August 31, 2020
Minnesota lands federal money for $300 weekly unemployment boost
From MPRNews, Brian Bakst, August 31, 2020

Minnesota officials anticipate receiving money soon to send out for enhanced unemployment payments to people out of work due to the coronavirus.

Federal approval came Saturday, a swift turnaround after Minnesota applied late last week for a program that will provide $300 more per week in unemployment payments. The extra assistance will be retroactive for the past month and could last well into September.

The federal government had been adding $600 per week to state unemployment payments, but that allowance expired in late July.

Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove tweeted Sunday that the U.S. treasury is expected to forward money for the program to Minnesota soon. Once it’s in hand, the state agency will start processing payments.

Grove declined to offer additional comment on Sunday.

The money will go to people whose jobs were disrupted directly by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed to contain the virus spread.

Eligible recipients won’t have to apply for the additional help. The awards will be included in weekly checks.
Join Us TODAY For A 2020 Election Landscape Briefing By Blois Olson & Tom Freeman
Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Nearly 2,000 more cases over the weekend
From MPR News, August 31, 2020

Minnesota’s COVID-19 case total climbed by nearly 2,000 over the weekend, with state health officials reporting 1,032 more confirmed cases on Saturday and 934 on Sunday — both among the highest single-day totals on record in the state.

The number of new cases reported each day has been trending upward in the past couple weeks after falling earlier in the month. The percentage of tests coming back positive has also been trending up.

That drew the attention of White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who was in Minnesota on Sunday. Birx noted to reporters that there’s a “worrisome trend” here because Minnesota now has nine counties where the rate of positive cases detected in tests now tops 10 percent, up from just a couple not long ago.

The highest single-day case increase on record in Minnesota was last Thursday, when the Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,158 new cases. That day’s report was skewed by the addition of results from a backlog at one Twin Cities testing lab.

But state health officials said Saturday’s 1,032 confirmed cases did not include any of those backlogged results. It was not immediately clear whether any of the backlog was reflected in Sunday’s report.
U.S. consumer spending rises strongly; outlook uncertain as fiscal stimulus fades

U.S. consumer spending increased more than expected in July, boosting expectations for a sharp rebound in economic growth in the third quarter, though momentum is likely to ebb as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers and money from the government runs out.

The report from the Commerce Department on Friday also showed a rise in personal income after two straight monthly declines, but a chunk of the increase was from unemployment benefits, which were bolstered by a weekly $600 supplement from the government that expired on July 31. Both consumer spending and income remain well below their pre-pandemic levels.

“The consumer is back spending at the shops and malls in July, but many of their purchases reflected pent-up demand following the pandemic lockdown,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “The expenditures needed to fuel the economy’s recovery in August are a big question mark given the hit to personal income nationwide with the loss of those $600 weekly unemployment benefit checks.”

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 1.9% last month, after jumping 6.2% in June. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending would gain 1.5% in July. July’s increase left consumer spending about 4.6% percent below its February level.

Consumers boosted purchases of goods like new motor vehicles. They also lifted spending on healthcare, dining out and hotel and motel accommodation. While spending on goods has rebounded above its pre-pandemic level, outlays on services are about 9.7% from recovery as consumers remain wary of exposure to the coronavirus.
Hard to be downtown': Between riots and COVID, allure of downtown Minneapolis tested
From the Star Tribune, Eric Roper and Maya Rao, August 30, 2020

Shuttered offices, canceled events and unease about crime threaten to unwind a decade of development that kept downtown Minneapolis bustling day and night.

Nearly six months into the pandemic, downtown remains largely empty with at least 85% of the area’s workforce still at home. The throngs that once spilled out of restaurants for lunch and happy hours are gone. The theaters, nightlife and sporting events that lured thousands to visit downtown have largely shut down in recent months — some don’t plan to resume normal activities until next spring.

All of that has left fewer eyes on the street and growing worries about safety in the city’s core. Those concerns boiled over last week after rioters broke windows and looted businesses along Nicollet Mall, following false rumors police had killed a Black man downtown — the death was later confirmed a suicide. In interviews, many residents reported feeling unsettled even as statistically, crime is down from last year in the two downtown neighborhoods.

During Steve Cramer’s tenure presiding over the Downtown Council, the number of downtown workers has been steadily increasing — to more than 215,000 people. But he expects that number to diminish in the future, which will have ripple effects on the downtown economy.

