Dec 11, 2014 10:00 am

Retailers still rely on holiday sales, but not quite as much as they used to

seasonal sales patterns of selected retail sectors

Americans like to complain about holiday-season shopping: In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, people’s three least-favorite things about the holidays were commercialism, holiday-related expenses and crowds in the malls and stores. But they sure do a lot of it anyway. The same survey found that 86% of adults planned to buy gifts for friends and family, and according to the Census Bureau’s Monthly Retail Trade Report, retail sales last December totaled $437.1 billion.

Holiday sales reliably spike in December for a number of retail categories, according to the census data — notably department stores and other general-merchandise stores; clothing and accessories stores; electronics and appliance stores; and e-commerce sites, catalog companies and other “non-store retailers.” While other types of retailers (such as home-improvement stores and car dealers) exhibit different seasonal sales patterns, overall U.S. retail sales are tilted toward the holiday season: November-December 2013 sales made up 18.14% of sales for all of 2013, according to the census data.

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Topics: National Economy

Dec 11, 2014 7:00 am

Texas tops list of states where this year’s unaccompanied child migrants ended up

Where unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border now live.One-in-three (36%) of the nearly 54,000 unaccompanied children released to sponsors over the past year after their apprehension by immigration authorities have been placed in homes in three states – Texas, New York and California, according to Office of Refugee Resettlement data.

A House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and border security held a hearing this week on the impact of unaccompanied children on communities. Children are placed with sponsors, often relatives, while they wait for their next court appearance in immigration court. These cases can be delayed if asylum is sought.

Last summer’s surge in the number of children without their parents apprehended at the Southwest border overwhelmed federal resources. Many of the children were making the dangerous journey from Mexico and Central America to the U.S., with sharp increases in apprehensions among children under 12. Since last summer, apprehensions of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased dramatically, from 10,508 in June alone to 2,529 in October, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

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Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

Dec 10, 2014 10:48 am

The New Republic and the state of niche news magazines

Late last week, after the firing of two top editors at the century-old New Republic magazine, more than a dozen staff members departed in protest over the editorial direction and digital strategy. In a note to readers yesterday, Guy Vidra, the magazine’s newly installed CEO, wrote: “We will build a platform that lets us create unique and compelling experiences on our web site and on mobile platforms, as well as the means to reach audiences outside our walls.”

New Republic, CirculationThe data suggest they have a tough road ahead. While single copy sales of the New Republic (considered the most objective measure of a magazine’s print appeal) more than doubled from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the first half of 2013, following Facebook founder Chris Hughes’ purchase of the magazine, they have steadily declined since. Between the first and second halves of 2013, newsstand sales fell by 57%, and fell a further 20% in the first half of 2014, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

The New Republic’s troubles are reflected in the data for its fellow niche news magazines, which all target an elite audience consisting of older, educated and wealthier readers. Looking at three comparable magazines (The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The Economist), the digital side of the business has been making some gains, but single copy sales for this group were down or flat since 2008, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. For the first half of 2014, The Atlantic saw its sales rise 20% from a year before. The New Yorker, however, fell 5% during the same period, while The Economist fell 16%. Read More

Topics: Digital Media, Magazines, Media Economics, Media Performance, News Media Trends, State of the News Media

Dec 9, 2014 12:30 pm

Americans’ views on use of torture in fighting terrorism have been mixed

The so-called enhanced interrogation techniques put into practice by the Central Intelligence Agency after the September 2001 terrorist attacks and continued in subsequent years during the Bush administration are the focus of a report being released by the Senate Intelligence Committee — and a subject on which Americans have had mixed views.

FT_14.12.9_torture2The use of practices like waterboarding began to surface publicly in press reports not long after 9/11, and when the Pew Research Center first surveyed on the subject in July 2004, a narrow majority (53%) said the use of torture to gain important information from suspected terrorists could be only rarely or never justified.

Opinion has shifted since then, with more Americans finding torture acceptable. In August 2011, a narrow majority (53%) of Americans said the use of torture could be often or sometimes justified, while 42% said it could only rarely be justified or not be justified at all. Read More

Topics: Terrorism, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, Wars and International Conflicts

Dec 9, 2014 11:14 am

How the 1986 immigration law compares with Obama’s program


As the federal government gears up to offer deportation relief to about 4 million unauthorized immigrants, it’s worth looking back to 1986, when a new law established what was then the biggest legalization and citizenship process in U.S. history. One similarity between then and now: No one knows how many people will apply.

However, it’s problematic to use the application rate under the 1986 law as a guide to predict uptake today for President Obama’s various deferred action programs. Although experts now believe that about three-fourths of those eligible for general legalization did apply under the 1986 law, there were no reliable statistics at the time about the size of the unauthorized immigrant population or how many were eligible. Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, Immigration, Immigration Trends, Unauthorized Immigration

Dec 8, 2014 2:36 pm

On religion, Mexicans are more Catholic and often more traditional than Mexican Americans

Even though Mexican Americans and Mexicans share common cultural roots, Mexican Americans are not as heavily Catholic as Mexicans. In addition, Mexican-American Catholics hold less traditional views on some core Catholic teachings than do Catholics living in Mexico.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about two-thirds of U.S. Hispanics – more than 20 million adults – are of Mexican descent. Many of these Mexican Americans were born in Mexico, carrying their language, culture and religion across the border. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Latin America, Mexico, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Dec 8, 2014 7:00 am

Many U.S. congregations are still racially segregated, but things are changing

Nearly a half century after Martin Luther King Jr. called 11 a.m. on Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America, two Florida churches with different racial compositions – one with a predominantly black congregation, the other predominantly white – are set to merge.

