Retail job’s report may not be what it seems

Jun 23, 2022
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Written by Washington Retail
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The Employment Security Department’s (ESD) Monthly Employment Report for May 2022 includes statistics about the retail sector that appear contradictory. The report suggests that the retail sector lost 6,600 retail jobs (seasonally adjusted) in the past month. However, the report also clarifies that “Employment in retail trade normally increases by 4,300. It is estimated to have decreased by 2,300 this May, so it decreased by 6,600 on a seasonally adjusted basis”. The report then shows that, year over year, the retail sector has added 900 jobs.

WR reached out to Dr. Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D., a regional labor economist with ESD, to better understand the reported values. Dr. Vance-Sherman pointed out that in the short term, individual retail sectors are showing different results. For example, her latest monthly job data by individual retail sector shows the following:

  • General merchandise:  -3,000
  • Other, including online:  -1,800
  • Food and beverage:  -800
  • Clothing and accessories:  -400
  • Motor vehicle parts/accessories:  -200
  • Health and personal care:  -200
  • Furniture and home:  -100
  • Building materials and garden:  -100

Dr. Vance-Sherman emphasized that “The retail sector has been an interesting sector to watch, in large part because of how diverse it is. I want to be careful to say that a one-month datapoint is not a trend, however, retail trade is an important bellwether as an economic indicator.”

She went on to explain that clothing and clothing accessories stores suffered deeper losses than any other retail industry broken out in the report, losing more than 40 percent of all jobs in early 2020. Although retail employment more or less plateaued from late 2020 to early 2022, it has seen substantial gains over the past several months. “The one-month loss pales in comparison to recent gains,” said Vance-Sherman.