Rapid Inflation Fuels Debate Over What’s to Blame: Pandemic or Policy

The price increases bedeviling consumers, businesses and policymakers worldwide have prompted a heated debate in Washington about how much of today’s rapid inflation is a result of policy choices in the United States and how much stems from global factors tied to the pandemic, like snarled supply chains.

At a moment when stubbornly rapid price gains are weighing on consumer confidence and creating a political liability for President Biden, White House officials have repeatedly blamed international forces for high inflation, including factory shutdowns in Asia and overtaxed shipping routes that are causing shortages and pushing up prices everywhere. The officials increasingly cite high inflation in places including the euro area, where prices are climbing at the fastest pace on record, as a sign that the world is experiencing a shared moment of price pain, deflecting the blame away from U.S. policy.

But a chorus of economists point to government policies as a big part of the reason U.S. inflation is at a 40-year high. While they agree that prices are rising as a result of shutdowns and supply chain woes, they say that America’s decision to flood the economy with stimulus money helped to send consumer spending into overdrive, exacerbating those global trends.

The world’s trade machine is producing, shipping and delivering more goods to American consumers than it ever has, as people flush with cash buy couches, cars and home office equipment, but supply chains just haven’t been able to keep up with that supercharged demand.

by 7 percent in the year through December, its fastest pace since 1982. But in recent months, it has also moved up sharply across many countries, a fact administration officials have emphasized.

“The inflation has everything to do with the supply chain,” President Biden said during a news conference on Wednesday. “While there are differences country by country, this is a global phenomenon and driven by these global issues,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said after the latest inflation data were released.

the euro area. Data released in the United Kingdom and in Canada on Wednesday showed prices accelerating at their fastest rate in 30 years in both countries. Inflation in the eurozone, which is measured differently from how the U.S. calculates it, climbed to an annual rate of 5 percent in December, according to an initial estimate by the European Union statistics office.

“The U.S. is hardly an island amidst this storm of supply disruptions and rising demand, especially for goods and commodities,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

But some economists point out that even as inflation proves pervasive around the globe, it has been more pronounced in America than elsewhere.

“The United States has had much more inflation than almost any other advanced economy in the world,” said Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University and former Obama administration economic adviser, who used comparable methodologies to look across areas and concluded that U.S. price increases have been consistently faster.

The difference, he said, comes because “the United States’ stimulus is in a category of its own.”

White House officials have argued that differences in “core” inflation — which excludes food and fuel — have been small between the United States and other major economies over the past six months. And the gaps all but disappear if you strip out car prices, which are up sharply and have a bigger impact in the United States, where consumers buy more automobiles. (Mr. Furman argued that people who didn’t buy cars would have spent their money on something else and that simply eliminating them from the U.S. consumption basket is not fair.)

Administration officials have also noted that the United States has seen a robust rebound in economic growth. The International Monetary Fund said in October that it expected U.S. output to climb by 6 percent in 2021 and 5.2 percent in 2022, compared with 5 percent growth last year in the euro area and 4.3 percent growth projected for this year.

“To the extent that we got more heat, we got a lot more growth for it,” said Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

$5 trillion in spending in 2020 and 2021. That outstripped the response in other major economies as a share of the nation’s output, according to data compiled by the International Monetary Fund.

Many economists supported protecting workers and businesses early in the pandemic, but some took issue with the size of the $1.9 trillion package last March under the Biden administration. They argued that sending households another round of stimulus, including $1,400 checks, further fueled demand when the economy was already healing.

Consumer spending seemed to react: Retail sales, for instance, jumped after the checks went out.

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation costs and toys.

Americans found themselves with a lot of money in the bank, and as they spent that money on goods, demand collided with a global supply chain that was too fragile to catch up.

Virus outbreaks shut down factories, ports faced backlogs and a dearth of truckers roiled transit routes. Americans still managed to buy more goods than ever before in 2021, and foreign factories sent a record sum of products to U.S. shops and doorsteps. But all that shopping wasn’t enough to satisfy consumer demand.

stop spending at the start of the pandemic helped to swell savings stockpiles.

And the Federal Reserve’s interest rates are at rock bottom, which has bolstered demand for big purchases made on credit, from houses and cars to business investments like machinery and computers. Families have been taking on more housing and auto debt, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows, helping to pump up those sectors.