“Realistically when we come out of this condition that we’re in … I just think there’s going to be a new lower baseline of economic activity for downtown,” Cramer said. He added that he expects it will remain the state’s economic and commercial hub, however, as workers return and people again converge for major events.
Your Issues, Your Agenda--Legislative Conference Call This Tuesday
MnRA is hosting our annual Retail Legislative Conference Call at 1:00 p.m. on September 1. On this call we take the information gathered through our annual policy survey and combine it with experiences from the past, conversations from the present, and a look at the future as we put MnRA's policy agenda together.

Thank you for adding your voice and perspective to MnRA's annual policy development process. 
Minnesota 2021 minimum wage bump announced: $10.08 large employer, $8.21 small employer
From the MN Department of Labor & Industry, August 28, 2020

Minnesota's minimum-wage rates will be adjusted for inflation on Jan. 1, 2021, to $10.08 an hour for large employers and $8.21 an hour for other state minimum wages.

The current large-employer minimum wage, $10.00, will increase by eight cents to $10.08. Other state minimum wages, including the small-employer, youth and training wages, as well as the summer work travel exchange visitor program wage, which are all currently $8.15, will increase by six cents to $8.21. These increases are both 0.8%.

As of Jan. 1, 2021:
  • Large employers – with annual gross revenues of at least $500,000 – must pay at least $10.08 an hour.
  • Small employers – with annual gross revenues less than $500,000 – must pay at least $8.21 an hour.
  • The training wage rate, $8.21 an hour, may be paid to employees younger than 20 years of age for the first 90 consecutive days of employment.
  • The youth wage rate, $8.21 an hour, may be paid to employees younger than 18 years of age.

These state minimum-wage rates will not apply to work performed in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which have higher minimum-wage rates.

In the balance of the state, for February 2020, an estimated 206,000 jobs, or 8.5% of the total, paid the minimum wage or less. February 2020 was the last month before the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the economy.
Report: key challenges facing retail supply chains
From the Retail Industry Leaders Association, August 28, 2020

Auburn University’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and DC Velocity are pleased to present the 2020 State of the Retail Supply Chain Report. This ninth annual installment of our study covers highly relevant topics that impact success or failure in the hyper-speed omnichannel retail environment.

Previous year’s studies have highlighted the rapid pace of change in retail supply chain, but the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has shown us what a dynamic environment truly looks like. Retail supply chains were thrust into the spotlight, routinely covered on front pages and in the evening news. In this crucible, retailers have had to respond and pivot to a greater and faster degree than ever before—from non-discretionary retailers that experienced supply chain disruptions and unprecedented sales numbers, to discretionary retailers that found themselves compelled to close stores while homebound-consumers fueled dramatic e-commerce spikes.

Highlights:

  • Leading retailers are focusing their supply chain success around three areas: fulfillment automation, human capital, and digitizing their supply chain ecosystems.
  • 29% of supply chain executives survey identified hourly associate staffing as a key supply chain challenge over the next three years
  • 71% plan to invest more on technology upgrade and omni-capabilities compared to last year
  • 100% of supply chain executives believe robotics will change the way their company operates its supply chain
  • 95% feel the same way about machine learning
  • 95% of supply chain executives are thinking about, planning, or already deploying supply chain digitization initiatives.

The pandemic highlighted retailers’ ongoing efforts to build more flexible and responsive supply chains—a need that has become even more acute in 2020. This report provides considerable insight about the essential concepts needed to create dynamic supply chains for any economic conditions.
Save The Date: Retail Rally Returns October 7 With Industry-Leading Speakers & Awards
MnRA's popular TED-talk styled education and award event returns on October 7, only in a virtual format!

Save the date for Retail Rally as we change the way retailers and their key business partners engage with today's consumer! At this event you will hear six 20 minute practical, game-changing, cutting edge retail innovations strategies and ideas. In addition we will honor several organizations as "Minnesota's Retail Champions".

Watch your e-mail for more details on speakers soon!
Online Resource For Retailers Amid COVID-19
A strong retail community is important during all seasons, but especially in times of uncertainty such as the conditions surrounding COVID-19. MnRA has a resource page for retailers on our website relation to COVID-19. 

Visit the page at https://www.mnretail.org/covid-19 for frequent state, local and federal updates as well as links to resources.