America’s retailers shed 8,300 jobs in January — the latest evidence that traditional shopping is suffering a steady decline even though overall consumer spending is supporting a solid U.S. economy. Hiring across the U.S. economy has helped reduce the nation’s unemployment rate to a near half-century low of 3.6%. But the job growth is occurring despite a drag from the retail sector. Employment at retailers peaked in January 2017 at 15.92 million jobs. The sector is now down to 15.67 million jobs, according to the Labor Department.
Where are the losses steepest? Mainly, they’re at physical stores that are facing fierce online competition. Department stores have let go of 130,100 workers since the start of 2017. At sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, there are 56,200 fewer jobs. Clothiers are down by 116,100 jobs, electronics stores by 34,400. On the other hand, auto dealerships, building materials stores and gas stations — all of which are less susceptible to online transactions — are among the industry sectors that have increased hiring over the past three years.