Retail data shows strong nationwide job growth in February
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
One of the most frequent questions that I get when out in the community or talking to folks from around the state is, “How is retail doing?”
From a nationwide job perspective, February was a very strong month showing gains of 46,600 jobs in February over January. According to National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, “the substantial gain in retail jobs is a significant positive sign regarding the health and viability of the industry.”
This growth is stronger than expected and points to an increase of 17,700 jobs in general merchandise stores and 14,900 new jobs in clothing and accessories stores. Building materials stores were also up by 10,300.
As the labor market continues to grow and jobs are added across all industries, consumers with higher disposable incomes do more shopping in retail stores. So, the retail cycle continues.
With tax reform in effect and consumer confidence increasing, 2018 is off to a good start and we can expect a prosperous year ahead.
Source: National Retail Federation
Retail shows strongly in latest monthly report of state revenue gains
Retail tax payments to the state were up 12.5 percent for the monthly period ending March 10, according to new revenue report. The prior month, tax payments from retailers were up 5.5 percent.
Retail trade sectors that showed especially strong growth were:
- Electronics and appliances, up 20.7 percent
- Food and beverage stores, up 18.5 percent
- Apparel and accessories, up 17.6 percent
- General merchandise, up 15.9 percent
- Furniture and home furnishings, up 15.4 percent
No retail sectors showed a year-over-year decline in tax payments for the one-month review period.
Click here to read the entire state monthly revenue report.
Source: Economic Revenue Forecast Council
Governor signs bill to help auto repair shops
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP Government Affairs
Governor Jay Inslee has signed House Bill 1742 into law that will be of help to auto repair shops.
The measure prime sponsored by Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, authorizes automotive repair facilities to obtain a vehicle transporter license and transporter license plates for the purpose of evaluating vehicles for repair on the public roads of the state.
The idea for the bill came from an auto repair shop in Puyallup, part of Representative Stambaugh’s district. This no-nonsense bill will allow WRA member companies and others to voluntarily obtain licenses and plates if they feel it would help their businesses. Entities eligible to apply for the license include businesses that repair personal vehicles as well as those that service or repair commercial vehicles.
An auto repair facility must follow the same application requirements as other entities seeking a transporter license and may apply for transporter license plates, which must be displayed conspicuously on vehicles being driven for the purpose of repair evaluation. The use of transporter plates is subject to the same conditions, limitations, and penalties as for other vehicle transporters. House Bill 1742 passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
The measure takes effect 90 days after session on June 6, 2018. WRA appreciates Rep. Stambaugh sponsoring this helpful bill.
Legislature passes revised state budget
The Legislature passed a revised state budget last week that includes no new taxes but borrows from state savings to offer a one-time property tax cut.
Budget-related gains for retailers included defeating a proposed capital gains tax while preserving a Washington State sales tax exemption for certain qualified out-of-state shoppers who buy in Washington State. The Legislature also passed on action Gov. Inslee requested to tax carbon emissions.
Despite warnings against it by State Treasurer Duane Davidson, the Legislature borrowed from a savings account to help increase spending on a $43.7 billion budget by about $750 million while providing the property tax cut. There are several media reports on the Legislature’s action including the Associated Press and the online news source, The Lens.
Budget reports also came from Republican and Democrat caucuses in the Senate and House of Representatives. Links include from the Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, House Democrats, and House Republicans.
Legislature adjourns on time
Passes nearly 300 bills during 2018 session
The state Legislature adjourned on time on March 8 after taking action on about 300 bills. The Governor has until March 31 to sign, veto or partially veto the bills sent to him. If he takes no action, the bills become law.
Under one-party Democrat control, the Legislature approved some bills retailers wanted and took no final action on others. Importantly, lawmakers approved a supplemental state budget that avoided new taxes.
WRA tracked scores of bills with impacts on retailers. A summary of key pieces of legislation and outcomes follows. WRA will follow in late April for members with a much fuller overall report on retail-related bills and when they take effect.
- Passed a gender pay equity bill, HB 1506. WRA supports pay equity but the Legislature did not grant a request to prohibit municipalities from passing conflicting versions of the state law. This burdens and confuses retailers with multiple store locations and treats employees differently depending upon where they work.
- Took no final action on a proposed capital gains tax, HB 2967. WRA opposed the proposal that would have punished sellers of personal assets, many of whom use the funds to meet retirement expenses.
- Took no final action on changing appliance energy standards, HB 2327. Sellers and makers of high technology products opposed making voluntary Energy Star standards a state requirement. This would have discouraged innovation in a program that already has shown significant energy saving gains.
- Passed SB 5251 to restore state tourism promotion funding for the first time since 2011. WRA supported the bill because promoting tourism results in the potential for sales growth. The state cut all tourism promotion funding in the last recession. See a video about it here.