Many U.S. congregations are still racially segregated, but things are changing The move occurs amid a larger, but slow-moving, national trend. While the degree of racial segregation within religious congregations remains high, some houses of worship in the U.S. have become more diverse in recent years, according to findings from the most recent (2012) National Congregations Study (NCS), directed by Duke University researcher Mark Chaves. (The most recent study received financial support from the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.)

Indeed, while about eight-in-ten American congregants still attend services at a place where a single racial or ethnic group comprises at least 80% of the congregation, one-in-five now worship in congregations where no single racial or ethnic group predominates in such a way. This figure has risen in recent years, from 15% in the 1998 NCS and 17% in the 2006-07 NCS.

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Topics: Race and Ethnicity, Religion and Society

Dec 5, 2014 1:00 pm

If original DACA program is a guide, many eligible immigrants will apply for deportation relief

About 4 million unauthorized immigrants are eligible for temporary deportation relief under President Obama’s new executive action, but how many will take advantage of the offer?

DACA unauthorized immigrants eligible to stay in USA previous program may offer some insights. One way immigrants may qualify for relief is under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which started in 2012 and is now expanding. In that program, applications surged after the program’s launch and trailed off over time. Today, nearly two-thirds (64%) of the estimated 1.1 million unauthorized immigrants who are eligible have had their applications accepted for review.

DACA offers deportation relief and work authorization to those who came to the U.S. as children. So far, about 702,000 unauthorized immigrants have had their applications accepted for review since the program began in August 2012, according to recently released U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data showing program applications, approvals and renewals through Sept. 30, 2014. Of the applicants, 87% have been approved for the renewable two-year permits. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

Dec 5, 2014 12:01 pm

For retailers, the holidays mean a hiring binge — and then a purge

(AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Nick Tomecek)
(AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Nick Tomecek)

The holiday hiring spree has begun. According to today’s jobs report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s retailers added 434,500 people to their payrolls in November. If history is any guide, retail payrolls will rise again this month before dropping sharply after the New Year.

Seasonal_retail1Retail is one of the more seasonably variable industries when it comes to payroll jobs (though not the only one — construction, leisure and hospitality, and education, among others, also exhibit strong seasonal employment patterns). Retail payrolls surge in November and December as stores hire for holiday shopping — typically jumping 3% to 4% between October and December. Last year, for example, retailers added 626,200 jobs in November and December, representing a 4.1% gain. (These are the sorts of predictable moves that are smoothed out in the seasonally adjusted jobs numbers, which generally are the ones that get the most attention.)

Much of that increase, however, is concentrated in a handful of retail sectors. Last year, for  example, nearly a third of the retail employment surge (202,400 jobs) occurred at clothing and accessories stores, and more than a quarter (177,400 jobs) at department stores. The pattern appeared to continue last month: Clothiers and department stores accounted for more than half of November’s retail job gains, adding 121,600 and 114,700 jobs respectively.

Other good places to seek holiday employment were general merchandise stores (78,600 jobs added between October and December 2013, about 13% of the total increase) and sporting goods, hobby, book and music retailers (65,800 jobs, or 11% of last season’s total increase). Those patterns haven’t changed much over the past decade, though department stores account for less of the seasonal surge than they used to (as well as a smaller share of retail employment generally) and clothing/accessories stores account for more.

Most retail sectors participate in the pre-holiday hiring surge, though some more so than others. Grocery stores and drugstores, for example, have little or no wintertime seasonality; building-material and garden-supply stores hit their peak payrolls in summer, coinciding with construction season.


While the pre-holiday hiring surge is impressive, the post-holiday drop is even more dramatic. Retail payrolls typically fall 5% to 6% between December and February, as retailers with disappointing holiday sales lay off staff and close unprofitable stores. (This past year, retailers shed a combined 880,000 jobs in the two months after Christmas.) For some struggling retailers, a bad holiday season can be the final push over the ledge: Circuit City announced in January 2009 it was closing down; Borders filed for bankruptcy in February 2011.

Topics: National Economy, Work and Employment

Dec 4, 2014 1:00 pm

Global worries about corruption are on the rise

Recent news reports from Tanzania, Mexico and China have highlighted corruption as a major issue for people in emerging and developing countries. Our spring 2014 survey confirms that people in these countries think corrupt political leadership is a very big problem and that it is also a growing one. Yet, not many people in these nations say giving bribes is essential for getting ahead in life.

Across 34 emerging and developing economies, a median of 76% say corrupt political leaders are a very big problem in their country. This ranks among the top concerns in these countries, just behind rising prices (84% very big problem), crime (83%) and lack of jobs (79%). Regionally, people in Africa are the most worried about corruption, followed by Latin Americans.

Global worries about corruption are on the rise

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Topics: World Economies