased pay and benefits.

Even Amazon is feeling the sting of the labor shortages. The e-commerce giant missed earnings estimates last week, partly as a result of costs related to inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain slowdowns. Amazon currently offers workers a starting salary of of up to $18 per hour with an additional $3 per hour depending on location. It also offers sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000.
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