One detail in the jobs report should unnerve the retail industry

Friday’s jobs report showed that employment in the retail industry shrank for the first November in six years.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail trade lost 8,300 jobs. Overall, the US economy added 178,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate fell to a nine-year low of 4.6% and the size of the labor force shrank.

Retail employment trends tend to be seasonal, and around this time of year, retailers should be hiring more associates to cater to shopping from Black Friday into the rest of the holidays.

While the hiring numbers could be revised in future jobs reports, the reported decline “doesn’t speak very highly for holiday hiring,” said Dan North, the chief economist at Euler Hermes North America.

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Novembers are in red.
source
Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Retail trade employment from the BLS covers merchants with brick-and-mortar stores and online-only retailers in several industries. The breakdown showed that clothing stores lost the most jobs in November, while online retailers added the most jobs.

Physical stores are taking a hit as fewer shoppers choose to visit them, even during major shopping events like Black Friday.

There’s “absolutely a pretty sharp shift into online shopping,” North told Business Insider. He cited data from Adobe that showed Cyber Monday sales jumped year-on-year. According to the firm’s research, sales hit a new online record of $3.45 billion.

Macy’s website crashed on Black Friday, while Target and Walmart said it was one of their biggest days for online traffic.

Although most brick-and-mortar stores have websites that customers can shop from, online sales still account for a small share of their total retail sales – about 10%, North said. So they’re still quite reliant on their physical stores as they try to increase online share and compete with Amazon, the e-commerce heavyweight.