By ROBERT JOHNSONAssociated PressWASHINGTON — The number of people in the U.S. working in retail sales has declined to a five-year low of 11.3 million people, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But a decline in retail workers in the past two years has not offset a growing labor force participation rate that is now at its highest level since the late 1980s, according the BLS report released Monday.
That’s a trend that is likely to continue as workers increasingly enter the retail industry.
The U.T.S., an economic research firm, said the total retail workforce rose 3.6 million last year.
That’s up from 1.7 million in 2011.
And it has been in decline for years.
In the mid-1980s, the BLC estimated that the labor force represented 8.6 percent of the U,T.U. The BLS estimate was based on an updated version of a BLS index, which tracks the labor market, which includes those who were employed and unemployed at the end of March.
The BLS said in the report that the retail sector added 8.3 percent of all jobs last year, the second-highest rate of any industry.
The retail workforce increased by 8.9 million, or 3.5 percent, in the first three months of 2017.
It was the highest rate since 2004.
The retail job market remains challenging.
The total U.s. labor force decreased by a net 1.3.
That was down from the 2.4 net gain in February and a net decline of 2.6 in March.
The decline was due to the fact that fewer people joined the labor forces, or the workers stopped seeking jobs.
The labor force also declined in many states, which have struggled with the high unemployment rate and other challenges in the economy.
In its report, the bureau said retail jobs increased by a total of 11,000, or 1.4 percent, but were still a relatively small share of the overall labor force.
That means retail jobs have been growing at a slower rate than the economy as a whole, which has been gaining jobs.