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Retail Sector Blossomed in May

Employment, sales up strongly in month.

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Garden centers were among the stores gaining employment in May. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

May was a positive month for the retail sector, with both sales and employment jumping significantly. Total retail sales, excluding automobiles and gasoline, were up 1.35% seasonally adjusted month over month and up just over 3% unadjusted year over year in May, according to the latest Retail Monitor from the NRF/CNBC.

The jobs numbers, meantime, were released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and showed the country’s overall employment for the month was up 272,000, including a +13,000 tally by retailers, somewhat higher the average monthly gain over the prior 12 months (+8000).

“Consumers have clearly retained their ability to spend and are driving solid economic growth,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the Retail Monitor release. “Spending is being supported by the job market and real wage gains. Inflation remains stubborn but is almost entirely in services rather than retail goods. May’s year-over-year gains are in line with what we saw earlier this year, and the month-over-month increases are the largest in more than a year. We believe this underscores that April’s moderation was an outlier.”

When it comes to employment, the biggest gainers within the retail sector were the sellers of building materials and garden equipment/supplies dealers. Such stores accounted for most of the new jobs – 12,000 – as they staffed up to meet demand from consumers and professionals for warm-weather projects. On the other side of the coin, job losses occurred in department stores (-5000) and furniture/home furnishings retailers (-4000).

Click here for more from the bureau’s report and here for more from the NRF/CNBC monitor.

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