The headline unemployment number has ticked down to 7.5% but the number would be higher if so many people hadn’t left the labor force. “White collar” (who actually wears white collars these days?) unemployment continues to drift between 4 and 5%.
The US economy, while not good, continues to slowly and steadily improve. Employers have been adding around 200,000 jobs a month. That isn’t enough to bring the jobless rate sharply down, but it’s better than the average 140,000 per month that we saw last year.
Housing sales have greatly increased and home prices are up 10% from a year ago. Also auto sales have improved about 7%. The various stock indices are up about 15% since the beginning of the year and consumer confidence is concurrently at a five year high.
Although payroll tax increases and the sequester are depressing consumer spending, upward momentum should begin to grow retail sales after we get through the summer. Economic growth, while still slow, is beginning to build. I liken it to a train just leaving the station.
Toy industry hiring has slowed from the torrid pace set in the first four months of the year, but continues to be steady. I look for this to continue through June and then slow down in July and early August. Come mid-August, toy industry executives will suddenly wake from their beachside slumbers and realize that the 2014 sales season is only six weeks away. The annual sprint to add new sales talent before the Dallas Fall Toy Preview will begin. If the economy has followed through and is continuing to build momentum, then the job areas of the toy industry should follow suit.
That’s my call and, for now, I’m sticking with it. Of course, I’ve always been an optimist. It’s the only way to be.
All the best,