US retail sector jobs decreased by 20,200 in December 2017 compared to November, said the National Retail Federation (NRF). The number, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, is in contrast to the rise in 20,500 jobs seen in November over October. Overall, the economy added 148,000 jobs in December, the labour department said.

Retail numbers were lower than NRF’s expectations but these are seasonally adjusted figures and can be revised, an NRF report quoted Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz as saying. Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the labour department count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centres, call centres and innovation labs.

Average hourly earnings increased by 2.5 per cent year-over-year, and the unemployment rate remained at 4.1 per cent in December, unchanged from November. NRF believes the rise in employment and wages should bolster income and subsequently spending. Preliminary reports indicate that retailers hired 565,000 seasonal employees during November and December, added, NRF, the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, main street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.