Retailers are feeling great again, but how about all those tired workers?
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Early reports from the retail sector show that sales between November 1 and Christmas Eve were up 4.9 percent over last year. Workers should also see a boost thanks to the robust season.
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LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Retail sales have enjoyed their best season since 2011, according to preliminary data released by Mastercard Spending Pulse. Figures show 4.9 percent growth over last year. In addition, online sales jumped dramatically, growing by 18.9 percent over 2016.
Sarah Quinlan, Senior Vice President of Market Insights at Mastercard said in a statement, "The strong US economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase."
In addition to retailers doing well, there is some evidence those sales are benefiting employees as well. Target began handing out raises before the starts of the holiday shopping season and pledged to raise the company's minimum wage above $10 in October. The new wage is expected to hit around $11 per hour, and will continue to be raised to $15 per hour by 2020.
Most retailers pay rank-and-file sales associates between $7.87 and $12.92 per hour, with Dollar General marking the low, and Costco the high.
Improved sales, tax reform, and low interest rates means better pay and conditions for workers. However, the lion's share of the benefits will continue to flow to corporate coffers and shareholders, which is traditional.
There remains talk of recession, but some economists think it could be at least a year off, and may not be imminent at all, thanks to the latest tax reform bill signed by President Trump. However, the Federal Reserve has signaled it may raise interest rates up to four times next year to keep inflation at bay. At some point, the same forces that cause economy to grow, organically cause the economy to contract, but nobody can say when with accuracy because markets and human behavior are so complex.
There is one more caveat amid this year's retail excitement. Workers labored very hard, and their struggles are coming to light in the media, especially those who labor in Amazon warehouses. Reports of harsh working conditions and difficult terms of employment have come to light. Delivery drivers were also pushed hard this season, thanks to the spike in online sales. The public outcry to these circumstances has been significant, but online sales continue to grow unabated. Amazon and delivery firms are likely to turn to automation to keep up with demand and improve working conditions, which will drive investment in the tech sector.
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