- Although the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged overall for February, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show a spike in hiring in the retail sector. The field hired four times its rate from January, adding more than 50,000 new workers to the payroll — a shift that may be thanks to a home improvement boom, The Washington Post reports.
- Home renovation/building material retailers and garden centers alone hired 10,000 new workers, the Post says. While natural disasters throughout the country may have contributed somewhat to those numbers, that's likely not the whole story.
- Economists say Americans are increasingly undertaking home renovations, rather than buying new houses. In some areas, low housing supply coupled with high real estate costs are driving the trend, according to the Post. In other areas, changes to mortgage tax credits and increasing interest rates are keeping Americans in their existing homes.
The home improvement trend has put pressure on retailers in the space to maintain a reliable retail staff and a solid bank of contractors. In addition to staffing up, the two major players in the industry, Home Depot and Lowe’s, are investing millions in training staff for work in skilled trades, hoping to keep them working for their stores and contracting businesses.
Trade schools are reporting that businesses are increasingly in need of skilled construction workers, and they've responded by, among other things, accelerating their programs.
Overall, the economy has remained strong, adding more than 300,000 jobs in February, the highest monthly number since July 2016. The construction industry accounted for the biggest gains, adding 61,000 jobs, followed by retail (50,000), professional and business services (50,000) and manufacturing (31,000).