- Took no final action on SB 5633, a bill to add “concealment” of merchandise to organized retail crime statutes. It would allow store security to question visitors known to be hiding merchandise before leaving the store. WRA plans to reintroduce a bill next year.
- Took no final action on SB 5397, to require registration of paid petition signature gatherers who typically work at retail entrances. WRA supported the bill so that companies that hire paid signature gatherers could be held accountable if there were unpleasant encounters between petitioners and shoppers.
- Took no final action on raising the legal smoking age to 21. WRA opposed HB 1054 and SB 5025 because they would reduce sales for members and drive business to tribal, online and out-of-state sources.
Passed a drug take-back bill, HB 1047. It requires manufacturers to conduct secure collection of unused or unwanted medications. WRA supported the bill to keep pharmaceuticals out of the hands of children and water supplies.
Seattle retail mixer set for April 19
Seattle retailers are invited to a mixer beginning at 6 p.m. on April 19 at The Dane, 8000 15th Avenue N.W. in Ballard.
Those who attend will learn about the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, a grassroots lobbying group being organized under the direction of John Engber, a contract lobbyist for the Washington Retail Association. RICS’ mission is to inform Seattle retailers about planned regulations by the Seattle City Council that could affect them and to employ Engber to represent retailers at council meetings.
Those who attend also will be able to meet President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association, Renée Sunde, Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick and Senior VP of Government Affairs, Mark Johnson. WRA is providing complimentary food and drinks.
RSVP/Register by Monday, April 16 here
Home Depot has announced a $50 million commitment to train 20,000 new tradespeople in the next decade.
The company wants to address a growing shortage of skilled plumbers, electricians, carpenters and the like. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 158,000 unfilled construction sector jobs in the U.S. and the labor shortage is expected to grow with retirements looming in the next decade.
Last year, The Home Depot Foundation launched a pilot trades training program for separating military members in partnership with the nonprofit Home Builders Institute at two Army posts. The program has a job placement rate of more than 90 percent.
In addition to serving separating military members, the Foundation is establishing an advanced level trades training program in partnership with the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia for at-risk youth and residents of Atlanta’s Westside.
Learn how to help injured employees return to work
By Terry Hopsecger, Director of Business Development
Some workers are not able to go back to their old jobs because of permanent medical restrictions caused by a workplace injury or illness. They’ve healed but are limited from doing certain tasks.
When you create a medically-approved job for a preferred worker, you will retain or add a valuable worker. Labor & Industries certifies these workers through the Preferred Worker Program and provides financial incentives and premium relief to eligible employers who create medically-appropriate long-term jobs for preferred workers.
If you modify a job permanently or hire a preferred worker, you pay a reduced premium for their workers’ compensation rates and you are protected from any new injuries they may have for up to 3 years. Plus, a bonus of 10 percent of the worker ‘s wages or $10,000 (whichever less) is paid to eligible employers after 12 months of continuous employment.
If you modify a job temporarily for an injured employee and create a medically appropriate job you could get up to $2,500 for tools and equipment, up to $400 for worker clothing, 50 percent of the base wages you pay the preferred worker for up to 66 days or up to $10,000 within a consecutive 24-month period. This program is called Stay at Work.
Washington Retail Association administers these programs for all members enrolled in the Group Retrospective Rating Program at no additional charge. This is just another great addition to our suite of services. For more information contact me at email@example.com
Wilcox named as new House Republican leader
Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, has been named as the new House Minority Leader following a leadership change announced last week.
Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, announced he would be stepping down from his leadership position and not run for another term in the Legislature. He led the House Republican caucus since 2013.
Wilcox has served as the House Republican Floor leader since 2012. He is the Chief Operating and Financial Officer for a family egg and dairy business in Roy.
Party leadership elected Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, to replace Wilcox as Floor Leader
Safety tip of the week
Practice back safety when lifting
There are many activities that can either help or hurt your back on the job. Poor physical fitness, lack of flexibility, stress, poor posture, lack of rest, and participating in certain recreational activities all can have adverse effects on your back. Any of these activities combined with poor lifting practices are bound to cause a back injury. Staying physically fit and following safe lifting tips will help avoid back injuries.
When you go to lift something, size up the job first by determining where the item needs to go. Is there a tool on hand that can make this lift easier? Can you break it down into a more manageable load, or should you get extra help?
Remember to start your lift by standing close to the object. Your feet should be spread at shoulder width. Bend at the knees, keep your back straight and do not bend at the waist. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift with the muscles in your arms and legs, not your back. If you must turn, do so by moving your feet, do not reach and twist when holding an object. When setting an object down, apply all of the same techniques.
WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198 x18, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRA diversity statement
It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people; creates a diverse workforce; fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued; partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities; and communicates these values with others.
In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level. The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.