Unemployment rate falls to 9.0%
The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 9.0 percent in January, while nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+36,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment rose in manufacturing and in retail trade but was down in construction and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in most other major industries changed little over the month, according to Friday’s report.
Fortune Brands sales up 7% for year
Pointing to strength across all of its major businesses, Fortune Brands posted fourth-quarter sales of $1.90 billion, up 5% from the prior-year quarter, with the home and security division up 2%. Net income was $85.4 million, compared with $11.5 million in the prior year.
"Our determination to go on offense during the economic downturn and boost strategic investment across our businesses made a big impact in 2010," said CEO Bruce Carbonari.
For the full year ended Dec. 31, sales for the Deerfield, Ill.-based company were $7.14 billion, up 7% from last year.
Net income from continuing operations was $487.6 million, up from $242.8 million in the prior year.
In a statement released Friday morning, Carbonari provided the following color for the Home & Security business: “Home & Security sales and operating income grew in the quarter against its strong prior-year results, partly benefiting from pull-forward in demand for Simonton windows in advance of the year-end expiration of a consumer tax credit for energy-efficient home products."
The division saw 6% comparable-sales growth in a relatively flat market, he said. Moen and Master Lock showed strong growth in international markets.
Fortune Brands brands in Home & Security include: Moen, ThermaTru, Simonton Windows, Master Lock, Waterloo, MasterBrand Cabinets, Aristokraft Cabinetry, Diamond, Omega Cabinetry, Homecrest, Schrock Cabinetry, KitchenCraft, Decora, Fypon and American Lock.
Readers Respond: Forecasts, optimism and reality
We asked readers for their thoughts on optimistic forecasts for residential construction in 2011. Here’s a roundup of responses.
“Our forecast is for approximately a 2% DROP in housing starts nationally. We believe, however, that Texas may hold up a little better — not much, but a little. We are overall predicting a 5% sales gain, but some of that is inflation. I am deep-down an optimistic person, but the reality of the late 1980s, early 1990s speaks loudly to me — and in those days we had far fewer foreclosures than today.”
— Byron Potter
Vice-chairman and CEO
Dallas Wholesale Builders Supply Inc.
“With unemployment high, foreclosures high, unsold home inventory high, what factors are changing that would encourage more home construction?”
— Paul Gabbard
“Way too optimistic. I think we will be lucky to meet last year’s housing starts in Colorado Springs area.”