Kronos Retail Labor Index: Fewer people seeking retail jobs in June

CHELMSFORD, Mass. — The Kronos Retail Labor Index edged up to 4.2% in June from a reading of 4.1% in May. The June reading reflected sharp declines in both applications and hiring. (The index is defined as the ratio of hires to applications within a given month, expressed as a percentage. A level of 3.0% means that for every 100 applications received, three hires occurred.)

The retailers representing 18,362 distributed locations across the U.S. that make up the Kronos data sample made 33,473 hires (seasonally adjusted) in June 2012, the lowest reading since October 2011.

While the June reading was down, the level in May was revised up nearly 11%, leaving the trend over the first half of the year still solid as firms hired slightly more than 35,000 workers per month, roughly 5% above the average number of hires made all of last year and about 10% above the average level in 2010.

The number of applications received by retailers included in the Kronos sample fell 11.1% to 797,852 in June 2012, from a level in May that was revised 10.9% higher, all on a seasonally adjusted basis. Applications have fallen in five of the last six months, and the level in June was more than 150,000 below its level one year ago.

“The Retail Labor Index has averaged 4.1% so far this year, six-tenths above its level last year, suggesting more favorable hiring conditions for those seeking employment opportunities in the retail sector,” said Chris Varvares, senior managing director and co-founder, Macroeconomic Advisers, which prepares the analysis and write-up of the Retail Labor Index for Kronos Inc.

“This reflects not only reduced competition as the level of applications has fallen significantly over the last year but also some firming in hiring.”

Even with the drop in June, Varvares continued, hiring remains solid compared to last year, up 7.7% year-to-date.

“Overall, we view the recent readings on hires and applications in the Kronos sample as consistent with other labor market data, which point to a still gradual recovery in the retail labor market,” he said.