But if stimulus-driven demand is fueling inflation, the diagnosis could come with a silver lining. It may be easier to temper consumer spending than to rapidly reorient tangled supply lines.

People may naturally begin to buy less as government help fades. Spending could shift away from goods and back toward services if the pandemic abates. And the Fed’s policies work on demand — not supply.

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Your Inflation Questions, Answered

Inflation is high and has been for months. It’s weighing on consumer confidence, making policymakers nervous and threatening to eat away at household paychecks well into 2022.

This is the first time many adults have experienced meaningful inflation: Price gains had been largely quiescent since the late 1980s. When the Consumer Price Index climbed 7 percent in the year through December, it was the fastest pace since 1982.

Naturally, people have questions about what this will mean for their pocketbooks, their finances and their economic futures.

Closely intertwined with price worries are concerns about interest rates: The Federal Reserve is poised to raise borrowing costs to try to slow down demand and keep the situation under control.

furniture and camping gear.

That rapid consumption is running up against constrained supply. Factories shut down early in the pandemic, and in parts of Asia, they continue to do so as Omicron cases surge. There aren’t enough containers to ship all of the goods people want to buy, and ports have become clogged trying to process so many imports.

expanding their profits.

In theory, competition should eat away at extra earnings over time. New firms should jump into the market to sell that same products for less and steal away the customer. Existing competitors should ramp up production to meet demand.

But this may be a unappealing time for new firms to enter the market. Established companies may be hesitant to expand production if doing so involved a lot of investment, because it is not clear how long today’s strong demand will last.

“It is a very uncertain environment,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. “A new firm stepping in is a lot of investment, with a lot of financial risk.”

Until companies can produce and transport enough of a given product to go around — as long as shortages remain — companies will be able to raise prices without running much risk of losing customers to a competitor.

In past periods of inflation, do employers typically increase wages or award higher-than-average yearly increases to help employees offset inflation? If so, in what industries is this practice most common? — Annmarie Kutz, Erie, Pa.

There is no standard historical experience with wages and inflation, Mary C. Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said during an interview with The New York Times on Twitter Spaces last week.

lower-wage service industries have been competing mightily for workers in recent months, and pay is climbing faster there.

“The history isn’t so clear that cost of living translates into higher wages, but that’s largely because inflation has been low and stable for a very long time,” Ms. Daly said.

in December projected that price gains will drop back below 3 percent by the end of the year, and will level off to normal levels over the longer term.

are adjusted for inflation, so those should keep pace with price gains. Bonds that pay back fixed rates do less well during periods of inflation, while stock investments — though riskier — tend to rise more quickly than consumer prices. Ms. Benz recommends holding assets across an array of securities, potentially including inflation-protected securities such as some exchange-traded funds or Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, commonly called TIPS.

“It argues against having too much in cash,” Ms. Benz said. “That’s too much dead money.”

We currently have low unemployment, strong wage growth (largely through attrition / voluntary retirements), easy monetary policy and now rising inflation. What are other periods of time when the United States had these conditions? How did things work out then? — Harshal Patel, Moorestown, N.J.

Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, pointed to the post-World War II period as a reference point for the present moment.

“Demand was strong, and supply was constrained,” he said in an interview. “That’s a very instructive path for us.”

The good news about that example is that supply eventually caught up, and prices came down without spurring any greater crisis.

Other, more worried commentators have drawn parallels between now and the 1970s, when the Fed was slow to raise rates as unemployment fell and prices rose — and inflation jumped out of control. But many economists have argued that important differences separate that period from this one: Workers were more heavily unionized and may have had more bargaining power to push for higher wages back then, and the Fed was slow to react for years on end. This time, it’s already gearing up to respond.

about price controls in a recent article, and vocal minority think the 1970s experience unfairly tarnished the idea and that it might be worthwhile to reopen the debate.

“This is a great suppressed topic,” said James K. Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas. “It was absolutely mainstream from the start of World War II until the Reagan administration.”

If inflation is being caused by supply chain problems, how will raising interest rates help? — Larry Harris, Ventura, Calif.

Kristin J. Forbes, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that a big part of today’s inflation ties to roiled supply chains, which monetary policy can’t do much to fix.

