Employment at grocery stores rebounded in July as the retail segment posted job gains after shedding positions in the previous month.
Food and beverage retailers added 5,900 jobs for July (seasonally adjusted), compared with a downward-revised 1,100 jobs lost for June and 3,500 jobs added in May, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Before the June decrease, grocery retail’s last employment downturn came in March, when 6,700 jobs were lost.
The total job count for food and beverage stores remained virtually flat in July, inching up 0.2% to 3.25 million from 3.24 million in June.
Year over year, the grocery retail segment added 53,300 jobs in July, up 1.7%, compared with an annual increase of 63,000 jobs in June, a 2% uptick, BLS reported. July’s gain represented the ninth consecutive month of yearly job growth for food and beverage stores since a decline in October.
The grocery jobs data reflected nearly flat growth for overall retail employment, which rose by 8,500 jobs month over month in July following a loss of 14,100 jobs sequentially in updated numbers for June. Compared with a year ago, the retail trade’s job count edged up by 65,800, or 0.4%, to 15.54 million for July—about the same percentage as in June.
Warehouse clubs, supercenters and other general merchandise retailers stepped up hiring in July, adding 4,700 jobs, up 0.2% in from June, when employment expanded by 4,100 jobs, based on revised BLS data. Annually, hiring in the segment climbed by 39,700 jobs, or 1.8%.
Overall general merchandise retail—including department stores—had flat job numbers for July, showing a 700-job dip from June, when only 300 jobs were added, and rising almost 1.1% from July 2022, a yearly gain of 33,300 jobs. Department stores again brought down GM retail’s job total for July, with the segment tallying losses of 5,400 jobs (-0.6%) from June and 6,400 jobs from July 2022 (-0.7%).
Also in the food, drug and mass retail arena, July job growth was flat for health and personal care stores, including drug stores. The segment lost 500 jobs month to month after adding 1,700 jobs in June, a 0.2% uptick. Year over year, employment for health and personal care stores rose by 13,300 jobs, an increase of 1.2%.
The U.S. unemployment rate came down again in July, to 3.5%, from levels of 3.6% in June and 3.7% in May—with the latter marking the highest reading so far in 2023. A year ago, unemployment also stood at 3.5%. Nationally, the number of unemployed people fell by 116,000 to 5.84 million for July, slightly above the year-ago level.
“Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 187,000 in July, less than the average monthly gain of 312,000 over the prior 12 months. In July, job gains occurred in health care, social assistance, financial activities, and wholesale trade,” BLS stated in its June report.
On a yearly basis, the nation added 3.36 million jobs for July, up 2.2%. The labor force participation rate stood at 62.6% for the fifth straight month, BLS noted. In July, average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 14 cents (+0.4%) to $33.74. The agency said average hourly earnings have risen 4.4% over the last 12 months.