On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said its December Small Business Optimism Index increased 2.3 points to 100.4, over November’s 98.1. This is the highest for the index since October 2006. The gain was solid, with eight of the ten components up, led by expectations for higher future sales. This suggests workers and employers relationships are improving faster than Nancy Grace and 2 Chainz’s, as it shows continued employment expansion. Its time to ditch that lousy job or that worn our couch.
More revealing than John Travolta’s real hair line, 17 percent of small business owners said they would increase wages, the highest such response since September 2007 and 2 percent higher than November. As of November, 21 percent show they’ve already increased wages. Wages have been an ongoing concern of ours and this new information bodes well for workers. Increased wages fatten pockets like Justin Bieber wishes he could and increases employment competition. This means job hunters may start to negotiate better wages.
Then the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its November Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey or JOLTS. It showed that there were 142,000 more jobs on the last day of November then on the last day of October. This put the job openings rate at 3.4 percent. Both major components, hires and separations, were equally unchanged and reinforces our assessment from the earlier Small Business Optimism Index.
On Wednesday, the Census Bureau released its disappointing December Retail Sales. Retail sales for the last month of the year fell harder then a Price is Right model on a treadmill (Schadenfreude!) by 0.9 percent, after downwardly revised numbers were released for both October and November, up only 0.3 and 0.4 percent respectively. Retail sales ex “auto” and “auto and gas sales” were both down. For all of 2014, retail sales increased 4 percent, after 2013’s 4.1 percent increase.
As confusing as getting high on weed and not hungry, disappointing retail sales aren’t correlated to consumers ditching frivolous shopping. It seems consumers are saving their increased wages, which has been our advice for some time.
Less offensive than Dick Poop to Dick Pope, the Labor Department announced its December Consumer Price Index (CPI), which fell 0.4 percent in large part due to falling gas prices. This is the largest decline since December 2008 and follows November’s 0.3 percent decline. Food prices, however, did increase 0.3 percent. For the bit of shopping of which consumers are engaging, they’re experiencing contained prices overall. This means more buying power. Continue to save and invest this savings.
Finally, the Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s preliminary January Consumer Sentiment Index was released. It suggests an increase of 4.6 points to 98.2, over December’s final 93.6 reading, the highest since January 2004. The current conditions component of the index, which assesses consumers’ personal finances, increased from 104.8 to 108.3 this month, the highest since January 2007. Gains in employment and income together with lower gas prices were the noted reasons for the preliminary consumer sentiment reading. Of course, preliminary reports are like the Golden Globes to the Oscars and can turn into Razzies before final readings.
The economy seems to be trending in the favor of consumers. Of course, this is good news. Consumers, as well, seem to be leveraging these improvements to they benefit. We hope this continues.
Our advice is to continue to manage spending, while saving and investing as much as is reasonable. Now, also, may be a good time to assess your employment situation, like your housing situation, in search of greener pastures or more greenbacks. Increased wages can increase the aforementioned savings and investing.
Finally, his weekend we’re distributing the Debt Free Guys January Newsletter. So you don’t miss a Debt Free Guys’ beat, please subscribe to our newsletter through the box on the right hand side of this page. Our newsletters provides subscribers with exclusive Debt Free Guys’ content and don’t you want to be exclusive?