Retailers hiring

The California retail sector enjoyed healthy job growth in June, adding 7,900 positions. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

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Employers in California’s retail trade industry seemed optimistic in June, adding 7,900 jobs despite lackluster sales throughout the first half of the year.

The category posted the largest month-to-month gain of the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which boosted its job count by 13,200 positions, according to a report Thursday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Overall, employers in the state added 30,200 jobs last month, according to the data, which was inadvertently released a day early. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.5% from 8.6% in May.

Payroll tax increases, sequestration concerns and general financial anxiety had kept shoppers cautious in early 2012.

A trio of privately produced reports last week, which focus on a small group of mostly mall-based retailers, showed sales finally getting a sizable lift in June. Warmer summer temperatures and seasonal discounts kicked in, improving shoppers’ spirits, according to analysts.

By one measure from Retail Metrics Inc., same-store sales at shops open at least a year swelled 4.1% last month from the same period a year earlier. The uptick is the largest since January.

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But core retail sales, which strip out the effects of auto and gas purchases, suffered their first decline in a year last month. A more comprehensive Commerce Department report this week showed a 0.1% slide from May, as home improvement brands, restaurants and department stores took a hit.

Retailers hoping to lure early back-to-school shoppers and consumers on summer break have steadily upped their seasonal hiring efforts in the years since the recession.

Nationwide, there were 3.8 million job openings in May – a slight increase from April, according to the government Job Openings and Labor Turnover report. But the retail sector boosted its openings substantially, with 18% more than in April.

Nearly 3 in 10 American employers – including a third of retailers – planned to hire summer workers, according to a CareerBuilder forecast. More than half of companies taking on a higher headcount finished their hiring in May and June.

There’s also an added, more long-lasting bonus, according to CareerBuilder North America President Brent Rasmussen.

“Seasonal work – whether in retail or engineering – is also a good entry point into the labor market for job seekers, as a vast majority of employers – 67% – will consider summer hires for permanent positions,” he said.

ALSO:

Core retail sales fall for first time in a year in June

June retail sales rise 4.1%; biggest jump since January

California payrolls grew by 30,200 in June, jobless rate falls to 8.5%