Retailers Continue to Expand Payrolls

Specialty and department stores continued to staff up in October, although employment in the retail industry is still down sharply from before the coronavirus lockdown, according to the Labor Department’s closely watched official tally released Friday. 

Apparel and accessories specialty stores added a seasonally adjusted 12,600 positions between September and October to employ a total of 966,900. Department store payrolls increased by 1,800 to 1.044 million. (Those are jobs within the four walls of the store and the tally does not include positions at the separate corporate offices or distribution centers of major chains.)

Nonstore retailers, including the e-commerce companies that have thrived in the new stay-at-home world, added 8,500 positions to employ 560,700. 

Overall, the retail trade has added 104,000 jobs — a sign of continued progress and also how far the jobs market in the industry has fallen. 

“Employment in retail trade has risen by 1.9 million since April but is 499,000 below its February level,” the Labor Department said. 

Many retailers are still operating with capacity restrictions and other pandemic-related modifications — and focusing anew on their Internet businesses. But while sales online have soared, experts say the capacity of e-commerce is more or less tapped out now and continued growth for retail is going to depend on stores — and the people who staff them. 

Overall, total nonfarm payrolls grew by 638,000 last month as the unemployment rate improved, falling to 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent.

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