But trade is actually happening at elevated levels even amid the disruptions. Factories are producing, ships are shipping, and consumers are buying at a rapid clip. It is just that supply is not keeping up with that booming demand. Higher interest rates can relieve pressure on demand, making it more expensive to buy a boat or a car, cooling off the housing market and slowing business investment.

“A good part of the supply chain problems, you can’t do anything about,” Ms. Forbes said. “But you can affect demand. And it is the combination of the two which determines inflation.”

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Hayward Adding Derek Spearman in New Vice President of US Manufacturing Position

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Hayward Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: HAYW) (“Hayward”), global designer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad portfolio of pool equipment and technology, announces that Derek Spearman is joining the company as the Vice President of US Manufacturing. In this newly created role, Spearman will be responsible for all plant and planning operations for the company’s US-based plants.

I am honored to join the Hayward team, and I look forward to continuing to build upon its solid foundation,” Spearman said. “Hayward is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the rapidly changing manufacturing environment thanks to its great business model and talented management team. This is a tremendous opportunity, and I am looking forward to making an impact.”

Spearman is joining Hayward’s Global Operations Staff, which is led by Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer Donald Smith.

Derek Spearman is joining Hayward in a new and vitally-important role where he will add additional experience, capacity and quality to what is already a world-class Operations team. Hayward will benefit greatly from Derek’s expertise in domestic and international operations leadership, Lean Manufacturing deployment, and strategic capacity and operational footprint design. I am excited for him to get started,” Smith said.

Spearman is joining Hayward after spending four years at Timken Company where he was the Vice President of Lovejoy Incorporated. At Timken, Spearman directed operations at five domestic and international plants staffed by more than 400 people, and he managed budgets exceeding $100 million.

Spearman has also previously held roles as a Director of Operations, Plant Manager, Six Sigma Blackbelt Lean Leader, Quality Director, and Area Manager with organizations such as GKN Driveline, Matcor-Matsu Group, Ford Motor Company, Eli Lilly, and Whirlpool Corporation.

Spearman earned an MBA from Webster University and a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University.

About Hayward Holdings, Inc.

Hayward Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:HAYW) is a leading global designer and manufacturer of pool equipment and technology all key to the SmartPad™ conversion strategy designed to provide a superior outdoor living experience. Hayward offers a full line of innovative, energy-efficient and sustainable residential and commercial pool equipment, including a complete line of advanced pumps, filters, heaters, automatic pool cleaners, LED lighting, internet of things (IoT) enabled controls, alternate sanitizers and water features.

This release contains forward-looking statements and information relating to the Company that are based on the beliefs of management as well as assumptions made by, and information currently available to management. When used in this release, words such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “intend,” “potential,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “plan,” “target,” “predict,” “project,” “seek” and similar expressions as they relate to us are intended to identify forward-looking statements. These statements reflect management’s current views with respect to future events, are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties that are difficult to predict. Further, certain forward-looking statements are based upon assumptions as to future events that may not prove to be accurate. Actual results or events could differ materially from the plans, intentions and expectations disclosed in forward-looking statements. Hayward has based these forward-looking statements largely on management’s current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that management believes may affect Hayward’s business, financial condition and results of operations. Important factors that could affect Hayward’s future results and could cause those results or other outcomes to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include the following: our ability to execute on our growth strategies and expansion opportunities; our ability to maintain favorable relationships with suppliers and manage disruptions to our global supply chain and the availability of raw materials; our relationships with and the performance of distributors, builders, buying groups, retailers and servicers who sell our products to pool owners; competition from national and global companies, as well as lower cost manufacturers; impacts on our business from the sensitivity of our business to seasonality and unfavorable economic and business conditions; our ability to identify emerging technological and other trends in our target end markets; our ability to develop, manufacture and effectively and profitably market and sell our new planned and future products; failure of markets to accept new product introductions and enhancements; the ability to successfully identify, finance, complete and integrate acquisitions; our ability to attract and retain senior management and other qualified personnel; regulatory changes and developments affecting our current and future products; volatility in currency exchange rates; our ability to service our existing indebtedness and obtain additional capital to finance operations and our growth opportunities; impacts on our business from political, regulatory, economic, trade, and other risks associated with operating foreign businesses; our ability to establish and maintain intellectual property protection for our products, as well as our ability to operate our business without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property rights of others; the impact of material cost and other inflation; the impact of changes in laws, regulations and administrative policy, including those that limit US tax benefits or impact trade agreements and tariffs; the outcome of litigation and governmental proceedings; impacts on our business from the COVID-19 pandemic; and other risks and uncertainties set forth under “Risk Factors” in the prospectus for Hayward’s initial public offering and in Hayward’s subsequent SEC filings.

