NRF: Retail Employment Gains

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry employment in the U.S. increased by 28,800 jobs seasonally adjusted in May over April and 100,000 jobs unadjusted year-over-year.

The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, U.S. businesses added 223,000 jobs, the NRF said, citing U.S. Labor Department figures.

May’s retail employment follows an upwardly revised combined increase of 19,300 jobs for March and April. The three-month moving average in May increased by 19,000 jobs.

The sectors demonstrating the strongest employment growth were general merchandise stores, up 13,400 jobs; clothing and clothing accessory stores, up 6,500 jobs; and building and garden supplies, up 6,000 jobs. Employment declines occurred in health and personal care stores, down 800 jobs, and non-store including e-commerce, down 1,100 jobs.

“May’s rebound in jobs together with yesterday’s report of solid income growth and the rise in consumer confidence points to the economy functioning very well,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “Solid fundamentals in the job market are encouraging for retail spending, as employment gains generate additional income for consumers and consequently increase spending.”

COMMERCIAL DESIGN LEADS RESULTS IN THE LATEST ASID BILLINGS INDEX

The AMERICAN SOCIETY OF INTERIOR DESIGNERS (ASID) has released its Interior Design Billings Index (IDBI), a statement on the latest trends and BEST PRACTICES in design as well as an indicator of the economic health of the industry. Per the first quarter’s monthly reports, which are gathered from ASID panelists, the latest IDBI shows positive projections for 2018.

Regional performance was one of the larger variations reported in the findings. While the Midwest, West and South witnessed a continued increase, the Northeast region suffered a drop in business—a finding that principal and chief economist Jack Kleinhenz of Kleinhenz & Associates attributes to harsh weather conditions in the region this winter.

Commercial design leads results in the latest ASID Billings Index“As we move further in 2018, that’ll help provide some fuel for maybe some spending in the industry.”

Commercial and institutional design firms experienced an increase in work in the first quarter, while single-family and multifamily residential projects continue to endure a steady decline. Yet, Kleinhenz says, the economy is broadly improving, as recent tax cuts are offering Americans an increased take-home pay.

“It’s certainly an incentive for [people] to make MORE INVESTMENTS in their homes,” says Kleinhenz. “As we move further in 2018, that’ll help provide some fuel for maybe some spending in the industry.”

Following the industry billings report, Susan Chung, director of research for ASID, presented a work assessment of the interior design profession. Members’ responses contributed to the informative results, which revolved around pay, work management and more.

Are you expecting a pay increase this year? The questionnaire asked. More than half of respondents answered positively, with an average increase of 5.2 percent in pay expected in 2018. “Although we do see pay increases happening, we also see that the hours we work are also slightly increasing,” Chung points out.

Nearly half of those surveyed reported working 40 to 50 hours on average per week, and 23 percent claimed to work more than 50 hours. The results showed that those who worked more hours tended to work at larger firms.

The survey also reviewed work-management systems, asking if respondents expected to hire any additional employees this year. Thirty percent of participants claimed to have already made a new hire in the first quarter, while an additional 10 percent of respondents answered affirmatively.

Yet when asked if they’ve made any investments in their firms (i.e., purchasing or billing software, design software, hardware, etc.) during the first quarter, 60 percent of respondents declined.

In the six-month forecast, however, Kleinhenz is hopeful, saying: “It reflects an improving broader economy in general and a positive outlook for the design services industry in the coming months.”

The full report can be found HERE.

May retail sales surge 6% over last year

Dive Brief:

  • Retail trade sales rose 0.8% in May from April, and 6% percent from May last year, according to the latest monthly report from the U.S. Commerce Department’s census bureau. Excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, May retail sales rose 0.7% from April and 5.6% from May last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Most categories are benefiting from the healthy economy. Monthly furniture and home goods sales dropped 2.4% (rising 3.5% year over year) and sporting goods, hobby and bookstore sales dropped 1.1%. (declining 0.7% year over year). But electronics sales rose 0.2% (1.9% year over year), department store sales rose 1.5% (2.1% year over year) and apparel and accessories sales rose 1.3% (5.9%) year over year, the government said.
  • E-commerce sales rose 0.1% from April and 9.1% year over year, according to the federal report.

