Wilkes Prof. Makes Holiday Sales Forecast

It’s only October, but consumers are already browsing for their holiday purchases, and Wilkes University’s Dr. Anthony Liuzzo is already out with his 2012 Holiday Retail Sales Forecast.  “I’m predicting that sales with increase by 3%, and that would be same store sales for November and December,” Liuzzo tells Radio PA.  2011 holiday sales increased by 4.1%. 

Liuzzo says consumers want to spend more this year, but consumer confidence remains low and economic conditions may prevent them from opening their wallets too wide. 

In addition to consumer confidence, a litany of variables goes into Liuzzo’s holiday sales forecast.  For instance, the fact that this is a presidential election year is a good thing for retailers.  “Whether it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney it really won’t have an impact.  There’s still a certain sense of euphoria, there’s a certain sense that things are going to get better.” 

Another positive for retailers is the day on which Christmas falls.  “We’re going to have our Christmas on Tuesday and that gives us five full weeks [of shopping].  Actually, there are 32-shopping days in this Christmas season.  That is the most there can possibly be, because Thanksgiving falls out very early. 

Consumers spend about $1,000 dollars during the holiday retail sales period, on average.  That breaks down to $700 on family; $150 on friends; $50 on co-workers and $100 on everybody else.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 08.24.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul preview Penn State’s attempt to shift focus from off-the-field disasters to the team that will take the field next Saturday for the 2012 season opener against Ohio University. You’ll also get an update on a select committee on property taxes and hear details about the report generated by the governor’s Advisory Committee on Manufacturing.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

California University of Pennsylvania

Lawmaker Blasts State System Tuition Hike

Angry with the State System of Higher Education’s decision to raise tuition rates by 3% this fall, State Rep. Brad Roae (R-Crawford) issued a blunt statement this week, which said it “should be ashamed of itself” for trying to take advantage of students.

Roae tells Radio PA the US Department of Labor recently reported that the Consumer Price Index inflation rate last year was 1.7%.  “But the PASSHE board is calling the 3% tuition increase a below inflation rate increase, which I think is pretty bogus,” Roae explains.  He believes the tuition hike is unnecessary and will only serve to make a college education less affordable.

PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall stands by their assertion that tuition has been held under the rate of inflation for the fifth time in the past eight years.  He says the Consumer Price Index and inflation rate are not interchangeable.  “The CPI is actually a number that can be used to calculate the inflation rate… and based on that 1.7% CPI, the annual inflation rate is actually 3.1%.”

Higher Education Rally

Students rallied against proposed higher education budget cuts this spring. In the end, the new state budget included level funding for state-owned and state-related universities.

The mathematical debate notwithstanding, Rep. Roae believes State System tuition should be frozen.  “My ten piece bill package would do what the PASSHE board should be doing, and that’s looking at ways to keep costs down so that tuition isn’t so high.”  In addition to a tuition freeze, Roae’s bills would cap university presidents’ salaries, make full-time professors teach more hours, end paid sabbatical leave and more.

But Marshall says they’ve been actively engaged in costs controls for more than a decade.  “We’ve reduced our costs by almost $230-million dollars over the past ten years,” he says.  That includes 900-positions being left vacant in the past two years alone.

In-state, undergraduate tuition at all 14-state-owned universities will be $6,428 this fall.


“Guarded Optimism” in New PA Economic Report

Pennsylvania appears to be on the road to economic recovery, but experts caution the road is long and full hazards.  Pennsylvania’s new Independent Fiscal Office is out with its first ever Budget & Economic Outlook, which pegs the state’s “real growth” at 1.6% for 2012. 

There are reasons for optimism in the Pennsylvania economy.  “If you look at the balance sheets of the corporations, the profits are pretty healthy, the balance sheets are strong,” says IFO Director Matt Knittel.  “If you look at the banks, they’re beginning to lend once again.  If you look at consumers, they have brought down their debt balances and I think they’re in a stronger position now than they were a year or two ago.”     

Demographic trends pose real economic concern in the years ahead, as Pennsylvania’s senior citizen population is projected to grow by 25% over the next decade.  The working age population, meanwhile, is expected to contract by nearly 2%.  “Extrapolating these trends out five years we find that if current policies are left in place and current tax laws are left in place, then expenditures greatly exceed revenues five years from now,” Knittel tells Radio PA

The General Assembly created the Independent Fiscal Office in 2010 as a means to provide nonpartisan financial data.  It was funded for the first time in 2011, and required by statute to release its first report this month.  The IFO will release its state revenue estimates in May. 

Governor Tom Corbett’s Budget Office will need to base a proposed spending plan on revenue estimates much earlier than that.  Corbett’s 2nd budget address is scheduled for February 7th.

Report Ranks PA 20th for Child Well-Being

The new “Kids Count” data book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Pennsylvania 20th among states for children’s health and overall well-being.  That may be an improvement over PA’s previous ranking of 23, but it’s not all good news.  “The poverty rate for children in Pennsylvania is now 17%,” says Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  “That was an increase in Pennsylvania, compared to the year 2000, of 13%.”

McCarthy says Pennsylvania is generally following national patterns in which the five health indicators are headed in the right direction, and the five economic indicators are headed in the wrong direction.  Two indicators in particular alarm Joan Benso, President and CEO of PA Partnerships for Children.  “The number of teenagers who are not in school and not working, and the number of children living with at least one unemployed parent jump out at us as indicators that we need to really address and do more to help families overcome,” Benso says. 

Data contained in the “Kids Count” report show that 10% of Pennsylvania children have at least one unemployed parent, and 8% of PA teens are neither attending school nor working.  Both numbers are slightly lower than the national averages of 11 and 9%, respectively. 

Benso says the report demonstrates the need for an aggressive strategy to reengage Pennsylvania’s dropouts, so that they can become productive members of the workforce.  She adds that now is not the time to reduce funding for programs that help kids develop.