Department stores had a March moment.
While big men added to their staff, overall retail job data was mixed. Employment in retail fell by 15,000 jobs in the month. Furniture, home furnishings, electronics and appliance retailers lost 15,000 jobs last month. Also, 9,000 jobs were lost in merchants of building materials and garden equipment. Losses in both categories were partially offset by 15,000 jobs gained in the supermarket sector.
And although companies, especially in the retail field, added employees in warehouses and distribution centers during the past year, the warehouse and storage category 12,000 jobs were lost Last month.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 236,000 in March, but that’s still a 28 percent decrease from the upwardly revised number of 326,000 for February.
And while manufacturing lost 1,000 jobs in March, apparel manufacturing held steady.
“US factories continue to grapple with the destabilizing impact of rising interest rates,” said Scott Paul, president of the American Manufacturing Alliance. “The Federal Reserve must understand that its policies undermine our global competitiveness.”
March data indicates that the jobs front remains relatively strong, with the unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, although some sectors are showing signs of weakness.
“The labor shortage remains the main challenge for employers and layoffs remain low,” said Frank Steamers, chief economist at The Conference Board.
According to Steemers, a short and shallow recession is the most likely scenario for the US economy in 2023. He expects the unemployment rate to rise to 4.5 percent by the first quarter of 2024, with job losses totaling 1.1 million, as more layoffs begin. to increase in the second half of 2023.
An orderly slowdown in job growth is likely the trend that federal policymakers want to see, especially as wage growth approaches the central bank’s 2 percent inflation target, Wells Fargo economists Sarah House and Michael Pugliese said in a report Friday. The economist concluded that “there are clear indications that the supply and demand for labor are more balanced.”
The technology sector began matching headcount to business needs last November after a pandemic hiring boom. The sector, which has had to realign expenses as the global economy slows, has seen Amazon downsize 18,000 jobsAnd Microsoft at 10,000 and Google at 12,000. Retailers like WalmartAnd gap And H&M The staff cuts began beginning last fall after the sector was widely plagued by sales and inventory issues.
Retail jobs fell across the pond, too. Retail jobs fell in the fourth quarter to their lowest average in ‘more than a decade’ British Retail Consortium Last month, that totaled 3.12 million, or down 14,000 from a year earlier.
The jobs front may get worse, and it may not be because of expected consumer spending declines.
Wal-Mart, the largest private sector employee, added 20,000 supply chain workers in 2024. The discounter has also continued to invest in technology, relying more on software intelligence and automation. This seems to come at a price on the labor front since this month Walmart is also in the process of laying off at least 2000 warehouse employees who are mainly involved in the fulfillment of e-commerce orders.
A spokeswoman said the shift in staffing is changing customer expectations. And in presentations for the retailer’s Investor Day, John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart US, said the investments will lead to “new roles” that are better designed to serve customers, that pay more.
Other retailers, such as Target and Macy’s, are also making investment moves in the technology. It is not yet clear what the final impact will be on the role of retail jobs in the future.