Retailers Help Stem Job Losses

Total U.S. employment took an unexpected dip in the latest monthly figures, but at least general merchandise retailers are doing their best to help reverse the trend. Non-farm payrolls dropped by 131,000 in July, as the Federal government continued to cut Census jobs. The unemployment rate remained at a dismal 9.5 percent, as 181,000 workers stopped looking for a job. In total, more than 1.1 million people have left the U.S. work force in the last three months.

On the other hand, retail employment rose by 6,700 jobs, mostly driven by a gain of 10,900 general merchandise retail jobs, which acted to cancel out the net loss of jobs at auto dealerships. In July, general merchandise retailers employed 2,951,100 people, up 0.4 percent from the 2,940,200 employed in June 2010. That’s a 4.4 percent annualized rate of job growth, and it is in line with industry job growth in May and June as well. The government defines general merchandise stores as establishments that have the equipment and staff capable of retailing a large variety of goods from a single location, such as department stores, variety stores, gift stores, and so on.

Excluding the loss of 143 temporary Census jobs, the economy only created a meager 12,000 jobs in July. Government layoffs were up, almost canceling out weak hiring in the private sector. Overall, the economy has created only 654,000 jobs so far in 2010. At that rate, the United States will not replace the 8.4 million jobs lost in 2008 and 2009 until June 2017. And to heap worse news on top of bad, after an encouraging blip down in July, new applications for unemployment benefits have recently and unexpectedly risen, which, if that trend keeps up, may suggest continued weak employment numbers down the road.