Grocery retail hiring continued an upswing in May, with job additions dwarfing a narrow increase in the previous month and coming against a higher national unemployment rate.
Food and beverage retailers tacked on 5,100 new jobs for May (seasonally adjusted), following a downward-revised 600 added jobs for April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday. Both months marked a rebound from a 6,700-job loss in March, which came after gains of 4,500 jobs in February and 1,800 in January.
Overall, the job count for food and beverage stores was essentially flat in May, inching up less than 0.2% to almost 3.247 million from about 3.241 million in April.
On an annual basis, grocery retail posted a bigger job gain for May, adding 69,100 jobs, up 2.2%, compared with a 2% year-over-year increase for April that brought 62,500 more jobs. The uptick represented the seventh consecutive month of yearly job growth for food and beverage stores since a decrease in October.
Warehouse clubs, supercenters and other general merchandise retailers turned in a larger sequential job increase in May, adding 11,100 jobs, roughly a 0.5% lift to 2.209 million from 2.198 million in April, when the segment’s employment ranks grew by 3,700 jobs, according to BLS data. Year over year for May, the sector rose by 12,800 jobs, or 0.6%.
General merchandise retail overall—including department stores—added 10,300 jobs in May, up 0.3% from April and virtually flat on an annual basis, BLS data showed. Department stores also saw job count dip in May, down by 700 jobs from April (virtually flat) and by 12,100 jobs (-1.2%) year over year.
Also in the food, drug and mass retail channel, health and personal care stores—including drug stores—had almost flat month-to-month job count for May, down by 500 jobs. However, the sector added 11,500 jobs on an annual basis, a 1.1% gain.
Overall, the retail trade generated 11,600 new jobs in May, though the total job count rose less than 0.1% to 15.551 million. That came after a 7,700-job addition in April. Year over year, the retail trade’s job count grew by 97,600, or 0.6%, for May.
The U.S. unemployment rate finished at 3.7% in May, up from 3.4% in April and the highest level so far this calendar year. That figure, though, was about the same as the 3.6% rate in May 2022.
Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 339,000 jobs for May, the second-highest monthly addition in 2023 after a 517,000 increase for January. On a yearly basis, the nation added about 3.8 million jobs, up 2.5%.
May’s job gain was “in line with the average monthly gain of 341,000 over the prior 12 months,” BLS stated in its report. “In May, job gains occurred in professional and business services, government, health care, construction, transportation and warehousing, and social assistance.”
The number of unemployed people climbed by 440,000 to 6.1 million in May, BLS said, adding that the jobless rate has ranged from 3.4% to 3.7% since March 2022.