Dive Insight:

The U.S. economy, underpinned by strong growth and employment, is operating on all cylinders, and that is boosting retail sales and is evident in most earnings reports of late. Increases in household budgets from tax changes and good credit availability are also helping, according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

“The economy is looking strong and households have a solid financial foundation on which to base their spending,” he said in a statement this week. “We have seen ongoing momentum over the last several months and believe sales growth should remain healthy and consistent with our 2018 outlook.”

The three-month moving average rose 4.6% over the same period a year ago, topping NRF’s forecast earlier this year that retail sales this year will grow between 3.8% and 4.4%, the organization said.

But while the near-term outlook remains strong, tax reform and the administration’s new tack on trade could undermine all that, according to the International Monetary Fund’s latest report card on the U.S. economy. Tax cuts and spending policies mean the federal deficit will exceed 4.5% of GDP by 2019, and tariffs being imposed and proposed “are likely to be damaging to a range of countries, and to U.S. multinational companies, that are reliant on these supply chains,” the IMF said.

That includes retailers, and Kleinhenz agrees that there’s trouble on the horizon. “[I]nflation and rising oil prices are complicating the picture,” he said. “And new tariffs or a trade war would certainly be negatives that would increase prices and reduce both consumer purchasing power and consumer confidence.”

Retail Dive

Retail Sales Figures

Retail-sales figures

WASHINGTON

Nonseasonally-adjusted May retail sales increased 5.6 percent year-over-year and seasonally adjusted sales increased 0.7 percent over April, the National Retail Federation announced.

“The economy is looking strong and households have a solid financial foundation on which to base their spending,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

He noted increased take-home pay due in part to tax cuts, low unemployment, and high availability of consumer credit as factors.

“We have seen ongoing momentum over the last several months and believe sales growth should remain health and consistent with our 2018 outlook,” he said. “Nonetheless, inflation and rising oil prices are complicating the picture. And new tariffs or a trade war would certainly be negatives that would increase prices and reduce both consumer purchasing power and consumer confidence.”

Staff/wire reports

Youngstown Vindicator

Retail decline in region is ‘a permanent shift’

As more people do their shopping online, retailing in Northeast Ohio is changing. And while most brick-and-mortar stores are not in danger of going the way of the dinosaur, in a region where the population isn’t expanding, every online sale has a cost in the malls, in the storefronts and in jobs lost.

By more than one estimate, including by local economist Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist for the National Retail Federation, online sales now make up 10% of retail sales. Sales, buoyed by rising prices, continue to grow modestly, though accurate regional sales figures are not available.

“The decline in store traffic is not a trend anymore. It’s a shift, a permanent shift,” said Elad Granot, dean of the Dauch College of Business and Economics at Ashland University. “So brick-and-mortar retailers have to figure out what they can offer that Amazon can’t, and it’s getting to be a shorter and shorter list.”

Granot was referring to online retailer Amazon.com‘s move into the grocery business with its purchase of Whole Foods, and its expanding role in logistics. The logistics push includes a growing fleet of cargo airplanes and its fulfillment centers, such as the ones it is building in North Randall and Euclid, on sites of former shopping malls.

Granot said some retail categories are relatively safe. He said, for example, that shopping for makeup can entail trying out different products with an in-store stylist — what he calls an experience. The categories that should be worried about Amazon, he believes, are the categories that have no experience attached to consumption.

“If I need Band-Aids, I’m not going to wait until the next time I’m at CVS, I’m going to order them on Amazon right now,” Granot said, noting that he recently was on a flight of stairs with a student who was ordering a pair of sneakers online as they walked. “CVS provides me with no experience when I shop for Band-Aids.”

According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the retail trade in the seven-county Cleveland metropolitan area lost 8,758 jobs, 5.9% of total jobs in retailing, in the decade between 2006 and 2016. During the same time period, the number of retail establishments dropped 6.5%, a net loss, since new stores keep opening, of 601 establishments.

Much of that loss was in Cuyahoga County as new retail developments sprout up in neighboring counties. Over the decade, the core county lost 5,927 jobs, or 8.6% of its retail jobs, and 464, or 10%, of its retail establishments.

And the decline is continuing, according to preliminary jobs numbers for 2017.

While employment in major Northeast Ohio sectors such as manufacturing, financial services and education and health services held steady or rose, the region continued to lose retail jobs between January 2017 and January 2018, according to the state data.

