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Organic product charges into gardens

BY HBSDEALER Staff

It’s not fertilizer, but it’s close.

Riding the organic wave in home gardening, the makers of Soil Charge potting soil say the product is designed to boost plant growth the natural way. 

The product is not actually fertilizer. Rather, it’s described as a “biochar enrichment.” It is a porous structure that increases the fertility of the soil. Adding Soil Charge to soil, according to its makers, helps retain the fertilizer applied by the homeowner.

“It’s an exciting, innovative way for growers to enhance their soil and provide for a more growing season,” according to a spokesman for the product.

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NRF predicts greater growth for retail in 2014

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Retail Federation released its economic forecast for 2014, with projected retail industry sales growth of 4.1%. Its preliminary count for 2013 stands below that at 3.7%.

Additionally, the NRF also said it expects online sales to grow between 9 and 12% in 2014.

“Measured improvements in economic growth combined with positive expectations for continued consumer spending will put the retail industry in a relatively good place in 2014,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Though headwinds in the form of the looming debt ceiling debates, increased health care costs, and regulatory concerns still pose risks for both consumers and retailers, we are cautiously optimistic and hopeful that the economic tides will change in 2014."

The NRF cited expectations that economic growth is poised to be above its long-term historical average, with estimates of real GDP growth coming in between 2.6% and 3% (up from 1.9% in 2013).

Additionally, an estimated average of 185,000 jobs added to the economy each month and a continued housing recovery is expected to buoy confidence and increase consumer activity.

“As the industry tackles important issues in 2014, such as immigration and tax reform, we will continue to push our nation’s leaders to support policies that promote growth and create jobs for hard-working Americans,” said Shay.

In this instance, "retail industry sales" excludes automobiles, gas stations and restaurants.

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Unemployment falls to 6.6%; job growth misses the mark

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The national unemployment rate fell to 6.6% in January, but the jobs report was not looking so good with only 113,000 new jobs added. Economists were expecting at least 180,000.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was some progress in the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). That number — 3.6 million — declined by 232,000 in January and now accounts for 35.8% of the total unemployed, having dropped by 1.1 million over the year.

Additionally, the number of workers employed part time for economic reasons (or involuntary part-time workers) also dropped by 514,000 to 7.3 million in January.

However, the number of "discouraged workers" and those counted as "marginally attached to the work force" was little changed in January.

Of the job gains that were made in January, the construction industry enjoyed the lion’s share of them with 48,000 new jobs added. Construction had initially lost 22,000 jobs in December. Residential construction and nonresidential specialty trade contractors were tied within that category in taking home the most jobs, each gaining 13,000. Nonresidential building added 8,000, and heavy and civil engineering added 10,000.

Meanwhile, manufacturing was also one of the relative winners in January, gaining 21,000 jobs.

The retail trade lost 13,000 jobs in January, with losses concentrated in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. Building materials and garden supplies dealers lost 1,100 jobs.

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