Stores Cut Jobs In January Amid Gains Overall

The U.S.  added a seasonally adjusted 49,000 jobs in January — about half what was expected — but retail lost ground, shedding a total of 38,000 positions. 

The retail declines undid some of the month-to-month gains from December, when stores added 135,000 workers amid the Christmas rush, according to the official tally by the Labor Department.

Department stores logged 7,800 job losses in January, from December, for total employment of 973,300. However, apparel and accessories specialty stores added 14,800 positions to employ a total of 973,300.

Retail jobs outside the four-walls of the store are not included in the official tally, a reckoning that skews the numbers to some degree given investment and hiring retailers have put into their e-commerce businesses. 

Last month’s job gains came in professional and business services (a category that added 97,000 positions), local government (49,000), state and private education (70,000). Offsetting those increases were job losses in leisure and hospitality (down 61,000), health care (30,000) and transportation and warehousing (28,000).

Overall, the unemployment rate — which is tracked separately from payroll changes — fell 0.4 percentage points to 6.3 percent, compared with below 4 percent before the pandemic began.

That coronavirus pandemic — in addition to clamping down on retail — has reshaped the nature of work for many.

The Labor Department said 23.2 percent of the U.S. workforce teleworked at some time last month.

And closures of taken a heavy toll.

“In January, 14.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic—that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic,” the report said. “This measure is 1.1 million lower than in December.”

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