Housing starts in July slip 1.5%
Compared with June’s housing start report, there is less to cheer about in the Tuesday morning release from the Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts slipped to 604,000 in July. But that’s still up 9.8% from the July 2010 rate of 550,000. Another possible positive indicator: June and July marked the first two-month stretch of a pace higher than 600,000 since March and April of 2010.
Single-family housing starts in July were at a rate of 425,000, a 4.9% decline from June. Single-family homes are also down compared with a year ago, when July 2010 starts were at a pace of 429,000.
On a regional basis, the Northeast showed the strongest month-to-month performance — up 34.7% in total starts, and up 7.5% in single-family homes. The bleakest stats emerged from the Midwest region, which was down 37.7% compared with June in total starts, and down 22.6% in single-family starts.
Home Depot shows sales and earnings growth
Sales increased 4.2% at The Home Depot, the company reported Tuesday morning.
The Atlanta-based company posted $20.2 billion in sales for the period. The company’s net earnings for the quarter were $1.4 billion, compared with net earnings of $1.2 billion in the same period of fiscal 2010.
Encouraged by the growth, the world’s largest home improvement retailer raised its fiscal 2011 diluted earnings-per-share guidance to an expectation of $2.34 for the year, up 16%.
“Our second-quarter results were driven by a rebound in our seasonal business, storm-related repairs and strength in our core categories,” said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO. “We continue to deliver a strong operating performance, while also investing in customer service and our merchandising initiatives. I would like to thank our associates for their hard work and dedication. It is their efforts that enabled us to deliver these results.”
In the United States, comp-store sales were positive 3.5%, while total comps increased 4.3%.
At the end of the quarter, Home Depot operated a total of 2,245 stores — mostly in the United States, but also in Canada, Mexico and a few in China.
Menards ordered to pay former attorney $600,000
A judge in Eau Claire County Court has awarded Dawn Sands, the former general counsel for Menards’ home improvement chain, $600,000 in lost wages and benefits, according to an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The wrongful termination case, which started in 2006 and ultimately reached the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, revolved around charges of gender discrimination. Sands, who started working in Menards’ legal department in 1999, claimed that she made less money than her male counterparts. It was her requests for a raise that got her fired in 2006, she said.
Sands and company founder John Menard entered binding arbitration, and one year later, the arbitration panel awarded her $1.77 million, including $900,000 in punitive damages, and ordered Menard to reinstate her at an initial salary of $166,250.
Menard wrote Sands a check for the entire arbitration award amount but refused to rehire her and appealed the arbitration panel’s decision to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Although neither Sands nor Menard wanted her back working in the company’s Eau Claire, Wis., offices, the appellate judges decided not to award “front pay” (roughly two years salary) in lieu of reinstatement. Otherwise, the appeals court upheld the arbitration panel’s findings.
Menard petitioned the state Supreme Court for review. The high court said the arbitration panel exceeded its authority and applied the wrong remedy to Sands’ situation and ordered the case be returned to the initial county judge to determine how much Menard should pay Sands for the future salary she would have received had she not been fired.