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Washington, DC

State of the Union

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2016 Recap

Obama praises ‘thriving private sector’ but continues talk of mandates

President Obama praised the private sector for its role in job creation during his final State of the Union address but continued to push for policies that have held back efforts by retailers and other businesses to put Americans back to work. After the speech, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay pledged to continue to work with the White House and Congress on job creation but said many of Obama’s policies have made the task difficult.

“On one hand President Obama praises the importance of the business community in creating jobs, and yet on the other we are seeing rules and regulations being pushed by administration agencies that continue to establish roadblocks to job creation,” Shay said. “It’s time for Washington to recognize that we do best when the government isn’t tying the hands of entrepreneurs and job creators behind their backs through federal mandates or promoting special interests over those of real people who just want to work.”

Read the recap and check out this summary of NRF’s live social media commentary:

10:12 p.m. — Empowering the Industry

Retail supports 42 million jobs — nearly one in four American workers. (Source: Retail’s Impact)

As the nation’s largest private sector employer, decisions made every day in Washington have a profound impact on retailers’ ability to do business and serve their customers. But it’s bigger than just retail. These issues are vital to the overall economic competitiveness and growth of the United States, making Congressional attention even more critical. Retailers will be measuring Congressional support for key policies by NRF’s Opportunity Index — keeping tabs on policies that contribute to a vibrant, healthy retail industry and U.S. economy.

9:58 p.m. — Opportunity

85 percent of current retail employees have earned a raise. Retail creates opportunity for millions of Americans every day. (Source: Retail’s Value on a Resume)

9:50 p.m. — Global Trade

International trade supports nearly 6.9 million retail and restaurant jobs. Of that number, more than half come from countries that would be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Source: Trade Matters for Retailers and Families)

9:26 p.m. — Transferable Skills

Hiring managers from many industries view retail store experience positively. A majority of hiring managers describe retail employees and former employees as friendly, personable, customer-oriented and dependable. In fact, 71 percent of hiring managers say retail provides employees foundational skills and experience that are transferable to other industries and recommend that employees include retail experience on their resumes. (Source: Retail’s Value on a Resume)

9:22 p.m. — Employment Growth

Despite regulatory headwinds, the retail industry has added more than 800,000 jobs since President Obama took office. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics change in total retail industry employment from 2009 to 2015.)

NRF’s #SOTU commentary emphasized the importance of supporting workforce investment with powerful statistics about retail careers and the impact of the industry on our nation’s economy. See more from @NRFNews on Twitter and @this_is_retail on Instagram.

More from NRF's SOTU coverage:

State of Job Creation is Key to State of the Union
When President Obama delivers his State of the Union address, it’s a safe bet he will talk once again about the need to create jobs and grow the economy. Retailers agree that jobs and the economy are among the nation’s top priorities. What we disagree on is the approach. Read more.

Survey Shows Most Americans Have Worked in Retail
New NRF research shows that a majority of Americans have worked in retail at some point and that the industry provides many workers with their first job. View survey highlights.

Making Retail’s Voice Heard in a Year of Presidential Politics
From network television ads to telephone forums, NRF has stepped up its political outreach. Read more.


State of the Union 2015

President Obama took on a wide range of issues affecting the retail industry in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, agreeing with retailers on some and disagreeing on others but setting the stage for a number of long-awaited debates in Congress. Read more and learn about the issues.

NRF’s live social media coverage offered a visual play-by-play response to issues on President Obama’s agenda that will impact retail the most. On Twitter, @NRFNews showed what retailers were buying and returning from the President's agenda for the nation.

Behind the scenes: NRF's #SOTU photos
The voice of retail was stronger than ever during the State of the Union, with rapid-response commentary from @NRFnews on Twitter. Here’s a look behind the scenes at how NRF's digital communications team created images for the real-time updates.

The NRF Retail Opportunity Index encourages Congress to:

  • Invest in U.S. jobs by implementing tax policy that makes U.S. companies competitive in the global economy and provides a level playing field among all sectors of the economy and all sectors of retail whether the merchant delivers its product in a store, through the mail or over the Internet.
  • Open markets for consumer goods by tearing down trade barriers that drive up prices for American shoppers and limit export markets for American companies, ending regulations that artificially drive up prices, and making it easier for foreign visitors to come to the United States to shop.
  • Modernize U.S. infrastructure by improving and expanding the current transportation system in order to end bottlenecks and inefficiencies and to make it easier for American companies to grow and be competitive.
  • Support workforce investment by supporting jobs and economic growth rather than union organizers and expensive new regulations and mandates. 
  • Foster innovation in customer experience by working with retailers to improve credit and debit card security through agreed-upon standards rather than bank-issued mandates, and to protect privacy while still being able to give shoppers a customized and personalized experience online and in store.
  • Promote technology development by passing reform legislation that would block frivolous lawsuits threatened by “patent trolls” over dubious infringement claims.
Opportunity Index

The NRF Retail Opportunity Index measures the support of policies that contribute to a vibrant, healthy retail industry and U.S. economy.

Retail's Impact
U.S. map

Find out how the retail industry impacts jobs, income and GDP in your state. View the map and check out the data.

Rethinking Overtime
Rethinking Overtime study commissioned by NRF

An Oxford Economics study commissioned by NRF shows how overtime expansion would impact nearly 1.7 million retail and restaurant workers.