Retail Mostly Flat as U.S. Economy Picked Up Steam in July

Restaurants had a big month, while food and beverage stores lost 2,000 jobs
beer restocking at grocery store
Photograph: Shutterstock

Retail was mostly flat in July as the U.S. economy picked up steam, adding 943,000 jobs for the month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest monthly jobs report

The overall U.S. unemployment rate ticked down 0.5 percentage points to 5.4% in July as the leisure and hospitality industry posted big gains, accounting for more than half of the private-sector jobs added. Restaurants and bars alone added 253,000 jobs, or two-thirds of the leisure and hospitality industry's gain.

By contrast, food and beverage stores shed 2,000 jobs last month after losing 13,000 jobs in June. Despite the decline, it was the best jobs performance for grocery since March: In May, food and beverage stores gave up 26,000 jobs; in April, the losses tallied more than 45,000. Retail overall lost 6,000 jobs last month.

Elsewhere in the economy, manufacturing added 27,000 jobs in July but remains 433,000 below its February 2020, level, the BLS reported. Warehouses added 11,000 jobs and delivery providers added 8,000; overall, the transportation and warehousing industry has gained back almost 93% of the jobs it lost between February and April 2020.

The bureau also revised upward its June job numbers to the tune of 88,000 jobs, bringing June's job gains to 938,000. An additional upward revision for May (31,000 jobs) meant that the U.S. economy added 119,000 more jobs than originally reported, the bureau noted. 

Wages for nonsupervisory workers in the private sector rose by 11 cents to $25.83, continuing a string of monthly increases since spring. "The data for recent months suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages," the bureau noted. 

Earlier this week, Ontario, Calif.-based Cardenas Markets announced it would offer $1,000 signing bonuses to new workers through Sept. 30—a big move by one of the country's largest Hispanic grocery chains as many grocery stores looking for workers find themselves in tight competition with restaurants and nonretail employers for talent. Additional nonwage benefit boosts have come in the past two weeks from Walmart and Target, both of which announced fee-free tuition programs for their full- and part-time associates. 



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