Roundup: J.C. Penney struggles / FDA calls back furloughed staff / Small business optimism slips

Unlucky penny: J.C. Penney sales are falling, its stores are stuck in malls and the turnaround strategy keeps changing. Now, three months after the embattled retailer hired a new chief executive, a handful of senior positions remain vacant, The Wall Street Journal reports. The series of events are prompting analysts and other industry experts to question whether Penney can avoid the fate of fellow department-store operator Sears Holdings Corp., which filed for bankruptcy and barely staved off liquidation. Read the full story.

Callback: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may call back more furloughed workers to bolster the agency’s inspection of high-risk foods, USA Today reports. The FDA last week said it would restart inspections of high-risk foods that had been stopped due to the federal government shutdown, which began Dec. 22. At the time, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said about 150 furloughed people recalled are mostly unpaid. Gottlieb updated the situation in a series of posts on Twitter Sunday saying, “More staff could be on the way depending on needs.” Read the full story.

Downturn: The fears of a slowing economy that sent stocks falling the past few months may be spreading to small business owners who have been quite optimistic in recent years.The monthly survey that the advocacy group National Federation of Independent Business takes of its members showed a small dip in optimism during November and December, with expectations of lower sales in the coming months a key factor in the decline. Read the full story.

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