Retail Sales Get a Lift in January

The Commerce Department reported that retail sales grew 0.5% in January from December (sales were up 4.7% from January 2009), helped by a surge in general merchandise sales. The gain, following a revised 0.1% decline in December, signals that consumer spending power is improving, which could help sustain the economic recovery. Nevertheless, unemployment remains stubbornly high, credit remains tight and consumers continue to de-leverage, which could impact spending and dampen the recovery in the months ahead. In addition, severe blizzards in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states may depress February sales, although early spring sales may get a boost as consumers who were snowbound look to get out and shop in March. The overall sales increase in January was helped by a 1.5% jump in sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes major department stores and big national chains such as Walmart and Target. Sales also grew at electronics and appliance chains (1.2%), at sporting goods, book and music stores (1%), at grocery stores (0.7%), at gasoline stations (0.4%), at apparel chains (0.3%), and at health and personal care stores...

Figures Suggest Recession May Be Over

THE American government reported on Thursday October 29th that gross domestic product rose at an annualised rate of 3.5% in the third quarter compared with the second. This was the first increase since the second quarter of 2008. It backs up other evidence that the recession ended in the third quarter or just before, though the official decision, by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a group of academic economists, is still some way off. Robert Gordon, a member of this group, is confident that the recession, which began in December 2007, ended in June. But at 18 months that would still make it the longest since 1933. Consumers are sceptical. Their confidence fell in October, according to the Conference Board, a research group. A poll for The Economist by YouGov found that 35% of respondents think the economy is getting worse; just 28% think it is getting better. Unemployment is still...

Mininum Wage Hike To Take Effect July 24 in 31 States

Millions of American workers are about to get a federally-mandated raise, which will go into effect on July 24. The raise, which was implemented two years ago before the recession, represents the final wage hike in a three-step boost to the federal minimum wage increase passed by Congress. The minimum wage will rise 70 cents — or about 11% — to $7.25 per hour from $6.55. (Last summer, it went up 70 cents from $5.85.) Whether Congress would have approved the wage hike had legislators known how dismal the economy would look two years later is an open question. But there’s no doubt the timing is awkward. The hike will give about 4.5 million workers a raise and boost hourly wages by $1.6 billion a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The final phase of the federal minimum wage hike will impact 31 states whose minimum wage levels are below $7.25, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York. Firms in these states will have to match the federal minimum. The increase has no bearing on 20 states (including Washington, D.C.), which already mandate an hourly wage of $7.25 or...

Mininum Wage Hike To Take Effect July 24 in 31 States

Millions of American workers are about to get a federally-mandated raise, which will go into effect on July 24. The raise, which was implemented two years ago before the recession, represents the final wage hike in a three-step boost to the federal minimum wage increase passed by Congress. The minimum wage will rise 70 cents — or about 11% — to $7.25 per hour from $6.55. (Last summer, it went up 70 cents from $5.85.) Whether Congress would have approved the wage hike had legislators known how dismal the economy would look two years later is an open question. But there’s no doubt the timing is awkward. The hike will give about 4.5 million workers a raise and boost hourly wages by $1.6 billion a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The final phase of the federal minimum wage hike will impact 31 states whose minimum wage levels are below $7.25, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York. Firms in these states will have to match the federal minimum. The increase has no bearing on 20 states (including Washington, D.C.), which already mandate an hourly wage of $7.25 or...