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Frontdoor Publishes First Sustainability Report, Reinforcing the Company’s Commitment to ESG

MEMPHIS, Tenn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Frontdoor, Inc. (NASDAQ: FTDR), the nation’s leading provider of home service plans, today published its first corporate sustainability report. Frontdoor is committed to developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives that strengthen its value as a service provider, employer and global corporate citizen.

The company’s sustainability journey has been marked by meaningful initiatives and impacts since the company’s inception. This report reflects the company’s dedication to transparency in action and highlights its work in areas such as corporate governance, privacy and information security, employee relations and diversity and inclusion, community relations and environmental sustainability.

“We have made significant progress in our three years as a standalone company, and I’m proud of the meaningful work that our team is doing in this area,” said Rex Tibbens, president and chief executive officer of Frontdoor. “We are in the early stages of our journey but are committed to continuing to strengthen our practices and disclosures and operating in a way that benefits those in the world around us.”

In its 2021 sustainability report, the company shares an overview of its activities in four key areas: strengthening the company, supporting its people, serving communities and sustaining the world.

Highlights of Frontdoor’s 2021 sustainability report include:

“The 2021 sustainability report is the first of many and demonstrates our belief that responsibility begins with accountability,” said Tibbens. “As we move forward, each year we will strive to make progress in the areas outlined in the document and ensure that our business practices are impactful, meaningful and sustainable over time.”

Visit frontdoorhome.com to view or download the company’s full sustainability report. The report incorporates disclosures under both the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) frameworks.

About Frontdoor

Frontdoor is a company that’s obsessed with taking the hassle out of owning a home. With services powered by people and enabled by technology, it is the parent company of four home service plan brands: American Home Shield, HSA, Landmark and OneGuard, as well as ProConnect, an on-demand membership service for home repairs and maintenance, and Streem, a technology company that enables businesses to serve customers through an enhanced augmented reality, computer vision and machine learning platform. Frontdoor serves 2.2 million customers across the U.S. through a network of approximately 17,500 pre-qualified contractor firms that employ an estimated 62,000 technicians. The company’s customizable home service plans help customers protect and maintain their homes from costly and unexpected breakdowns of essential home systems and appliances. With 50 years of home services experience, the company responds to over four million service requests annually. For details, visit frontdoorhome.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations and beliefs, as well as a number of assumptions concerning future events. These statements are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other important factors. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on such forward-looking statements because actual results may vary materially from those expressed or implied. The reports filed by Frontdoor pursuant to United States securities laws contain discussions of these risks and uncertainties. Frontdoor assumes no obligation to, and expressly disclaims any obligation to, update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Readers are advised to review Frontdoor’s filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (which are available on the SEC’s EDGAR database at www.sec.gov and via Frontdoor’s website at investors.frontdoorhome.com).

FTDR-Financial

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Sara Menker and Gro Intelligence Are Tackling Global Hunger

Even if you didn’t experience the famine personally you must have been deeply aware of it and affected by it.

A thousand percent. First of all, you have to remember we come from massive families. My mom has 24 siblings. And you grow up very much aware of it. I grew up in a country where fuel was rationed, where food, sugar, toilet paper was rationed no matter who you are. It didn’t matter if you lived in Addis or outside of Addis. When toilet paper shortages happened during Covid and everybody was running to stock up, I was like, “I don’t know why you’re stocking up. I have like 80 rolls of toilet paper.”

People were like, “Why do you have 80 rolls of toilet paper?” And I was like, “Is that not how one lives in life? In fear that things might run out?” But it is how we were raised, very much aware that you can’t take anything for granted, that anything can disappear. We had neighbors that disappeared.

How did you wind up coming to the United States for college?

I studied really, really hard. I wanted to get out. My parents sacrificed absolutely everything to send us to the best school in the country, and I knew every day that my obligation to them was to do well, because they gave up most of their income to make sure we went to that school.

