Retail Workers
by Stephen Garner
Retail Workers
Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Retail industry employment increased by 11,100 jobs in January over December, the National Retail Federation said on Friday. The number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, the economy added 200,000 jobs, the Labor Department said.

The January increase compares with a monthly loss of 24,600 jobs in December, which reversed an increase of 23,100 jobs in November. The three-month moving average in January showed an increase of 3,200 jobs.

The largest contribution to retail employment in January came in clothing and clothing accessories stores, which added 15,100 jobs. Non-store retail, which includes online, added 3,500, while building supplies and materials grew by 3,400. Losses of 6,300 were seen in sporting goods stores, 6,200 in general merchandise and 2,900 in health and personal products stores.

“These numbers reflect the strong holiday season and how retailers matched consumer demand for consumption by hiring additional staff,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at NRF. “There’s always a loss of jobs after the holidays, but this year at least some of the extra staffing has carried over. We expect spending to continue to be strong this year, and that’s good for retail jobs.”

Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department do not provide an accurate picture of the industry because they count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs. Warehouse jobs, for example, increased by 3,500 in January but are not counted as retail.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in January increased by 75 cents – 2.9 percent – year over year, the fastest growth since January 2009. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, unchanged for the fourth straight month.