Regional retail sales are growing, according to Alex Boehnke, manager of public affairs at the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM), though regional sales are not well tracked.

The best estimate of the trend in retail sales in Ohio and its metropolitan areas is done by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati for OCRM. In November, as the holiday shopping season was beginning, the center estimated that retail sales in the Cleveland metropolitan area for the 2017 holiday season would grow only 3.1%. Sales in the Akron metro were expected to grow only 1.2%. Estimates of national holiday sales growth ranged from 4% to 6%.

“We don’t have the population coming in,” Kleinhenz said. “The pie is not growing.”

CBRE, a national real estate brokerage with a large Cleveland operation, calculates that only two metropolitan areas have more retail square feet per person than Northeast Ohio, where there is 29.9 square feet of retail for every person in the area. In its August 2017 report, “Dead Malls: a boost for retail?,” which is subtitled, “Is retail in Cleveland dying, or is it just overbuilt,” Cleveland-based research analyst Brandon Isner found that only Orlando, with 30.4 square feet per resident (a deceptive figure for a tourist city), and Atlanta, with 30 square feet per resident, top Cleveland.

“It is clear that Cleveland has a supply issue in regard to retail real estate,” Isner wrote. “(W)ithout the population growth that other metro areas have enjoyed, extra retail will weaken what remains.”

In Cuyahoga County, retailers in two mixed-use developments will be opening their doors in the coming months. Opening in the spring, Pinecrest, in Orange Village, has lured several dozen retailers, including Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. In Shaker Heights, the Van Aken District will add about 100,000 square feet of retail space come summer.

Similarly, retail building booms in Avon in Lorain County and in and around the site of the former Geauga Lake amusement park in Geauga County have cost Cuyahoga County retail sales.

“There is no doubt there is a shift going on,” Kleinhenz said. “Are we overstored? In many cases, that is accurate. It’s just that it’s not necessarily that retail is declining broadly.”

Joseph Khouri, a real estate broker with CBRE in Cleveland, agrees with Granot. He, too, believes the retailers who survive will be the ones who sell an experience and activity related retail. He pointed to Toys R Us, which recently announced it was closing all of its stores nationwide after declaring bankruptcy.

“They didn’t differentiate themselves from online sellers,” he said. “People are gravitating toward experiential retail. Specialty food retailers, arts and crafts, home goods products that you have to touch and feel — unique offerings that are hard to mimic online.”

That ability of local retail to be an experience leads Granot to say that he believes local, boutique retailers can also survive.

“Shopping local, especially in Northeast Ohio, is a point of pride,” he said. “There is a lot of room for local retailers to do well, as long as they offer an additional benefit beyond the actual product and price, because it’s going to be increasingly harder to beat Amazon.”

Jay Miller

Crain’s Cleveland

Toys “R” Us to start liquidation sales; economist says closings don’t represent entire industry

Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D and chief economist for the world’s largest retail trade association, said while the rash of reported national retail store closings and job losses are real, he wouldn’t say they are a direct indication that the retail industry is moving backward.

“I think there is misinformation or a misunderstanding about the health of the retail industry,” said Kleinhenz, who is also principal and chief economist of Kleinhenz and Associates, a Cleveland-based registered investment advisory firm that specializes in financial consulting and wealth management services.

“We recognize these store closings are happening, but overall we’ve got to be careful to not focus just on store closings because other areas are performing,” he said, noting that in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50,000 jobs were added in retail nationwide including auto sales and gas sales. “If we take out those two categories then, still 46,000 retail jobs were added in the month of February.”

However, according to U.S. Labor Department data, job loss can’t be ignored. Between 2001 and 2016, jobs at traditional department stores fell 46 percent. For perspective, that’s a bigger drop than other troubled industries such as coal mining (32 percent drop) and factory employment (25 percent drop) during the same time span.

MarketWatch reported that in 2017, department stores alone lost 29,900 jobs, while general merchandising stores cut 15,700 workers. In addition, last year’s BLS data also showed retail discharges and layoffs grew to a total of 212,000 nationwide – the highest level in nearly two years.

Kleinhenz said based on all of the area data he’s analyzed and the NRF’s forecast, they still believe 2018 will be a stronger year for retail.

