Grocery retail hiring edges up in January

Job additions rise by 1,800 month to month but up by 74,000 year over year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
Supermarket associate-produce stock clerk_Shutterstock
Food and beverage retail jobs inched up by 0.1% month to month and by 2.3% year over year in January. / Photo: Shutterstock

Hiring in the grocery retail sector let up in January, but job additions continued for the third straight month following losses in the fall.

Food and beverage retailers added 1,800 jobs during January, raising the employment count for that retail segment to 3.229 million (seasonally adjusted), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in preliminary estimates on Friday. That’s up 0.1% from 3.227 million in December, when 7,800 food and beverage retail jobs were added.

Year over year in January, the grocery retail sector gained 74,000 jobs, up 2.3%. Job additions came in January, December and November after food and beverage retail lost about 2,700 jobs in October.

Warehouse clubs, supercenters and other general merchandise retailers rebounded in January, adding approximately 11,100 jobs for an employment count of 2.142 million, up 0.5% from December, BLS data show. The uptick followed job losses in both December and November but marked a year-over year decline of 1.9%, with roughly 42,200 fewer jobs in the retail segment than in January 2022.

The overall general merchandise retail category—including department stores—gained 16,000 jobs in January, a 0.5% increase from December but down 2.2% on an annual basis, representing a loss of 67,200 jobs in the sector, according to BLS. Department stores added 4,900 jobs for January, up 0.5% month to month, yet the segment has lost some 24,900 jobs, a 2.6% decrease, year over year.

Also in the food, drug and mass retail channel, health and personal care stores—including drug stores—lost 5,600 jobs in January, a 0.5% decrease from December and down 0.3% from January 2022, representing a loss of 3,700 jobs year over year.

In total, the retail trade category gained 30,100 jobs in January from December, up 0.2% to 15.483 million, and added 87,300 jobs since January 2022, a 0.6% increase.

The U.S. unemployment rate came in at 3.4% for January, dipping from 3.5% in December and 3.7% in both November and October, BLS reported. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by about 517,000 jobs, compared with gains of 260,000 in December, 290,000 in November and 364,000 in January 2022.

In its January 2023 report, BLS noted that the unemployment rate has “shown little net movement since early 2022,” with the number of jobless people now standing at approximately 5.7 million.

“Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 517,000 in January, compared with an average monthly gain of 401,000 in 2022,” BLS stated. “Job growth was widespread in January, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and health care. Employment also increased in government, partially reflecting the return of workers from a strike.”

Retail, in general, didn’t see much job growth last year. “Employment in retail trade rose by 30,000 in January, following little net growth in 2022 (an average of +7,000 per month),” BLS reported. “In January, job gains in general merchandise retailers (+16,000) and in furniture, home furnishings, electronics and appliance retailers (+7,000) were partially offset by a decline in health and personal care retailers (-6,000).”



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