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Fed: Economy Expanded; Demand for Staffing Mixed in December

Economic activity continued to expand in mid-November through late December, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s latest report on regional economies (known as the “beige book”). Payrolls in a variety of sectors expanded moderately. Hiring for both temporary and permanent positions, as well as demand for staffing services, was mixed. Significant wage pressures continued to be limited largely to workers with particular technical skills.

Envision Healthcare Holdings Inc. Acquires Two Health Care Staffing Providers

Business Wire (01/13/15)

Envision Healthcare Holdings Inc.’s EmCare Inc. business has entered into agreements to acquire Emergency Medical Associates of Parsippany, NJ, and Scottsdale Emergency Associates Ltd. of Phoenix. The acquisitions of the two companies, both of which provide health care staffing, are expected to close before the end of February pending completion of certain closing conditions.

Obama to Call for Paid Leave for Sick Workers, New Parents

Wall Street Journal (01/14/15) Byron Tau

At an event in Baltimore today, President Obama is expected to reiterate his call to Congress for family-friendly workplace policies, including mandatory paid sick leave, and encourage cities and states to take action if federal lawmakers do not. The president will push for Congress to vote on the Healthy Families Act, which would require many employers to give employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year, and sign a binding presidential memorandum stating that all federal workers can take six weeks of leave after the birth of a child.

However, observers do not expect the Republican-controlled Congress to take up these proposals in the near future. Still, the White House will propose over $2 billion in spending in the 2016 budget to prompt states to establish paid family and medical-leave programs.

Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly Climb to Four-Month High

Bloomberg (01/15/15) Shobhana Chandra

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits in the week ended Jan. 10 rose by 19,000 to 316,000, the most since early September, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast claims of 290,000. The four-week moving average of new claims rose by 6,750 to 298,000.

U.S. Producer Prices Fall by the Most in Three Years

Wall Street Journal (01/15/15)

Producer prices fell 0.3% in December from a month earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Excluding energy and food, prices were up 0.3%. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast an overall price decline of 0.4% and prices excluding energy and food to increase 0.1%.

U.S. Retail Sales Reflect Consumer Caution Despite Lower Gas Prices

Wall Street Journal (01/14/15) Eric Morath; Suzanne Kapner

U.S. retail sales fell 0.9% in December from a month earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, highlighting the limits of relying on inexpensive gasoline to propel spending and the broader economy. However, the decline—the biggest since January 2014—likely overstates the severity of the situation. Seasonal adjustments may account for the numbers, which are volatile and subject to revision. Steady job growth and fairly robust consumer confidence propelled consumer spending upward through most of last year, and most economists expect those factors will continue to support household spending this year.

Empire State Manufacturing Survey Shows Expansion

Federal Reserve Bank of New York (01/15/15)

Business activity in January continued to expand for New York manufacturers, according to the Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index climbed 11 points from December to 10.0 in January. This month’s survey also showed modest growth in new orders and shipments. Labor market conditions were mixed, with the index for expected number of employees rising 11 points to 31.6—its highest level in nearly three years—and the average workweek index remaining negative at -8.4. As has been the case for much of the past year, indexes for the six-month outlook pointed to widespread optimism about future conditions.

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