Jobs slowdown could herald the Trump slump

Voice of the People by James J. DevineEconomists at the federal Labor Department reported that hiring slowed in March from a strong pace early in the year amid harsher weather and uncertainty about tax and regulatory policies.

The economy added 98,000 jobs in March, well below what economists had expected and fewer than half the monthly number for January and February.

Retail industry employment decreased by 30,300 jobs in March from February, a substantially weaker-than-expected report coming out as some major store chains announce they are closing locations across the nation.

JC Penney will shutter one of its New Jersey locations as part of a plan to close 138 stores in the United States.

JC Penney has 15 stores in New Jersey but the one at the Rio Grande Plaza in Middle Township, in Cape May County, is slated to close by June.

The closings were announced as JCPenney reported net sales of $12.5 billion for the year 2016, a $514 million increase in net income over 2015 for the retailer that employs more than 100,000 associates globally and operates over 1,000 stores and logistics facilities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The response from the White House was muted compared to the triumph expressed after over 235,000 jobs were produced in February, Trump’s first full month in office.

“When you look at the jobs report as a whole, I think there’s an awful lot of good news in here,” said Gary D. Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who is director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

President Barack Obama took office in the throes of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, as the future of the country’s economy was in doubt and workers were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs monthly.

Eight years later, it’s clear that the Obama presidency has been pretty solid for the US labor market, with a final employment non-farm payroll increase of 11,477,000 jobs.

“Wage growth translates into increased spending by consumers and the economy overall,” National Retail Federation (NRF) Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Retail trade, including food services and drinking places, is responsible for 784,845 jobs in New Jersey.

Retail is the nation’s largest private-industry employer sector, responsible for one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans — and generating $2.6 trillion in annual GDP.

One of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades is killing off malls across the US and taking some Wall Street investments with it.

Struggling with online competition, huge retailers like Sears, JCPenney, and Macy’s are closing hundreds of stores that typically anchor malls — meaning they occupy the largest spaces at mall entrances and drive a majority of shopper traffic.

David Carrig, of USA TODAY, wrote: “Brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to change and adapt fast enough in the highly competitive digital age and retailers are closing under-performing stores, shedding workers and launching new initiatives in an attempt to cut costs and stay relevant.”

When a big store shuts down, it triggers a chain reaction that can end with the shopping mall unable to collect enough rent to cover its debts, forcing it to default.

As many as a third of the malls in the US are at risk of facing this situation.

Macy’s said it has either closed or will shut down 68 stores out of 730 in total, and cut an additional 6,200 positions at a time when shoppers are going online to buy everything from scarves to lipstick.

The three Macy’s outlets set to close in New Jersey are Preakness Shopping Center in Wayne, a location that opened in 1963 and employs 72 associates; Moorestown Mall, opened in 1999 and employs 107 associates; as well as Voorhees Town Center, opened in 1970 and employs 77 associates.

Kmart stores that will be closing are located at 1468 Clementon Road, in Clementon; 645 Highway 18, in East Brunswick; 800 Black Horse Pike, in Pleasantville; and Rte 9 & Rte 47, in Rio Grande.

In December and January, Sears Holdings informed employees at 108 Kmart stores and 42 Sears stores that their locations will be closing.

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