Although retail employment slipped by 6,400 in March, job numbers were ahead for the year and stronger than a year ago, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said.
Industry employment in March 2018 was 30,800 higher than unadjusted March 2017 figures and followed the addition of 42,400 jobs in February. The three-month moving average in March showed an increase of 14,200 jobs, as compared to an increase of 10,600 jobs in the three-month moving average for February.
The overall economy added 103,000 jobs in March, according to U.S. Labor Department figures released April 6, a significantly smaller gain than February’s addition of 326,000 and fewer jobs than economists had forecast. The unemployment rate was 4.1%, unchanged for the sixth straight month.
“Even with this month’s dip, retail employment is still substantially higher than the beginning of the year and this time last year,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “March was weaker than February, but the trend is in the right direction. We should be pleased with the broader picture because the economy is growing, creating substantial job gains at this time during the expansion.”
Last month, NRF projected U.S. retail sales for 2018 would increase between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017.
NRF jobs numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, and Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department do not include non-store workers such those employed in corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs.
Job declines in March were concentrated in three sectors that had shown significant gains in February — general merchandise stores, down 12,600 employees; clothing and clothing accessory stores, down 7,300; and grocery stores, down 3,200. Sectors that showed job gains over February included non-store, which includes online and was up by 4,300 jobs; miscellaneous stores, up 4,100; furniture, up 2,000; building and garden supplies, up 1,900; and electronics and health/personal care, which were each up 1,700.