U.S. economy adds 235,000 jobs in February
The unemployment rate dropped back down to 4.7% in February, and the U.S. economy added 235,000.
Additionally, the change in employment for December was revised down from +157,000 to +155,000, and the change for January was revised up from +227,000 to +238,000 (making employment gains in December and January combined 9,000 more than previously reported).
The bulk of the job gains in February occurred in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care, and mining.
The number of unemployed persons, at 7.5 million, changed little in February, and the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.8 million in February.
The labor force participation rate and employment-population ratio also showed little change at 63.0% and 60.0%, respectively.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was little changed at 5.7 million, and 1.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, also little-changed.
Construction employment saw the most gains at 58,000, especially specialty trade contractors (+36,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+15,000). Construction has added 177,000 jobs over the past 6 months.
Manufacturing also added 28,000 jobs in February, particularly in food manufacturing
(+9,000) and machinery (+7,000). However, employment fell in transportation equipment (-6,000). Over the past 3 months, manufacturing has added 57,000 jobs.
Building material and garden supply stores added 1,000 jobs last month.
Retail trade employment decreased in February (-26,000), following a gain of 40,000 in the prior month. The most job losses occurred in general merchandise stores (-19,000); sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000); and electronics and appliance stores (-8,000).
Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores losses continue in Q4
Lower sales and store closures widened fourth quarter losses for Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores.
The hardware, appliance and tool retailer reported its net sales for the quarter ended January 28, 2017, decreased $49.4 million, or 9.2%, to $488.9 million compared to fourth quarter 2015. The company blamed the loss on the impact of closed stores (net of new store openings) and a 4.1% decrease in comparable store sales.
Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores reported a net loss of $45.8 million, compared to a net loss of $22.6 million for the same period last year.
“The increase in our net loss was primarily attributable to a higher operating loss, including store-closing costs, and an increase in income tax expense,” the company said.
For the full year of 2016, net sales decreased $217.7 million, or 9.5%, to $2.1 billion from the 2015 fiscal year. Comparable store sales were down 4.2% and 4.9% in Hometown and Outlet, respectively. The home appliances and tools categories both outperformed the average comparable store sales while lawn and garden and mattresses underperformed to the average, the company said.
The chain recorded an operating loss of $47.7 million and $42.2 million for the full years 2016 and 2015, respectively, blaming lower volume, a lower gross margin rate, $17.7 million of store closing charges, and higher depreciation and amortization, partially offset by a decrease in selling and administrative expenses and a gain on the sale of assets.
The company also reported a net loss of $131.9 million for the full year 2016, compared to a net loss of $27.3 million for 2015. The increase in our net loss was primarily attributable to a higher operating loss, including store-closing costs, and an increase in income tax expense.
The company is not planning to open any new stores in 2017.
“While we were disappointed with our performance in the fourth quarter, we made measurable progress on key strategic initiatives that we believe will improve profitability and strengthen the company's long-term outlook,” said Will Powell, the chain’s CEO and president.
Among these initiatives was the company’s completion of “major system and customer enhancements” on its websites in the fourth quarter, following the launch of three new transactional websites for the Hometown segment at the end of third quarter 2016.
These improvements included the ability to apply for the Sears credit card online with instant approval and use at check-out. In first quarter 2017, “we began a test of free delivery and free shipping offers,” he said. “Within the first quarter we plan to complete additional enhancements that we believe will foster a seamless online leasing experience for our customers.”