Grocery store job growth stays virtually flat in September

Retail sector doesn’t get much of a lift despite nationwide job additions soaring over economists’ forecasts.
Grocery store-seafood dept worker with shopper-Super Foodtown-East Meadow NY
Grocery stores added just 700 jobs month to month in September but grew employment by 37,400 jobs year over year. / Photo by Russell Redman

Amid bigger-than-expected U.S. job gains, grocery stores eked out narrow job growth in September as employment in the sector has plateaued since job losses in June.

Food and beverage retailers added only 700 jobs month to month for September (seasonally adjusted), about the same as an upward-revised 900 jobs gained in August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday.

Those figures mark a drop-off from an upward-adjusted 6,800 grocery jobs added in July, which followed a 4,100-job loss month over month in June, BLS data show. Before the result in June, the grocery retail segment’s last employment decrease came in March, when 6,600 jobs were lost.

The total jobs number for food and beverage stores remained virtually flat in September, inching up 0.02% to 3.249 million from approximately 3.248 million in August.

Year over year, grocery retail employment grew by 37,400 jobs for September, up 1.2% from an upward-revised annual gain of 38,000 jobs for August, also a 1.2% increase. The September increase marked the 18th straight month of annual job growth for food and beverage stores since a decline in March 2022, based on updated BLS data.

Still, prior months had seen much larger year-over-year food and beverage retail job additions, including 51,200 jobs in July, 60,000 in June, 67,400 in May, 62,000 in April, 58,500 in March, 78,000 in February and 87,700 in January.

The overall retail trade posted bigger monthly job additions in September yet again turned in flattish growth. September’s retail trade job count climbed by 19,700 month to month (+0.1%), compared with a virtually flat gain of just 400 jobs in August. Annually, total retail jobs rose by 55,800, or 0.4%, to 15.558 million in September, compared with a nearly 0.2% uptick in August.

Warehouse clubs, supercenters and other general merchandise retailers added 1,800 jobs for September (+0.1%), compared with a BLS revision of 1,000 jobs lost in August (following a preliminary number of 4,700 jobs gained). Hiring in the segment climbed by 53,600 jobs, or 2.5%, year over year.

The overall general-merchandise retail segment—including department stores—added 4,400 jobs (+0.2%) on a monthly basis in September, following a BLS update of a 4,300-job loss in August (versus a previous measure of 5,000 jobs gained) and an increase of 57,600 jobs (+1.8%) from September 2022. Department store employment rebounded for September with 2,600 jobs (+0.3%) after a downward-revised 3,300 jobs lost for August. Compared with a year ago, department stores added 4,000 jobs (+0.4%) in September.

Also in the food, drug and mass retail channel, employment bounced back for health and personal care stores, including drug stores. The sector added 1,000 jobs (+0.1%) in September after losing 5,300 jobs (-0.5%) in August. Health and personal care stores have lost 6,500 jobs (-0.6%) since September 2022.

Unemployment rate holds, while job growth surprises

The U.S. unemployment rate came in at 3.8% in September, the same as in August and representing the highest level so far in 2023. That compared with a 3.5% jobless rate in September 2022.

September’s addition of 336,000 jobs nationwide well-surpassed the projections of economists and financial analysts, in many cases doubling their forecasts. BLS also upward-adjusted job additions for August and July.

“Payrolls blew past all estimates,” Bloomberg reported on Friday. “Employers added 336,000 jobs in September, the most since January and about double the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Revisions also added 119,000 more jobs for July and August.”

According to BLS, the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised up by 40,000 jobs, from 187,000 to 227,000 added jobs, while the July figure was raised by 79,000 jobs from 157,000 to 236,000 added jobs.

“Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 336,000 in September, above the average monthly gain of 267,000 over the prior 12 months. In September, job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; government; health care; professional, scientific, and technical services; and social assistance,” BLS stated. “Employment showed little change over the month in other major industries, including mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; construction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; retail trade; financial activities; and other services.”

The nation added nearly 3.19 million jobs in September from a year ago, representing a 2.1% gain. That compared with nearly 3.21 million jobs added (+2.1%) year over year in August.



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