Posted on Thu, Oct. 05, 2006
Midday Business Report:
Falling gas prices
put consumers in
mood to spend
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
Bless the American shopper.
All it took, apparently, was a dip in gasoline prices — and maybe some crisp fall weather — to make many retailers happy.
Most major retailers this morning reported year-to-year increases in September same-store sales, with some gains in the double digits.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
was an exception. It missed its growth target and posted a small 1.3 percent same-store sales increase over September 2005.
Glee about the shopping spree was quashed somewhat, though, by other economic indicators, particularly Wednesday’s caution from Federal Reserve
Chairman Ben Bernanke that the housing market slowdown represented a “substantial correction” in the economy.
Employment outlooks were a mixed bag. Economists expect the monthly nation’s unemployment percentage for September, due to be reported Friday, to remain low, probably at 4.7 percent, just slightly above its 4.6 percent record low for the year.
The consensus outlook also calls for a modest employment gain of about 120,000 workers nationally. Bernanke has said it may take a job growth of about 130,000 a month to keep the job market steady.
The Labor Department
said this morning that new claims for unemployment fell last week to their lowest weekly level since July. But, the department also reported that the number of people continuing to collect state unemployment benefits rose to 2.448 million for the week ended Sept. 23, up from 2.433 million the week before.
The outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas
, which charts publicly announced layoffs, said this week that job cuts by U.S. employers in September were 40 percent higher than those announced in the same month a year earlier. The report noted that the fourth quarter typically is the heaviest job-cutting period of the year.
Several employer surveys are finding modest hiring plans for the rest of the year. That, and lower prices at the pumps, apparently are enough to fuel consumer confidence.
To reach Diane Stafford, call (816) 234-4359 or send e-mail to email@example.com. Read her archived columns and Workspace blog at www.kansascity.com.