Also, my dad was born in an Italian prison. My grandfather orchestrated the plot to kill General Graziani when Mussolini tried to colonize Ethiopia, and it ended up costing his life. They assassinated my grandfather when my grandmother was pregnant with my dad, and they took her as a prisoner of war to Italy, and she gave birth to my dad in an Italian prison. So I was raised in a pretty strong family, in that fighting for survival kind of way, and I just felt like I owed it to my family to do well in life.

When you joined Morgan Stanley did you figure you wanted to be in finance for the rest of your life, or were you saying, “I got to get out of here as fast as I can”?

I decided that the only job I would take in finance would be to work in commodities. It was the only section of finance that I felt was connected to the real world and all the things I cared about. One day I got up and I decided I was ready to trade. So I went to my boss and said, “Hey, you’re going to hire me to trade natural gas.” He was like, “I’m not hiring.” And I was like, “No, no, you’re going to hire me.” And he did, so I started trading gas, and then he got promoted, and I took over that business.

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A Fed Official’s 2020 Trade Drew Outcry. It Went Further Than First Disclosed.

That’s because Fed officials were actively rescuing a broad swath of markets in 2020: In March and April, they slashed rates to zero, bought mortgage-tied and government bonds in mass quantities, and rolled out rescue programs for corporate and municipal debt. Continuing to trade in affected securities for their own portfolios throughout the year could have given them room to profit from their privileged knowledge. At a minimum, it created an appearance problem, one that Mr. Powell himself has acknowledged.

Mr. Kaplan resigned in September, citing the scandal; Mr. Rosengren resigned simultaneously, citing health issues. Mr. Clarida’s term ends at the close of this month, which it was scheduled to do before news of the scandal broke.

Mr. Clarida’s trades, which Bloomberg reported earlier, also raised eyebrows among lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has demanded a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Fed officials’ 2020 trading. But many ethics experts had seen the transaction as more benign, if poorly timed, because it happened in a broad-based index and the Fed had said it was part of a planned and longer-term investment strategy.

The new disclosure casts doubt on that explanation, given that Mr. Clarida sold out of stocks just days before moving back into them.

“It’s peculiar,” said Norman Eisen, an ethics official in the Obama White House who said he probably would not have approved such a trade. “It’s fair to ask — in what respect does this constitute a rebalancing?”

It is unclear whether Mr. Clarida benefited financially from the trade, but it was most likely a lucrative move. By selling the stock fund as its value began to plummet and buying it back days later when the price per share was lower, Mr. Clarida would have ended up holding more shares, assuming he reinvested all of the money that he had withdrawn. The financial disclosures put both transactions in a range of $1 million to $5 million.

The sale-and-purchase move would have made money within a few days, as stock markets and the fund in question increased in value after Mr. Powell’s announcement. The investment would have then lost money as stocks sank again amid the deepening pandemic crisis.

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Supply Chain Woes Prompt a New Push to Revive U.S. Factories

When visitors arrive at the office of America Knits in tiny Swainsboro, Ga., the first thing they see on the wall is a black-and-white photo that a company co-founder, Steve Hawkins, discovered in a local antiques store.

It depicts one of a score of textile mills that once dotted the area, along with the workers that toiled on its machines and powered the local economy. The scene reflects the heyday — and to Mr. Hawkins, the potential — of making clothes in the rural South.

Companies like America Knits will test whether the United States can regain some of the manufacturing output it ceded in recent decades to China and other countries. That question has been contentious among workers whose jobs were lost to globalization. But with the supply-chain snarls resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it has become intensely tangible from the consumer viewpoint as well.

Mr. Hawkins’s company, founded in 2019, has 65 workers producing premium T-shirts from locally grown cotton. He expects the work force to increase to 100 in the coming months. If the area is to have an industrial renaissance, it is so far a lonely one. “I’m the only one, the only crazy one,” Mr. Hawkins said.

General Motors disclosed in December that it was considering spending upward of $4 billion to expand electric vehicle and battery production in Michigan. Just days later, Toyota announced plans for a $1.3 billion battery plant in North Carolina that will employ 1,750 people.

little change in the balance of trade or the inclination of companies operating in China to redirect investment to the United States.

Since the pandemic began, however, efforts to relocate manufacturing have accelerated, said Claudio Knizek, global leader for advanced manufacturing and mobility at EY-Parthenon, a strategy consulting firm. “It may have reached a tipping point,” he added.

