Economy

US Retailers Added 249,000 Jobs In August

Last Friday’s (Sept. 4) jobs report brought good news to the nation’s retail sector as it added nearly one quarter of a million jobs in August.

About half of those jobs were in general merchandise stores such as Walmart Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported the industry has added back 1.7 million of the 2.4 million jobs lost at the onset of COVID-19 in March and April.

“It’s encouraging to see retailers bring back these jobs,” Sonia Lapinsky, a managing director at AlixPartners, the Michigan-based consulting firm, told the newspaper. “Stores are opening and we’re seeing some pent-up demand. Still, you need to put it in perspective against the millions of jobs lost this spring.”

Also last week, the U.S. Department of Labor reported the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims fell to its lowest level since March. 

While Americans are working at home in sweats, pajamas bottoms or anything casual, employment at clothing stores has dwindled by about 30 percent since February. In contrast, jobs at big box stores swelled by 10 percent last month compared to February’s pre-pandemic levels.

Home improvement stores such as Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Co. saw the number of employees hired rise by 6 percent since February, a sign that homeowners are using some of their time to make improvements.

The shift to online sales caused Amazon.com Inc. to boost hiring.  In August and September, Amazon said it will hire 20,000 people in seven cities in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom.

In the meantime, Congress has stalled over the future of another stimulus.

As a result, consumer demand and retail employment could slump, Robert Frick, an economist at Navy Federal Credit Union in Virginia, told the WSJ.

“We’ve been coasting on improved savings from stimulus payments,” he said. “The lack of additional support will eventually hurt demand…It’s going to get harder from here on in to increase employment.”

Josh Wright, chief economist at Wrightside Advisors, an economic research and consulting firm based in New York City, told the newspaper if consumer spending slows, employment in the sector could retreat more quickly than other parts of the economy because retail jobs are typically hourly and less permanent.

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