Member Briefing April 8, 2024

Posted By: Harold King Daily Briefing,

Top Story

U.S. Economy Added 303,000 Jobs in March, Hourly Earnings Rise

U.S. job growth was strong last month, and the unemployment rate fell slightly. But wage growth remained contained, underscoring the growing belief among economists and policymakers that the country can keep adding jobs without fanning inflation. U.S. employers added a seasonally adjusted 303,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department reported on Friday, significantly more than the 200,000 economists expected. The unemployment rate slipped to 3.8%, versus February’s 3.9%, in line with expectations. Average hourly earnings in March rose 0.3% from the previous month. Job gains occurred primarily in health care, government and construction.

The labor market has continued to add jobs over the past year despite high interest rates. At the same time, the unemployment rate has drifted up and wage gains have cooled. In March of last year, the unemployment rate was 3.5%. Those dynamics have defied the conventional wisdom that, for inflation to cool, job creation would need to dramatically slow down. Lately many economists and even Fed officials have come to believe that, in part as a result of immigration, the supply of available workers has increased. If that is right, the number of jobs can grow faster.

Read more at The WSJ

In Our Sector - Manufacturing Employment Holds Steady

Manufacturing employment was little changed from February to March, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing had a seasonally adjusted total of 12,956,000 workers in March, the same number it had in February. March’s number rose slightly from a year earlier, in March 2023, when the sector employed 12,932,000 people. Employment was essentially flat from February to March in sectors across the industry and at both durable and nondurable goods manufacturers.

Manufacturing’s average workweek remained at 40 hours in March, and overtime inched down by 0.1 hour to 2.9 hours. The average workweek for nonfarm, nonsupervisory production manufacturing employees, however, edged up by 0.1 hour to 33.9 hours.

Read more at The BLS

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Policy and Politics

NYS Budget - Lawmakers Agree to Second Extender

The New York state Legislature on Thursday passed another state budget extension and it was promptly signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The extension through today, April 8, makes sure National Guard members are paid on time, but another will need to be passed by Monday to ensure other state employees are paid on time. The budget was due April 1. On April 8, which is Monday, much of the state will be occupied by the total solar eclipse. Many businesses and public offices will be closed that day, though the state Legislature calendar has lawmakers in session on that day. The state Senate plans to be there but the Assembly said they will not return until Tuesday. So another extender will be required.

Budget negotiations between Hochul and legislative leaders remain ongoing, with a housing plan one of the top sticking points. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Thursday that they're in the "same neighborhood" when it comes to an agreement on housing. Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters the end is near when it comes to the budget process.

Read more at Spectrum News

Transportation Spending Surges to Historic Levels. Will US Get Historic Results?

The nation has never spent so much money on transportation, dams, sewer and water systems, electric transmission lines, and other networks. As a share of gross domestic product, today’s effort is bigger than infrastructure spending under the New Deal and the most spent in the last half-century. Looking strictly at the surge in transportation funding, experts on both right and left are cheering what the Biden administration has billed as a once-in-a-generation investment. Whether the nation will get once-in-a-generation results, however, remains unclear.

Inflation has eroded some of the federal funding boost. There are concerns that state and local governments are spending on mundane fixes instead of innovative projects with more bang for the buck. But has the money been well spent so far? Experts question some choices that states and localities are making under the infrastructure act, especially when looking strictly at transportation improvements. For example, when Hani Mahmassani, director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center, searched nearby IIJA projects, he found a $19 million grant to Chicago’s O’Hare airport to upgrade a terminal with, among other things, a family restroom accessible to people with disabilities. “Is this what we do for a once-in-a-generation type of opportunity?” he asks.

Read more at The CS Monitor

Confusion, Clarification Follow State Judge’s Ruling Striking Down State Marijuana Laws

New York's cannabis industry was unsettled Thursday by a judge's ruling that appeared to strike down all regulations governing recreational marijuana in the state. But a key portion of the order turned out to be a mistake. The Wednesday ruling was amended Thursday to reflect a much narrower decision after cannabis growers, sellers and other supporters voiced concerns about the implications.

The decision came in a lawsuit brought by Leafly, a cannabis sales website, which challenged the state's rules barring marijuana dispensaries from advertising on third-party platforms. State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant, in a strongly worded decision, sided with Leafly in declaring the state's rules were arbitrary, capricious and therefore unconstitutional. His ruling initially appeared to void not just the marketing and advertising rules in question but the state's entire regulatory regime for being “unconstitutionally vague.” The decision was later amended to show that the judge voided the state rules dealing only with so-called third-party platforms such as Leafly.

Read more at NY State of Politics

Health and Wellness

It’s Lonely at Work. Here’s How You Can Feel More Connected in Just 10 Minutes a Day

We spend significantly less time connecting with others than we did decades ago, and it’s deeply felt in schools, homes, and workplaces. Overall, about one-quarter of the world feels lonely. While every demographic feels the effects, a new survey of over 2,000 white-collar workers found that an overwhelming majority of women—80%—have felt lonely because of their jobs. According to the survey, 41% of women say work is the loneliest time of day.

Addressing loneliness at work can have long-lasting effects, from improving equity, well-being, and happiness at work to helping stave off the health complications of social isolation, such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, and dementia. Lucky for us, everyone can spend 10 minutes connecting, Ann Shoket, CEO of says. Consider asking your office role model for coffee, stopping to congratulate a colleague about a project you loved, or telling a team member you were thinking of them and want to check in about their recent trip or birthday.  “It’s not showing up at the networking parties and swirling warm Chardonnay. It’s not big, fancy, expensive conferences,” “These tiny daily habits of staying in touch by text, spending time one-on-one, and literally walking around the office are a really valuable way to nurture connections.”