Decades of dependence on Asian factories, especially in China, has been upended by delays and surging freight rates — when shipping capacity can be found at all.

Backups at overwhelmed ports and the challenges of obtaining components as well as finished products in a timely way have convinced companies to think about locating production capacity closer to buyers.

“It’s absolutely about being close to customers,” said Tim Ingle, group vice president for enterprise strategy at Toyota Motor North America. “It’s a big endeavor, but it’s the future.”

New corporate commitments to sustainability are also playing a role, with the opportunity to reduce pollution and fossil fuel consumption in transportation across oceans emerging as a selling point.

Repositioning the supply chain isn’t just an American phenomenon, however. Experts say the trend is also encouraging manufacturing in northern Mexico, a short hop to the United States by truck.

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

“Incentives to help level the playing field are a key piece,” said David Moore, chief strategy officer and senior vice president at Micron. “Building a leading-edge memory fabrication facility is a sizable investment; it’s not just a billion or two here and there. These are major decisions.”

In the aftermath of the coronavirus and restrictions on exports of goods like masks, moving manufacturing closer to home is also being viewed as a national security priority, said Rick Burke, a managing director with the consulting firm Deloitte.

“As the pandemic continues, there’s a realization that this may be the new normal,” Mr. Burke said. “The pandemic has sent a shock wave through organizations. It’s no longer a discussion about cost, but about supply-chain resiliency.”

Despite the big announcements and the billions being spent, it could take until the late 2020s before the investments yield a meaningful number of manufacturing jobs, Mr. Burke said — and even then, raw materials and some components will probably come from overseas.

Still, if the experts are correct, these moves could reverse decades of dwindling employment in American factories. A quarter of a century ago, U.S. factories employed more than 17 million people, but that number dropped to 11.5 million by 2010.

Since then, the gains have been modest, with the total manufacturing work force now at 12.5 million.

But the sector remains one of the few where the two-thirds of Americans who lack a college degree can earn a middle-class wage. In bigger cities and parts of the country where workers are unionized, factories frequently pay $20 to $25 an hour compared with $15 or less for jobs at warehouses or in restaurants and bars.

Even in the rural South, long resistant to unions, manufacturing jobs can come with a healthy salary premium. At America Knits, a private-label manufacturer that sells to retailers including J. Crew and Buck Mason, workers earn $12 to $15 an hour, compared with $7.50 to $11 in service jobs.

The hiring is being driven by strong demand for the company’s T-shirts, Mr. Hawkins said, as well as by a recognition among retailers of the effect of supply-chain problems on foreign sources of goods.

“Retailers have opened their eyes more and are bringing manufacturing back,” he said. “And with premium T-shirts selling for $30 or more, they can afford to.”

A few years ago, Julie Land said she would naturally have looked to Asia to expand production of outerwear and other goods for her Canadian company, Winnipeg Stitch Factory, and its clothing brand, Pine Falls.

Instead, the 12-year-old business is opening a plant in Port Gibson, Miss., in 2022. Fabric will be cut in Winnipeg and then shipped to Port Gibson to be sewn into garments like jackets and sweaters. The factory will be heavily automated, Ms. Land said, enabling her company to keep costs manageable and compete with overseas workshops.

“Reshoring is not going to happen overnight, but it is happening, and it’s exciting,” she said. “If you place an order offshore, there is so much uncertainty with a longer lead time. All of that adds up.”

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Tencent hands shareholders $16.4 bln windfall in the form of JD.com stake

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  • Move comes as Beijing cracks down on technology firms
  • JD.com shares plunge as much as 11.2%, Tencent up 4%
  • Tencent has no plans to sell stakes in other firms-source

BEIJING/HONG KONG, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Chinese gaming and social media company Tencent (0700.HK) will pay out a $16.4 billion dividend by distributing most of its JD.com (9618.HK) stake, weakening its ties to the e-commerce firm and raising questions about its plans for other holdings.

The move comes as Beijing leads a broad regulatory crackdown on technology firms, taking aim at their overseas growth ambitions and domestic concentration of market power.

Tencent said on Thursday it will transfer HK$127.69 billion ($16.37 billion) worth of its JD.com stake to shareholders, slashing its holding in China’s second-biggest e-commerce company to 2.3% from around 17% now and losing its spot as JD.com’s biggest shareholder to Walmart (WMT.N).