Some department stores are moving toward cost fulfillment centers, while other e-commerce retailers, discount stores, luxury goods, and even some small businesses with specialized niches are growing.

In Northeast Ohio for instance, Amazon is building a fulfillment center in Euclid in what once was a retail strip that included a shuttered Toys “R” Us. The dead mall will be replaced by an Amazon fulfillment center, scheduled to open in 2019.

A similar, but larger, project is under construction and set to open next year in North Randall, where Randall Park Mall once stood. Between the two Amazon facilities, the company will employ more than 3,000 people.

“The landscape is changing and the way the industry is operating is changing. They’re looking to be more cost efficient. Ultimately retailers want to deliver good price and value, which is no different than any other industry,” he said.

“Undoubtedly they’re facing significant competition and consequently they need to change the way they’re operating given the environment.”

RETAIL CLOSINGS

The national retail landscape is changing rapidly with a great deal of upheaval as brick-and-mortar stores continue to struggle to change and adapt in the highly competitive digital age.

Claire’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Monday, is the latest in a string of mall-based stores shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.

But mall-based stores aren’t the only casualties of consumers increasingly more comfortable ordering products online. Toys “R” Us, another company left deep in debt from a leveraged buyout, said last week that it was liquidating its 735 stores in the United States. The bankrupt retailer is closing one-fifth of its U.S. outlets, which could end up being more than 180 stores including locations in Mentor, Western Hills, Dayton and Dublin, Ohio. Liquidation sales were to begin Thursday, but were delayed this morning until possibly Friday or later.

In 2017, nearly 9,000 stores closed across retail sectors. Cushman & Wakefield said that number will be between 10,000 and 11,000 doors this year–and that’s fewer than the 13,000 the analysts initially forecast, thanks in part to Simon Properties’ legal action attempting to block Starbucks from closing Teavana locations.

“Not everyone is shrinking! Off-price apparel, discounters, warehouse club stores and dollar stores will continue to post record growth,” Garrick Brown, vice president of Retail Intelligence for the Americas, said in a January blog.

“Grocery stores and most restaurants will continue to account for growth, even as the weakest concepts will increasingly struggle with a saturated marketplace,” he said.

Still, last year was a record year for both store closings and retail bankruptcies. Dozens of retailers including Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney shuttered thousands of stores — far exceeding recessionary levels — and 50 chains filed for bankruptcy.

The commercial real estate firm CoStar has estimated that nearly a quarter of malls in the U.S., or roughly 310 of the nation’s 1,300 shopping malls, are at high risk of losing an anchor tenant. Chains that have confirmed they will be closing locations in 2018 include Bon-Ton, Gap, Sears-Kmart and Walgreens.

In January, Walmart announced plans to close 63 Sam’s Club stores across the U.S. including one in Cincinnati.

Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is bouncing back by cutting its stores. The New Albany, Ohio-based company was praised by analysts easier this month after it announced positive same-store sales growth in its fourth-quarter results. Same-store sales were up 9 percent overall at the company, boosted by 11 percent growth at Hollister and 5 percent at the Abercrombie brand itself.

But at the same time, the company also announced it would be closing up to 60 Abercrombie and Hollister stores in 2018. Closing store locations have not been identified yet.

By Marcia Pledger, The Plain Dealer

cleveland.com

Retailers are hiring more people. One reason: Home renovations.

The nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in February, but there was one bright spot many economists weren’t expecting: an influx of retail jobs.

In all, retailers added 50,300 jobs in February — four times the number from the month before — even as the U.S. unemployment rate stayed steady at 4.1 percent.

One reason for the gains, economists said: Americans are increasingly renovating their homes instead of buying new ones, helping create thousands of retail jobs at companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Building-material stores hired more than 10,000 workers in February to keep up with booming demand, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those positions accounted for more than one-fifth of the total retail jobs added last month.

The gains are part of a larger trend. Building-material and garden supply stores have added roughly 49,000 jobs in the past year.

“This is a housing repair and remodeling story — and not just because of the recent hurricanes and fires,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at professional-services firm Grant Thornton. “In many cases, people are realizing it’s cheaper and easier to add on to their homes than to buy new ones.”

Low housing supply and high costs, particularly in larger cities, are prompting prospective buyers to think twice before buying a house, Swonk said. Other factors, such as rising interest rates and changes to mortgage-related tax credits, are also contributing to their decisions.

