US retailers are warning that President Donald Trump’s new round of trade tariffs threatens to accelerate lay-offs as figures show it is the only sector of the economy to have shed jobs in the past two years.

After a wave of bankruptcies and store closures, data published on Friday showed the retail trade employed 49,000 fewer people last month than in July 2017. Department store, clothing chain and electronics retail workers bore the brunt of the cuts, and the aggregate job losses in the sector would have been higher were it not for hiring by grocers and car dealerships.

In a sign of how the relentless rise of Amazon is transforming the labour market, retail has missed out on an employment boom in other industries. Transport and warehousing added about 370,000 positions over the two-year period, according to the figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Retail employees are braced for more redundancies in the months ahead. Mr Trump last week said he planned to impose 10 per cent tariffs on $300bn worth of Chinese imports from next month, just as the industry prepares for the crucial Christmas shopping season.

“If you’re bringing in less income and consumer demand starts to go down, there’ll be less reason to employ people,” said Matt Priest, head of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America trade body.  […]