Welcome to the Small Business Weekly Rundown. Each week, we bring you stories and trends that impact small business owners and their workforce.
Small Business News Highlights:
- Retail sales jumped in January as consumers spent stimulus money
- Latest version of House stimulus bill provides only 5 months of enhanced unemployment benefits
- Congress eyeing tax cuts for small businesses to offset $15 minimum wage increase
- Small business owners continue search for qualified workers to fill vacancies
- Workplace romances blossom as the pandemic limits social interaction
Retail sales jumped in January as consumers spent stimulus money
“Spending growth should remain strong in the near term as coronavirus cases have declined recently, vaccine distribution is picking up, and households still have stimulus funds to spend.”
The United States saw a 5.3% jump in retail spending last month, thanks in large part to Americans willing to spend, instead of save, the money received from the federal government. Economists cited this better-than-expected report as good news after spending declined every month during the 4th quarter of 2020.
Electronics and appliance spending increased by almost 15%, while furniture and home goods stores saw a 12% increase. Online sales also increased by 11% last month and economists expect that the next round of stimulus money will only serve to further strengthen these economic gains.
Latest version of House stimulus bill provides only 5 months of enhanced unemployment benefits
“Only getting to August makes very little sense as both an economic issue and a legislative issue. It’s not a good time to have a cliff.”
President Joe Biden proposed an additional 6 months of federally subsidized unemployment benefits in his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, but the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee has advanced legislation with only 5 months of expanded unemployment payments.
Federal subsidies for unemployment are set to expire in mid March, leaving more than 13 million unemployed Americans at the edge of an unemployment cliff. The House decreased the unemployment benefit by a month in order to fund multi-employer pensions unrelated to COVID-19.
The bill does still include $1,400 direct payments in addition to unemployment benefits.
Congress eyeing tax cuts for small businesses to offset $15 minimum wage increase
“Under current plans, the Senate is likely to take up its own substitute reconciliation bill when it receives the version the House is hoping to pass by the end of next week. The idea is that small-business tax breaks could be added to the Senate version when that chamber takes it up.”
Meanwhile, Congress is considering adding tax breaks for small businesses to sweeten the appeal of President Biden’s proposed $15 per hour minimum wage increase. Currently, at least 2 Democratic senators have voiced concerns about the increase and its impact on deficit spending and guidelines set out from legislation passed during budget reconciliation.
Small business owners continue search for qualified workers to fill vacancies
“I keep hearing about all the unemployed people. I certainly can’t find any of those folks.”
Small businesses, especially those that require in-person work like construction, delivery, and manufacturing, continue to struggle to fill job vacancies as millions of Americans remain on the unemployment rolls.
In fact, the Department of Labor found that job openings are at a 5-month high. Most unemployed workers, however, are seeking remote positions to protect themselves from the ongoing risk of COVID-19 or to be able to manage childcare and school needs.
Workplace romances blossom as the pandemic limits social interaction
“For many parts of the country, work has been the only place where people can still go.”
A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management has found a 27% increase in the number of people involved in workplace romance since last year.
According to the survey, 25% of respondents report that they’ve started a relationship with a colleague since the start of the pandemic. HR experts note that social interactions have largely been curtailed during the pandemic and that the growth in the number of workplace relationships most likely stems from this reality. Even so, transparency is key in the workplace, especially when the potential for conflict of interest exists.
The Latest from Workest
Black History month isn’t the only time to discuss racial injustice, but it’s certainly a good time to start if you haven’t already. Susan Johnston Taylor offers these guidelines for Discussing Racial Injustice in the Workplace to help get the conversation started.
Tax day is just under 2 months away. Do you know what to do if you get a notification that the information on your employee’s W-2 form doesn’t match the information on file with the Social Security Administration? Grace Ferguson tackles the topic of SSA No-Match letters this week.
Finally, before we say goodbye for the week, here are 3 things you should know:
- Nearly 400,000 jobs in large urban areas across the U.S. have been wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, with about 175,000 of these positions shifting to the suburbs or smaller cities.
- Tired of staring at the same 4 walls everyday while waiting for your turn to get a vaccine. Consider waiting out the pandemic while working from a luxury resort. For $70,000 per month, the WiFi better be good …
If you’re looking for an inexpensive, meaningful way to support approximately half of your workers, consider stocking femine hygiene products in workplace restrooms.