The Retail Sector Lost 20,000 Jobs in November Amid Labor Shortages

The retail sector is stagnating when it comes to adding jobs.

Employment in the segment declined by 20,000 jobs November, according to Friday results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among the major losses in the sector, 20,000 jobs lost were those in general merchandise stores, 18,000 were in clothing accessories stores, and 9,000 were across sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores. These losses were partially offset by gains across food and beverage and building materials and garden stores.

Overall, retail had 176,000 fewer jobs in November than in February 2020.

Amid the losses in retail, just 210,000 non-farm payrolls in total were added this past November, falling short of economists’ predictions for an increase of 573,000 jobs and marking a decrease from the 531,000 jobs added in October.

Job gains were seen across professional and business services, transportation and warehousing industries, construction, and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2%, down from 4.6% in October. Overall, 6.9 million people were unemployed last month, continuing a downward trend since April. Unemployment levels are still above pre-pandemic levels.

The decline in retail jobs comes amid an existing labor shortage across the industry. Ahead of the current holiday season, major retailers held hiring events and introduced increased pay and benefits to attract enough workers to meet consumer demand this season. Altogether, WalmartKohl’sDick’s Sporting Goods, Lululemon, TargetBelkNordstrom, 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 less than 40,000 retail jobs, which accounts for gains in October as well as losses in August, July, and November. In September, roughly 4.4 million people, or 3% of U.S. workers, quit their jobs. Retail and the food service industries saw the most turnover in September.

The number of people who quit their retail jobs in September was 685,0000, at a rate of 4.4%. While this number was down from the 721,000 retail workers who left their jobs in August, mass quitting is still exacerbating existing labor shortages across the industry.

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