Retail sales rebound
With businesses continuing to recover from the pandemic, retail sales were strong in January, according to the February 16 DOC retail sales report, with sales increasing 3.8% from the previous month and 13.0% since January 2021.
Building material sales were up 4.1% for the month of January and 12.2% from January 2021, while auto sales were up 5.9% for the month and 10.7% from a year earlier; department store sales were up 9.2% for the month and 11.5% from a year earlier; and non-store retailers (primarily online) were up 14.5% for the month and 8.4% from a year earlier.
But with the spread of the Omicron variant, restaurants and bars saw a temporary slowdown, with sales at food services and drinking establishments down 0.9% for the month but up 27.0% from a year earlier.
Employment picture improves
According to the Employment Situation Report issued March 4 by the DOL, the economy added 678,000 new jobs in February, while the unemployment rate edged down 0.2% to just 3.8%. However, because of a drop in the pool of available workers, total employment is still down 2.1 million jobs from the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
Employment growth remained strong in several industries, including leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, health care, construction, and transportation and warehousing.
Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls remained virtually unchanged in February at $31.58 per hour, but earnings were up 5.1% from a year earlier.
Energy booms while most sectors suffer
The Energy sector of the S&P 500 moved up 7.13% in February, but all 10 other sectors lost ground during the month. Biggest losers for the month were Communication Services, down 6.98%, Real Estate, down 4.91%, Information Technology, down 4.90%, and Consumer Discretionary, down 3.99%.
The chart below shows the results of the 11 sectors for the past month and year-to-date: