Retail and the economy

Apr 10, 2019
Written by Renée Sunde, President & CEO

“Retail jobs reflect the pulse of the economy” according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleihenz. In March, retail industry employment was down by approximately 11,000 jobs seasonally adjusted from February, but the nation saw a monthly gain of 196,000 jobs overall.

“March’s strong rebound in overall hiring throughout the economy is good news after the seesaw employment growth in the past few months, Kleinhenz said. “It paints a picture of the resiliency of the U.S. economy. The focus should continue to be on continued wage growth which translates into increased spending. Retail jobs reflect the pulse of the economy, and as the economy goes so follows retail hiring.”

Consumer confidence and consumer spending were down earlier in the year with concerns of tariffs and market volatility. But it’s also important to remember that the economy historically slows down in the first quarter.

While attending the Economic Symposium hosted by Washington State Department of Employment Security, the big question for attendees, addressed by Dan White, Director of Government Consulting and Fiscal Policy at Moody Analytics was – “Is there a recession on the horizon?” He reminded the audience that there is one thing certain which all economists will agree on; we will experience another recession. The larger question is when and whether we are seeing signs of that shift today.

The media continues to talk up the market’s volatility and a potential recession while corporate earnings and unemployment figures continue to reflect differently. The challenge is that “perception” can become “reality” with our economy.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve is raising rates to allow it to have something to work with if a recession were to occur. Retail growth is over 4% and the economy is healthy; however, this sustained “perception” has the potential to create the “reality” of a recession later in 2021. I certainly don’t want to help create inaccurate perception, so we will need to keep focused on the facts.

As in any year, 2019 will continue to hold tremendous opportunity for those retailers who spot the trends and position their companies to capitalize on them.