“Add to that the housing stock is older and more decrepit than it used to be, and you’re seeing a boom in remodeling,” Swonk said, adding that she is in the process of replacing the roof on her Chicago-area home.

Homeowners are projected to spend $340 billion on home improvements and repairs this year, up 8 percent from last year, marking the highest increase since before the Great Recession, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Increased demand is also helping create new jobs, albeit low-wage positions that are often seasonal. Home Depot announced plans to hire 80,000 workers last month, while Lowe’s said it would hire more than 53,000 seasonal employees to prepare for spring.

“What’s striking about these numbers is that they are unaffected by online retail,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the online jobs site Indeed. “Most people aren’t buying their lumber or potting soil online.”

But wages remain low: The median pay for retail workers is about $11.01 per hour, or $22,900 a year, according to BLS data.

The jump in employment is a departure from recent months: The retail sector lost 25,900 jobs in December but added 14,800 in January. (Warehouse jobs, which are not counted in the retail figures, grew by about 400 positions in February.)

“I did not expect a large increase in February, in all honesty,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of the industry. “This was a substantial increase at the industry level.”

General-merchandise stores such as Walmart, Target and Costco added 17,700 jobs, while clothing and accessories stores hired 14,900. A number of those newly created positions, economists said, were probably focused on retailers’ growing online and mobile businesses.

Walmart, for example, has hired more than 18,000 personal shoppers in recent years as it builds up its shop-online, pick-up-in-store service, executives said on a Tuesday call with reporters.

“Companies are putting more people on the floor,” Swonk said. “We don’t have a handle on whether they’re hiring for online operations vs. in-store, but we know they’re hiring.”

Abha Bhattarai

The Washington Post

5 Things Consumers Are Buying More of Despite Slowing Retail Sales

Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activities, slowed down in the first two months of 2018 after a booming quarter at the end of 2017. The U.S. retail sales in February missed economists’ forecasts by 0.5 percent and came out 0.1 percent lower than January, according to the monthly retail sales report released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday.

It is also the first time since April 2012 that retail sales have declined for the third straight month.

The decline in February was mainly triggered by slowing sales in automobiles (down 0.9 percent), gas (down 1.2 percent) and department stores (down 0.9 percent).

However, there are five categories where spending grew against the trend. Spending in building material and home improvement supplies was up by 1.9 percent; sporting goods, books and music products were up by 2.2 percent; online retailers overall saw 1.0 percent growth; clothing and accessories were up by 0.4 percent; and restaurants and bars were up by 0.2 percent.

While spending growth in some of these categories may be simply due to seasonal factors, such as sporting goods and restaurant spending, others signal bigger changes in consumer spending trends.

“Month-to-month trends are really hard to interpret, because seasonal factors can cause biases. It’s the year-over-year numbers that are more important,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation.

“What’s going on in furniture and home building material, as well as electronics and appliances, is reflecting the activities in the housing market,” Kleinhenz told Observer. “People are in the process of renovating their homes. Sales of newly built homes and existing homes have both increased in the last year, and they need to be outfitted with new furnishing and new appliances. So those categories are often correlated.”

Sales for existing homes grew by 2.6 percent in 2017 from 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors, continuing an upward trend since 2009. New home sales also increased by nine percent in 2017 from 2016, according to Census data.

Stimulus in home-related spending has also fueled sales at major home improvement chains like Home Depot and Lowes, both of which saw growth in same-store sales over the latest quarter.

By  • 

The Observer

Americans Spend More Than Expected as Holiday Season Heats Up

Shoppers

 

Americans are spending more than expected this holiday season, fueled by income gains, confidence in the economic outlook, buoyant financial markets and modest inflation.

The boost includes in-store and online spending at brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Nordstrom Inc., which clocked the largest year-over-year November sales increase in seven years. Home-furnishing stores and electronics-and-appliance stores also logged strong spending numbers, despite competition from online-shopping websites, which also posted robust gains.

“It’s an impressive start to the holiday season and probably the best in the last few years,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, a group that represents retail stores. “When you put the pieces together, job and wage gains, modest inflation, healthy balance sheet and elevated consumer confidence…there’s an improved willingness to spend.”

