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U.S. May retail sales rose more than expected

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Thursday by the Commerce Dept. said that retail sales in the U.S. gained 0.6% in May, more than forecast and likely boosted by increased hiring during the month.

The increase was the largest in three months and followed a 0.1% advance in April. Bloomberg economists called for a 0.4% increase. The figures used to calculate economic growth, which exclude categories such as automobiles, climbed 0.3%.

“The consumer seems to be faring very well,” Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist in New York at Societe Generale, told Bloomberg. “The labor market is getting better. People realize that the employment situation has improved so they feel better and are probably willing to go out and spend money.”

Purchases are projected to climb at an average 2.4% annualized rate in the second half of the year, according to Bloomberg.

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Safeway in $5 billion dollar deal to sell Canadian stores

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Toronto — Canada’s second-biggest supermarket operator has acquired Safeway’s Canadian portfolio of stores in a $5.7 billion deal that pulls the Pleasanton, Calif., chain completely out of the country.

Sobeys, a unit of Empire Co. Lt., has acquired 213 grocery stores, 62 fuel stations, 10 liquor stores, 12 manufacturing facilities and four DCs, leaving Safeway with 1,400 stores in the U.S. after the deal.

Sobeys’ addition of Safeway’s Canadian assets will nearly double the grocer’s coverage in Canada’s western provinces and cement its No. 2 position behind Loblaw Cos.

The all-cash transaction is slated to close late this year, and will be financed through equity and debt offerings, along with a lease-back deal on some real estate assets being acquired. According to Safeway CEO Robert Edwards, the deal wasn’t solicited and no auction was held. A number of analysts have gone on the record with dubious responses to the announcement, saying that, while the Canadian sale might offer a temporary fix to an ailing balance sheet, Wall Street expects a continued decline in Safeway’s U.S. operations.

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Walmart Foundation funds nurse assistant training program

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON — The Walmart Foundation has awarded the American Red Cross with a $3.5 million grant that will help 2,500 students receive training for entry-level healthcare careers through the Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training program.

The program is designed to help give students a career pathway into the industry, while also helping communities alleviate a shortage of adequately trained Certified Nurse Assistants.

The grant will primarily help women below the poverty line. It is the first credential-specific training grant Walmart has awarded as part of their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative.

“Walmart is making it possible for so many who have the desire and aptitude to work in the healthcare field to get a solid foundation and a head start through our Nurse Assistant Training,” said Joseph Alfonso, senior national director, nurse assistant training operations, American Red Cross. “As many as 10 times the number of annual graduates from our program would like to take the course but cannot afford to do so.”

One of the goals of Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative is to help 200,000 U.S. women from low-income households access job training, education, career counseling and mentoring to increase their employment opportunities. The Red Cross training program aligns itself with this particular goal.

“Walmart is excited to help bring Red Cross training to more women who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity due to financial barriers,” said MiKaela Wardlaw Lemmon, senior director of women’s economic empowerment at Walmart. “By joining forces with the Red Cross, we are helping them to earn average wage increases of about 20% and to find jobs that provide health insurance for themselves and their families. This program will help us meet our goal of empowering women in the U.S. and around the world.”

Red Cross NAT instructors equip students with the skills they need to become CNAs so they can provide basic care such as feeding, dressing, bathing and monitoring patients and, therefore, work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living, hospitals and in-home health care. The program also offers graduates placement support and a distinct emphasis on professionalism, punctuality and a commitment toward work.

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