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The owner of WeChat, which first invested in JD.com in 2014, said it was the right time for the divestment, given the e-commerce firm had reached a stage where it can self-finance its growth.

Chinese regulators have this year blocked Tencent’s proposed $5.3 billion merger of the country’s top two videogame streaming sites, ordered it to end exclusive music copyright agreements and found WeChat illegally transferred user data.

The company is one of a handful of technology giants that dominate China’s internet space and which have historically prevented rivals’ links and services from being shared on their platforms.

“This seems to be a continuation of the concept of bringing down the walled gardens and increasing competition among the tech giants by weakening partnerships, exclusivity and other arrangements which weaken competitive pressures,” Mio Kato, a LightStream Research analyst who publishes on Smartkarma said of the JD.com stake transfer.

“It could have implications for things like the payments market where Tencent’s relationships with Pinduoduo and JD have helped it maintain some competitiveness with Alipay,” he said.

JD.com shares plunged 11.2% at one point in Hong Kong trade on Thursday, the biggest daily percentage decline since its debut in the city in June 2020, before closing with a 7.0.% decline. Shares of Tencent, Asia’s most valuable listed company, rose 4.2%.

Shares of Tencent and JD on Dec 23

The companies said they would continue to have a business relationship, including an ongoing strategic partnership agreement, though Tencent Executive Director and President Martin Lau will step down from JD.com’s board immediately.

Eligible Tencent shareholders will be entitled to one share of JD.com for every 21 shares they hold.

A Tencent logo is seen in Beijing, China September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

PORTFOLIO DIVESTMENTS?

The JD.com stake is part of Tencent’s portfolio of listed investments valued at $185 billion as of Sept. 30, including stakes in e-commerce company Pinduoduo (PDD.O), food delivery firm Meituan (3690.HK), video platform Kuaishou (1024.HK), automaker Tesla (TSLA.O) and streaming service Spotify (SPOT.N).

Alex Au, managing director at Hong Kong-based hedge fund manager Alphalex Capital Management, said the JD.com sale made both business and political sense.

“There might be other divestments on their way as Tencent heeds the antitrust call while shareholders ask to own those interests in minority stakes themselves,” he said.

A person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters Tencent has no plans to exit its other investments. When asked about Pinduoduo and Meituan, the person said they are not as well-developed as JD.com.

The Chinese internet giant has also invested in overseas companies such as Tesla (TSLA.O), Netamble, Snapchat, Spotify (SPOT.N) and Sea (SE.N). “Going abroad is one of Tencent’s most important strategies in the future,” a CITIC Securities research note said on Thursday. “The possibility of selling overseas high-quality technology and internet assets is small.”

Tencent chose to distribute the JD shares as a dividend rather than sell them on the market in an attempt to avoid a steep fall in JD.com’s share price as well as a high tax bill, the person added.

Kenny Ng, an analyst at Everbright Sun Hung Kai, said the decision was “definitely negative” for JD.com.

“Although Tencent’s reduction of JD’s holdings may not have much impact on JD’s actual business, when the shares are transferred from Tencent to Tencent’s shareholders, the chances of Tencent’s shareholders selling JD’s shares as dividends will increase,” he said.

Technology investor Prosus (PRX.AS), which is Tencent’s largest shareholder with a 29% stake and is controlled by Naspers of South Africa, will receive the biggest portion of JD.com shares.

Walmart owns a 9.3% stake in JD.com, according to the Chinese company. Payments processor Alipay is part of Tencent rival Alibaba Group .

($1 = 7.7996 Hong Kong dollars)

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Reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing and Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Xie Yu, Selena Li, Donny Kwok and Eduardo Baptista in Hong Kong and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Bosses Have a New Headache: How Long Should Sick Workers Isolate?

Barbara Sibley’s four New York restaurants had already weathered the city’s initial Covid-19 wave, the prevaccine surge last winter and this summer’s Delta spike when last weekend it finally happened: Fearing an outbreak and struggling with staffing after one of her workers got sick with Covid, she temporarily shut down one of her locations.

That was only the start of Ms. Sibley’s worries. She also had to weigh how long the employee, who was fully vaccinated, should isolate before returning to the job. And the messaging from public health experts was not clear-cut.

