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Retail industry sees major drop in employment

The retail industry lost more than 18,000 jobs in October, in part due to the catastrophic hurricane season in many communities.

The number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, the economy added 261,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Department. NRF economists said the storm caused consumers to defer discretionary spending.

“Retail jobs were down in October while overall employment was up, but it is difficult to draw conclusions because the jobs data is still distorted by the aftermath of the recent hurricanes,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

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Retailers that sell building materials saw a significant increase in sales as homeowners and businesses affected by the hurricanes recover. The October drop compares with an increase of 4,200 jobs in September.

The three-month moving average in October showed a loss of 6,900 jobs compared with the same period a year ago. That was an improvement over a three-month loss of 8,500 in September, according to the NRF.

“There continues to be a significant number of job openings in retail, so the drop could reflect a difficulty in hiring given the low unemployment rate,” Kleinhenz said. “Also keep in mind that retailers are on the verge of adding half a million or more temporary workers for the holiday season.”

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