- Employment in food and beverage stores moved ahead in November, as the sector added 4,500 positions, according to preliminary statistics published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Friday.
- Restaurants and bars brought on 62,100 jobs last month after bringing on far fewer positions the month before.
- The economy added 263,000 non-farm jobs in November, about the same number as in October, and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, the BLS said.
Grocers took on additional workers last month amid a continuing tight labor market that has put pressure on employers to raise wages — a dynamic that has helped to fuel the strong inflation looming over the economy.
Payrolls in the food-retailing industry increased in November after losing 2,700 positions the month before. Still, job growth in the sector was well below the levels seen earlier in the year.
Grocers counted about 3.2 million positions in November, which is about 20% of jobs in the retail sector as a whole. Retail employment was down by about 30,000 jobs overall during the month, to about 15.8 million, as merchants including department stores, warehouse clubs, furniture stores and electronics sellers shed positions
Across the economy, unemployment claims remain at relatively low levels, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a sign that competition for workers among employers is continuing.
Since August, retailers have lost about 62,000 jobs — about the same number of positions as bars and restaurants brought on in November alone. Even with that gain, however, employment in restaurants and bars remains below the level it recorded in February 2020, before the pandemic began. By contrast, employment in the grocery sector is above its pre-pandemic level, reflecting the industry’s powerful performance during the past few years.
Grocery sales remain brisk even as persistent food inflation and across-the-board price increases have squeezed people’s budgets. Spending at grocery stores was up 8% on a year-over-year basis in October, the latest period for which figures are available, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last month. Meanwhile, grocery inflation lost steam last month, coming in at a 12.4% annual rate, down from 13% in September.