In the early days of the pandemic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that most people who tested positive for the coronavirus isolate for 14 days. It later reduced its recommended isolation period to 10 days. But these policies were based on data from unvaccinated individuals and were implemented before the widespread availability of rapid tests. An increasing number of health and policy professionals now suggest that vaccinated people can end their isolation after five to seven days, so long as they are not symptomatic and they test negative.

On Thursday, the C.D.C. reduced, in some circumstances, the number of days it recommends that health care workers who test positive for the coronavirus isolate themselves, but it did not address other businesses.

said on Friday that fully vaccinated critical workers could return to work five days after testing positive, so long as they have no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving and they have had no fever for 72 hours. Those workers will also have to wear a mask, she said.

Omicron has intensified staffing shortages across industries, and the spike in cases has disrupted travel during the holidays, stranding thousands of customers and underscoring the economic toll of employees needing to isolate. Already, some economists are warning about the potential impact that shutdowns can have on consumer spending.

Delta Air Lines asked the C.D.C. on Tuesday to cut isolation time to five days for fully vaccinated people, warning that the current 10-day period may “significantly impact” operations. It was followed by JetBlue and Airlines for America, a trade group that represents eight airlines.

eliminated weekly testing for vaccinated players who are asymptomatic, with its chief medical officer saying the pandemic had reached a stage in which it’s unnecessary for vaccinated players to sit out if they feel healthy.

canceled performances through Christmas. CityMD, the privately owned urgent care clinic, temporarily shut 19 sites in New York and New Jersey because of staffing shortages. At least a dozen New York restaurants have temporarily closed in response to positive tests.

“I think lots of companies are looking at a lot of disruption in the next month and trying to put in policies right now, because they know their employees are going to get infected in very high numbers,” said Dr. Jha.

The United States might take direction from policy shifts abroad. Britain said on Wednesday that it was reducing to seven from 10 the days that people must isolate after showing Covid-19 symptoms.

After the British government lifted nearly all its pandemic restrictions in July, hundreds of thousands of workers were pinged by the National Health Service’s track-and-trace app and told to isolate because they had been exposed to the coronavirus. Businesses complained of being short-staffed, and economists said the “pingdemic” may have slowed economic growth in July.

In the United States, new tools to help manage through the pandemic are on the way.

The Food and Drug Administration this week authorized two pills to treat Covid, from Pfizer and Merck. Those treatments have been shown to stave off severe disease and have potential to reduce transmission of the virus, though supply of both pills, especially Pfizer’s, will be limited in the next few months.

President Biden said on Tuesday that he planned to invoke the Defense Production Act to buy and give away 500 million rapid antigen tests, a crucial tool in detecting transmissibility, though those tests will not be available for weeks or longer.

If a combination of the antiviral pills and rapid tests is able to get individuals back to work faster, “that’s a big economic point,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research.

Molly Moon Neitzel, who owns an ice cream business in Seattle with just over 100 employees, said she had kept guidelines for isolation conservative.

“I’m on the side of protecting people over getting them back to work right now,” she said, adding that if it were summer and her business were busier, she might consider a shorter isolation period. “It’s the slowest time of the year for an ice cream company, so that is in my favor.”

Some public health experts worry that if the C.D.C. shortens its guidelines on isolating, employers could pressure workers to get back before they’re fully recovered.

“What I don’t want to see happen is for this to be used as an excuse to force people to come back while they are unwell,” Dr. Ranney of Brown said.

And even with clearer guidelines, putting policies in place can be tricky. While some experts suggest different isolation rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, some companies do not yet have a system for tracking which of their workers have gotten a vaccine. The question of whether the C.D.C. will change its definition of fully vaccinated to include booster shots adds another layer of complexity.

It’s not just sick employees who may have to stay home: Companies are also grappling with whether vaccinated workers should quarantine after exposure to someone with Covid-19, which C.D.C. guidelines do not require.

“It becomes a challenge for employers to choose between providing a safer environment and keeping staff intact, or going with the C.D.C. guidance,” said Karen Burke, an adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management.

But almost two years into the pandemic, that’s the position that employers continue to find themselves in, amid an ever-flowing cascade of new data, guidelines and considerations.

“Every moment, you’re making life or death decisions,” Ms. Sibley said. “That’s not what we signed up for.”

Rebecca Robbins contributed reporting.

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