Home, Lawn and Garden Centers Show Signs of Growth

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Punxsutawney Phil took some heat this year for falsely predicting the early onset of spring. All the while thousands of Idaho retail workers were prepping so potential customers can get started on projects around the house.

Home Depot has big hopes this year, announcing plans to hire 80,000 seasonal workers nationwide – 10,000 more than last year. Local media outlets reported plans for Home Depot to add 100 workers in eastern Idaho,  225 in the Boise area and 30 to 40 in Twin Falls.

Employment typically averages a little more than 30 per home center in Idaho. But that average is likely skewed by both the larger number of smaller local business and big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot in more urban areas. Employment at a lawn and garden center, however, barely hits 10 during the peak season between the second and third quarters each year.

Certainly the depressed housing market has not helped in recent years. Many products sold through home centers and lawn and garden retailers are linked to new home construction, and Idaho’s construction employment fell nearly 60 percent between 2007 and 2012. At the same time, employment at lawn and garden centers dropped 40 percent, and home center employment was down almost 29 percent.

Statewide there was better than average growth for home and lawn and garden centers in the second and third quarters of 2011 compared with the same two quarters in 2012. Growth in both of these retail sectors will likely beat the average growth in all industries of around 1 percent statewide. Home center employment grew 1.5 percent. Lawn and garden center employment was up 2.1 percent.

The picture has been mixed in Idaho’s six labor market regions. Eastern and southeastern Idaho nearly mirror each other with just over 3 percent decline between 2011 and 2012. Positive growth was achieved in every other region of the state including the more populous southwestern Idaho.

In the second and third quarters of 2012, lawn and garden centers employed 1,000 people in Idaho – less than a third of the employment at home centers.garden_employ_by_region

Lawn and garden center employment suffered greatly between 2007 and 2012. These customarily smaller businesses were dealt a 40 percent loss in employment since the recession started. The only positive growth since 2007 occurred in 2012. Lawn and garden business showed a 2.1 percent gain from its low point the previous year.

At lawn and garden centers, eastern Idaho was hardest hit between 2007 and 2012 with employment declining 48 percent. But in neighboring southeastern Idaho, the decline was 6.9 percent. North central Idaho was the only region to grow at almost 21 percent.

Between 2011 and 2012 regional changes in lawn and garden center employment were sporadic. Northern Idaho showed the only double digit loss at 19 percent, tending to minimize the losses in north central and southwestern Idaho. Lawn and garden center employment grew nearly 30 percent in southeastern Idaho, bringing employment back to near prerecession levels.

The south central region showed the second highest growth rate at over 13 percent.

Lack of disposable income is likely contributing to reduced demand for products and that results in job losses at home and lawn and garden centers. Idaho’s personal income grew 3.3 percent between 2011 and 2012 – below the national average of 3.5 percent. Unfortunately, Idaho’s per capita personal income ranks 49th in the nation ahead of only Mississippi.

The national CoreLogic House Price Index showed a 10.2 percent year-over-year increase in home prices for February 2013 – the biggest increase in nearly seven years. CoreLogic suggested the rebound in prices is being heavily driven by western states. If demand driven home prices continue to increase, home centers and lawn and garden centers will hopefully see the growth in 2013.

 Will.Jenson@labor.idaho.gov, Regional Economist
(208) 557-2500 ext. 3077

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