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Economy in Brief

Following The U.S. Recession, Furniture Sales Improve Modestly
by Tom Moeller   October 22, 2010

What every homeowner needs is something to sit on. But a poor job market can put off the day of purchasing that new item. During 2009 furniture sales, as reported by the U.S. Commerce Dept., fell 11% following declines during the prior two years. The decline was emphasized by a drop in the Furniture Buying Index published by America's Research Group. Their index fell 4% in 2009 following a much greater 2008 collapse.

But after a while frayed fabric, worn out springs and old styles warrant replacement. And recent data indicate that a moderate turnaround has begun. Versus last year, the Furniture Buying Index has improved by nearly one-quarter while retail sales showed a lesser increase. However, in both cases the rebounds recently have lost forward momentum due to a poor job market. Payroll employment is up all of 0.3% y/y and the total unemployment rate, including those involuntarily employed part-time, is 17%. Recent indications of uninspired consumer sentiment suggest that sequential improvement in furniture sales is not likely to begin soon. When it does pick up, it will likely accompany improvement in the job market.

The Furniture Buying Index is compiled each month by America's Research Group from interviews with 5,000-8,000 consumers across the country. In a typical month, 80 percent of the consumers interviewed can name a specific furniture item they intend to buy. The Index's mark signifies what percent of the benchmark 80% actually have a particular item in mind. The data can be found in Haver's SURVEYS database. The retail sales data are in USECON.

Furniture Sales (Y/Y %) September August July 2009 2008 2007
Furniture Buying Index 23 22 23 -4 -23 1
Retail Sales - Furniture -- 2 5 -11 -9 -1
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