Altogether, sales at online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants rose 0.8% in November from the prior month, well above the 0.3% increase economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected. That was up 5.8% from a year earlier, the largest yearly November increase since 2011. Despite their woes from online competition, general merchandisers such as department stores fared well, registering a 3.6% sales increase from a year earlier, the best November performance since 2010.

“Overall these data are much stronger than expected,” said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note to clients. “People have the inclination and the wherewithal to continue spending at a robust pace.”

Taken altogether, the data suggest the U.S. is on track for robust growth in the fourth quarter. Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, estimated the economy is growing at a 2.8% annual pace in the October-to-December period, up from a 2.6% forecast before the retail-data release. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta estimated a 3.3% growth rate.

One caveat: Spending is so strong it is outpacing income gains, meaning Americans are saving at a slower rate, which could lead to a spending slowdown later or the threat of rising debt levels.

Spending comparisons to last year were boosted by a weak holiday season in 2016 for retailers, which were plagued by high inventories and a slowdown in purchases by international tourists amid a rising dollar.

This year, some brick-and-mortar stores appear to be better managing their inventory. In their most recent quarter, both Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. said their stores had less excess merchandise to clear out at steeply reduced prices. “We don’t have the albatross of a lot of extra inventory like we did last year,” Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette said in an interview on Black Friday. That, in turn, resulted in less discounting, Mr. Gennette said.

Mr. Kleinhenz said increasingly sophisticated website and app advertising is helping brick-and-mortar retailers too. “It’s a combined strategy that retailers have developed that integrates the use of the internet with the brick-and-mortar shopping approach,” he said.

The retail industry is undergoing another major shift — to e-commerce. How did we get here? Photo: Associated Press Related Video

Since Nov. 1, online revenue has risen 24% compared with the same period last year, said Slice Intelligence, a research firm that tracks online purchase receipts. Online sales at Target Corp., Kohl’s Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp. rose the fastest, the firm said, though Amazon continued to grow rapidly from a larger sales base.

Better-than-expected quarterly results were reported by some mall stalwarts that have been battered, including Macy’s Inc. and Gap Inc. “There is a consolidation taking place” in the apparel market, Gap CEO Art Peck told analysts on Nov. 16. “Almost regardless of consumer sentiment, we’ve got an opportunity to drive growth and gain market share,” Mr. Peck said, as the company closes stores, remodels others and speeds up its product pipeline.

The closure of thousands of stores this year could be giving those left standing a boost.

“On an overall basis, a portion of our improvement in our sales trend is attributable to our targeted efforts to capture share from competitive store closures in some of our trade areas, and we expect this will continue, if not accelerate, through the holiday season,” Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell told analysts in November.

Some businesses, meanwhile, are feeling a boost from the stronger labor market. Pete Benck, owner of Madison, Wis.-based vintage clothing store Good Style Shop, said this holiday season’s business has been stronger than last year’s.

“We have had a lot of foot traffic, and I think there’s a lot of confidence in our consumers lately,” Mr. Benck said.

The National Retail Federation expects consumers nationwide to spend about 4% more during the holiday shopping season than they had in 2016. That would make 2017 the strongest holiday season since 2014. Mr. Kleinhenz said the U.S. appears to be on track to meet that goal.

Sarah Nassauer Wall Street Journal

Yahoo Finance!

Write to Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com

Photo credit:Black Friday shoppers sort through their purchases while waiting for their rides at The Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro, Ark. Americans, by most measures, appear ready to shop this holiday season. (Staci Vandagriff/The Jonesboro Sun via AP, File)

Strong June rebound signals job growth is solid again — but substantial raises remain elusive

With a strong rebound in job growth last month, the labor market is back on solid ground. But workers are still struggling to get the substantial wage gains they’ve been craving since the end of the recession, economists said.

Here are the highlights:

  • The economy added 222,000 net new jobs, the Labor Department said — the best performance since February and well above analyst expectations.
  • The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4% from May’s 16-year low, but because more people joined the labor force.
  • May’s job growth was revised up to 152,000 and April also was revised up, as part of a gain of 47,000 more total jobs for those two months than initially estimated.
  • Wages continued their steady but slow recent growth, increasing 4 cents to $26.25.

“Hiring is back to where it has been throughout much of the 8-year-old economic expansion,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at financial information website Bankrate.com.

