Existing-home sales slip in December
Total existing-home sales declined 1.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.99 million in November, according to the National Association of Realtors. They are 12.8% above the 4.38 million-unit level in December 2011.
The preliminary annual total for existing-home sales in 2012 was 4.65 million, up 9.2% from 4.26 million in 2011. It was the highest volume since 2007 when it reached 5.03 million.
"Record low mortgage interest rates clearly are helping many home buyers, but tight inventory and restrictive mortgage underwriting standards are limiting sales," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The number of potential buyers who stayed on the sidelines accumulated during the recession, but they started entering the market early last year as their financial ability and confidence steadily grew, along with home prices. Likely job creation and household formation will continue to fuel that growth. Both sales and prices will again be higher in 2013."
Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 8.5% to 1.82 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.8 months in November.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.2% to an annual rate of 640,000 in December and are 10.3% above December 2011. Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 5.9% in December to a pace of 1.12 million but are 15.5% higher than a year ago. In the South, existing-home sales declined 3.0% to an annual level of 1.95 million in December but are 14.7% above December 2011. Existing-home sales in the West rose 5.1% to a pace of 1.23 million in December and are 8.8% higher than a year ago.
Lowe’s meets demand with seasonal hires
Lowe’s is gearing up for increased demand this spring, by hiring approximately 45,000 seasonal employees at its stores in the United States. The company will also add 9,000 permanent part-time employees.
Seasonal jobs available are focused on customer support and include cashiers, lawn and garden specialists, loaders, and stockers. The number of hours worked per week will vary based on the needs of individual stores, but, on average, seasonal employees could work an estimated 20 to 25 hours per week.
The permanent part-time positions include store associates focused on direct interaction and expertise for customers. Employees in the permanent positions will be scheduled to work during peak weekday shopping times.
“We are focused on providing customers with outstanding service,” said Scott Purvis, VP human resources, operations. “We are looking for candidates who are experienced in any of the home improvement trades, and, most importantly, those who are committed to providing Lowe’s customers an exceptional service experience.”
Walmart plans expansion in Canada
Walmart on Tuesday updated its plans for its Canadian division, saying that it plans to complete at least 37 supercenter projects in the country during the company’s next fiscal year (Feb. 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014). The announcement comes a couple of months before Target Corp.’s spring launch of its stores in Canada.
Walmart also announced it will expand its distribution network to support its ongoing Canadian store growth and expansion plans. The distribution center projects, new store construction and expansion, remodeling or relocation of existing stores represents an investment of more than $450 million in the Canadian economy. The plans are expected to generate more than 7,000 store, trade and construction jobs.
“Our associates across the country have done an incredible job this past year serving our customers and opening a record number of new stores and supercentres,” said Shelley Broader, president and CEO of Walmart Canada. “This year, we are ramping up our focus on lowering prices and helping customers lower their cost of living, as we continue to bring our supercentre format to more Canadians.”
Full grocery sections will be added to more locations across Canada.
“We’re truly delighted to be adding a full grocery section to more locations across the country, including the opening of our first supercentres in the Maritimes,” said Broader. “We look forward to helping our customers coast-to-coast save money on groceries as well as their general merchandise purchases."
As of Jan. 31, 2013, Walmart Canada will have 379 stores, including 209 supercentres. The new round of expansion is expected to bring the company’s store count to 388 by the end of January 2014.
The retailer will grand open nine supercenters this Friday, Jan. 25. The final two stores included with the 73 store projects planned for the current fiscal year will grand open on Jan. 31.