That headline isn’t quite as hyperbolic as you might think.
People are puzzling over the fact that retail sales and spending continue to be quite strong, and yet retail employment is diving.
In the last two jobs reports (the first of which was quite strong) retail shed a serious amount of jobs in both.
It’s temping to say this is seasonable giveback, but really, Christmas happens every year. That’s the beauty of seasonality.
What’s more, if this were just a matter of the BLS not adjusting for seasonality well, then you’d expect to see the same distortions every year around this time, but they’re really not that severe.
New Deal Democrat at The Bonddad Blog summarizes the latest week of data like this: “With the sole exception of the decline in rail traffic, due to utilities needing less coal for energy generation in turn due to the unusual weather, none of the high frequency indicators are giving any warning of any imminent turn in the economy. The Oil choke collar remains engaged, but generally the data suggests smooth sailing ahead. More than anything else, the comparatively poor jobs report strongly indicates something is going on with retail stores. Is everybody becoming Amazon’s showroom?“
And there is some non-theoretical evidence of this. Best Buy is closing scads of stores thanks to Apple and Amazon decimating its business.
All that being said, the decline in retail employment as a share of total employment has been trending down since the late 80s.
And one last point: Check out what’s going on with food services/drinking places employment. It’s still booming month after month. If this were about weak end demand, rather than something else, you wouldn’t see this much hiriging in an area that’s quite discretionary to most consumers.
SEE ALSO: Golmdan’s take on the bad jobs report >