“Growth is modest, not spectacular, which is to be expected for a mature expansion.”

Job growth returns to 2016 pace

With June’s strong growth and the statistical revisions, monthly job gains have averaged 180,000 this year, close to last year’s level of 187,000.

On Monday, President Trump criticized the media for ignoring the “great jobs numbers” since he took office. The White House offered a muted response Friday, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer touting the job gains on Twitter as “great news” for U.S. workers.

Economists said the pace of job growth this year has not been great, but has been solid. And the bounce back in June allays any fears of a significant slowdown.

“This was a good jobs report. It suggests there’s still a fair amount of vitality in the U.S. labor market,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Markit, a business research and analysis firm.

But the report probably overstated the strength of the market somewhat because it was boosted by a gain of 35,000 net new jobs in state and local government after the sector shed 8,000 positions in May, he said.

The June gains likely represent a temporary jump as school districts made new hires for the fall, Behravesh said. He expected job growth in coming months to be in the range of 150,000 to 180,000.

Retail gains jobs for first time since January

Customers shop at an Aldi grocery store in Chicago on June 12.
Customers shop at an Aldi grocery store in Chicago on June 12. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

June’s job growth was boosted by large increases in hiring in the healthcare and social-assistance sector, as well as by local governments.

But the most notable move was by retailers. The sector added 8,100 net new jobs in June after shedding 7,200 the previous month.

From February through May, retail payrolls declined by 79,400 jobs as the sector struggled with the growing shift to online shopping.

“The gain in June shows that the industry is still very much meeting the demands of consumers and households,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.

He cautioned that “one month does not make a trend,” a point echoed by other economists.

“We won’t see sustained employment growth in the retail sector,” said Cathy Barrera, chief economic advisor at ZipRecruiter, the Santa Monica job-hunting site.

“Between the competition with online options for consumers and for new technologies that are replacing workers in stores — self checkout is one example of that — I don’t think those jobs are going to be there in the long run,” she said.

A higher jobless rate is actually good

(@latimesgraphics)

The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point last month after hitting its lowest level since 2001 in May. But the increase, to 4.4%, was for a good reason — 361,000 people joined the labor force a month after it contracted.

That nudged up the percentage of working-age Americans either working or actively looking for a job to 62.8%. That labor force participation rate still is near a four-decade low, and economists said the increasing retirement of baby boomers makes it difficult to boost the level significantly.

The participation rates for men and women ages 25 to 54 have almost gotten back to their pre-recession levels, Barrera said. But for Americans ages 16 to 24, the recovery has been slower.

“It makes sense that this is the last group to recover,” she said. “There just weren’t a lot of jobs available for young people high school-age or college-age during the recession.”

Some of them have opted to stay in school longer to boost their job qualifications, Barrera said. Getting those Americans back in the workforce will help tighten the labor market and lead to increased wages.

Wage growth is still struggling

Average hourly earnings increased 4 cents last month to $26.25, a slight improvement over May’s gains.

For the 12 months ended June 30, wages have increased 2.5%. That’s a slight increase over the 12-month period ended May 31 and above the low rate of inflation. But it’s still short of the stronger growth economists have been hoping for as the labor market tightens.

“If wages accelerate, that will encourage more people who might have given up looking for work to start looking again,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist with employment website Indeed.com. “That’s why wages are an important and the most troubling piece of the puzzle right now.”

With unemployment low, employers should be forced to increase wages to lure new workers and keep existing ones.

But some of the biggest job gains in June were in lower-wage sectors, like healthcare and temporary workers, which kept wage growth down, Kolko said

“It’s unclear how much the slower wage growth is due to long-term factors, like productivity slowdown and demographic shifts, and how much of it could be reversed by a tighter labor market and employers bidding up wages,” he said.

Federal Reserve monetary policymakers have been expecting faster wage growth as the unemployment rate falls.

Still, the job-creation figures for June should provide relief to central bank officials, who have been increasing a key short-term interest rate in large part because of the strength of the labor market.

In June, the Fed nudged the rate up for the third time in six months. Even though the pace of job growth has moderated this year, Fed Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen said the labor market “continues to strengthen.”

If job growth remains solid, the Fed is expected to raise the rate again before the end of the year.

L.A. Times

July 7, 2017