Posts Tagged ‘jobs growth’
Old Man Winter appears to be killing the retail sector and the economic renewal. Extreme cold and nasty weather has engulfed about 70% of the country, reaching as far south as Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas, which don’t traditionally experience winter weather.
All that nasty weather means less driving to the malls and shops, which, judging by the numbers, appears to have been the case over the last two months. And if consumers don’t spend, the retail sector hurts and this translates into softer gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Retail sales contracted by 0.4% in January, which represented the second straight month of declines following a revised contraction of 0.1% in December, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The poor showings were attributed to the weather.
With consumers staying at home, we are hearing whispers that fourth-quarter GDP growth could be revised downward from its initial 3.2%.
And while it’s too early to call for the economy to weaken, continued bad weather could mean just that. Now there are, of course, other reasons for the lackluster retail sector metrics.
There’s still a sense that the jobs market continues to be fragile following the creation of a mere 74,000 jobs in December that was blamed on the weather. Yet January was only marginally better with the creation of 113,000 jobs, which was well below the 185,000 estimate.
The jobs numbers are horrible, and unless they start to improve, I expect consumers to continue to feel hesitant about spending in the retail sector.
As I wrote in a previous commentary, investing in the retail sector will be much more difficult this … Read More
Don’t for a second believe consumer spending in the U.S. economy is improving!
J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE/JCP) has announced it will be closing 33 stores in the U.S. economy. By doing this, the retailer will save about $65.0 million a year starting in 2014. 2,000 employees will be let go. (Source: J. C. Penney Company, Inc., January 15, 2014.)
Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) is also closing stores.
Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE/ BBY) reported that for the nine-week period ended January 4, its comparable sales declined 0.8% from the same period a year ago. The CEO of the company, Hubert Joly, said, “…our holiday revenues were negatively impacted by a number of factors, including: (1) the aggressive promotional activity in the retail industry during the holiday period; (2) supply constraints for key products; (3) significant store traffic declines between “Power Week” and Christmas; and (4) a disappointing mobile phone market.” (Source: “Best Buy Announces Holiday Revenue Results,” Best Buy Co., Inc., January 16, 2014.)
Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT) is another retailer that’s been hurt by dismal consumer spending in the U.S. economy. The company expects a decline of 2.5% in its fourth-quarter comparable sales. Target has also lowered its corporate earnings guidance for the fourth quarter; it now expects to report earnings of between $1.20 and $1.30 per share. Previously, it stated its corporate earnings in the fourth quarter would be between $1.50 and $1.60 a share. The company also plans to close eight stores in the U.S. economy. (Source: Target Corporation, January 10, 2014.)
Each day, it is becoming more evident that consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds … Read More
In today’s jobs report, we’re told 169,000 jobs were added in the U.S. jobs market in August. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 6, 2013.) Aside from the fact we need a minimum of 200,000 jobs a month to see a substantial change in the U.S. jobs market, the details in this morning’s report are particularly weak and concerning.
Actually, let’s start with the previous month’s downward revision in employment. The revised numbers that came out this morning show the U.S. economy added only 104,000 new jobs in July, not the 162,000 we were originally told were created in that month.
Moving to August, this morning’s jobs market report shows the only growth in jobs is in the low-wage-paying sectors. Add up all the new retail, health care, business services, and hospitality jobs, and 71% of all jobs created in August were in the low-paying sectors!
The underemployment rate, which includes those people who have given up looking for work or who have part-time jobs because they can’t get full-time jobs, still sits near 14%! (The politicians will never talk about the underemployment rate—what economists like me consider the real employment rate—because this number shows the jobs market is not improving.)
So what type of growth did we see in August in jobs in the manufacturing, construction, and other sectors that pay a higher salary? Sadly, jobs growth in those sectors was dismal. The manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy only created 19,000 jobs in August—after a decline of 10,000 in July! Sectors like construction, mining and … Read More
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) just reported July existing-home sales increased in the U.S. housing market to an annual rate of 5.39 million homes—up 17.2% from July of 2012. (Source: National Association of Realtors, August 21, 2013.)
And those companies that are closely related to the housing market like The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE/HD) and Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE/LOW) reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings. All these companies cited the housing “recovery” as the reason their earnings did better.
So does this mean it’s a good time to buy homebuilder stocks, or to jump into companies related to the housing market? My answer is a resounding, “NO.”
In fact, the housing market is flashing four warning signs that the so-called “recovery” is losing steam.
First-time home buyers are not entering the housing market. Last month, first-time home buyers accounted for only 29% of all existing-home sales in the housing market, down 15% from July 2012. In a normal market, you’d want t first-time home buyers to account for 40% of all sales.
Mortgage rates are rising quickly. The rate on the standard 30-year fixed mortgage hit 4.6% this morning—up sharply from about 3.5% at the beginning of 2013
For months (in these pages), I’ve been saying interest rates would start to creep up. Even the NAR acknowledges the problem with higher interest rates. Its chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said this week, “Mortgage interest rates are at the highest level in two years, pushing some buyers off the sidelines…the initial rise in interest rates provided strong incentive for closing deals. However, further rate increases … Read More
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