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Washington Retail Insight

NRF Says Job Numbers Arenít Good Enough, Seeks Action on Pro-Job Initiatives

By J. Craig Shearman
Washington Retail Insight
February 1, 2013

NRF told President Obama and Congress today that job numbers released this morning aren’t good enough and urged policymakers to take action on a series of retail industry priorities that would promote hiring.

“Following this morning’s disappointing jobs report and the news earlier this week that our nation’s fragile economic recovery has come to a virtual halt, it is imperative that the White House and Congress immediately make economic growth and job creation their top priority,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a letter to Obama and congressional leaders. “While there are many other important issues on the agenda, the most pressing need for the millions of out-of-work American families struggling to put dinner on the table is a job.”

The Labor Department said U.S. employers added 157,000 jobs in January but that the unemployment rate had nonetheless risen to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in December. Shay said that showed “many Americans still can’t find work.”

Those numbers follow a Commerce Department report on Wednesday that the economy shrunk at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the final quarter of 2012, its first quarterly drop since 2009.

Shay noted that retailers already support 42 million workers, one out of every four U.S. jobs, and cited Walmart’s announcement at NRF’s annual convention in January that it will offer a job to every dishonorably discharged veteran who asks for one within a year of leaving the military.

Retailers want to help boost job creation “but we cannot do it alone,” Shay said. “We need Washington to embrace policy positions that help with job creation, and to remove barriers that stand in the way.”

NRF is forecasting that retail sales will grow 3.4 percent in 2013. But the forecast could have been higher if not for the payroll tax hike that took effect in January, a Medicare tax hike under health care reform, and the decision during the fiscal cliff debate to raise taxes on the “wealthy” that will harm many small business owners.

Shay asked Obama and Congress to support key initiatives supported by the retail industry that would help create jobs:

• Take advantage of the temporary suspension of the debt ceiling to avoid the drama seen during the fiscal cliff debate and instead craft a fiscal plan for the country that provides both a debt ceiling increase and certainty on comprehensive tax reform in 2013. Economic uncertainty helped hold 2012 holiday season retail sales growth a full percentage point lower than forecast.
• Avoid federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect March 1. In the long term, federal spending must be reduced to balance the budget, but poorly timed government spending cuts played a major role in this week’s poor GDP showing. Shay said Congress should adopt a budget and provide for an orderly process for adopting long-term spending reforms as opposed to the “blunt budget ax” of the so-called sequestration cuts.
• Pass comprehensive tax reform that eliminates tax breaks that benefit only a few industries in return for lower tax rates for all businesses large and small alike. Lower taxes will make U.S. companies more competitive and boost job creation.
• Create an immigration system that is “agile and responsive” and addresses the needs of employers and today’s workforce.
• Remove trade barriers that drive up prices for American consumers while making it difficult to export American goods.
• Delay health care reform mandates that will force employers to cut their payrolls or reduce hours for workers in order to avoid “crippling” increases in costs for employer-provided health care plans.
• Toss out National Labor Relations Board decisions giving unions an unfair advantage in organizing private workplaces, including “ambush” elections and “micro-unions.”

© 2013 National Retail Federation

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