Read more at Fortune Well


The Governor updated COVID data for the week ending April 4th.


  • Weekly: 19
  • Total Reported to CDC: 83,140


  • Average Daily Patients in Hospital statewide: 554
  • Patients in ICU Beds: 44

7 Day Average Cases per 100K population

  • 2.7 positive cases per 100,00 population, Statewide
  • 3.8 positive cases per 100,00 population, Mid-Hudson

Useful Websites:

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Today’s Solar Eclipse – What you Need to Know to Watch

A stunning celestial event is visible across the country Today, when the moon crosses directly in front of the sun: a total solar eclipse. For those in the path of totality, there will be a few brief moments when the moon completely covers the sun and the world becomes dark. This will be the last chance to catch a total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. for about 20 years, so here's what you need to know to safely enjoy!

As NPR's Neil Greenfieldboyce explains, "During a total eclipse, the sky darkens suddenly and dramatically. The temperature drops. Stars come out. Beautiful colors appear around the horizon. And the once-familiar sun becomes a black void in the sky surrounded by the glowing corona — that's the ghostly white ring that is the sun's atmosphere." A partial eclipse, while still a fun experience, is hardly as dramatic. Those (like us in the Hudson Valley) with a view of the partial eclipse will see crescent-shaped shadows.

Read more at NPR

How to View Safely – EHS Today

Who Will Pay for the Baltimore Bridge Collapse?

On the day the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed, President Joe Biden said the federal government would pay the “entire cost” of rebuilding it, which some suggest could run to more than $1 billion. Washington will foot the bill so the bridge and nearby port can reopen “as soon as humanly possible,” he said. The hope is that much of the cost will be recouped from insurers, but determining who is ultimately on the hook for the deadly disaster is set to become one of the messiest and most expensive disputes of its kind.

Rebuilding the bridge, repairing the cargo ship that hit it and compensating companies for the disruption at one of the nation’s busiest ports may take years to resolve. Experts in maritime law and insurance said determining liability was particularly complex because of the many parties involved, from shipowners in Asia to insurers in Europe to companies around the world that move goods in and out of Baltimore. Numerous lawsuits are expected, and the six deaths caused by the disaster add a grim layer of complications.

Read more at Yahoo

German Factory Orders Rose Slightly in February

German manufacturing orders edged up in February, reflecting only a moderate rebound as demand for goods remains sluggish. Orders were 0.2% higher than the prior month, German statistics office Destatis said Friday. Orders collapsed by a revised 11.4% on month in January, a large decline that evened out a steep rise in December that was primarily driven by aircraft orders from manufacturer Airbus. In a less volatile three-month-by-three-month period, orders climbed 2.8%.

In February, orders from Germany’s key car industry slumped 8.1%, though it grew in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry by 3.1% and 6.6%, respectively.Domestic orders rose 1.5%, while foreign orders ticked down by 0.7%, Destatis said, indicating a still fragile environment for demand.

Read more at The WSJ

DOD Ratchets Up Buy American Restrictions

On Feb. 15, the Defense Department issued a long-awaited procurement regulation that increases the domestic content requirements under the Buy American Act for defense procurements and brings the department into line with civilian agency procurements. This new rule is the latest in a string of bipartisan initiatives designed to strengthen domestic sourcing requirements and ultimately increase domestic production. The recent push toward strengthening the Buy American Act specifically began with President Trump’s 2017 Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, which pushed agencies to increase their efforts to monitor contractor compliance with Buy American laws and enforce noncompliance.

The new rule increases the applicable domestic content threshold for domestic end products and creates a framework for the application of an enhanced price preference for domestic products that are considered critical products or are made up of critical components. Previously, the cost of domestic components had to exceed 55 percent of the cost of all components for a product to qualify as a domestic end product. Under the new rule, the domestic content threshold is 65 percent in calendar years 2024 through 2028. Beginning in calendar year 2029, the threshold will be 75 percent. The increased threshold modifies the DFARS definitions for domestic end product, qualifying country end product and domestic construction material.

Read more at National Defense

Mercedes Workers at an Alabama Plant Call for Union Representation Vote

A majority of workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are calling for a vote to join the United Auto Workers union, which is on a drive to sign up non-union plants across the country. According to a Friday announcement from the UAW, the Mercedes workers have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for the vote. Their call for a union election arrives just weeks after workers at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, set a date to vote for UAW representation.

The Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama, had a total of about 6,100 employees as of the end of 2023. More than 5,000 are calling for the union vote, UAW said Friday. No date for the plant’s union vote has been set yet, but the UAW said the Mercedes workers hope to vote by early May.

Read more at AP

Ford Delays New Electric Vehicles As Sales Falter, Joins Pivot To Hybrids Instead

Ford said last week it is pushing back EV production at its massive BlueOval City EV campus in Tennessee to 2026 from its initial 2025 start date. Ford said installation of equipment is underway at BlueOval City, where the company intends to build its next-generation electric truck, most likely its Project T3 full-size EV pickup that will replace the current F-150 Lightning. Ford’s hybrid sales have been booming, with sales hitting a record in Q1. Ford said it will expand its EV offerings, with hybrid powertrains now expected across its entire product range by 2030.

Ford also revealed it is “retiming” the launch of upcoming EVs at its plant in Oakville, Ontario, where it plans to build next-generation three-row EVs, most likely a full-size SUV. The company is aiming to launch those vehicles in 2027, pushing back the original 2025 timeline. Ford also said construction at its BlueOval SK JV battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky is “progressing,” as well as at its BlueOval Battery Park in Michigan, construction of which had also been delayed last year.

Read more at Yahoo

Think Tesla Pivots Away from Plans to Launch Low-Cost EV Model

In recent months Tesla has had a bumpy ride. In January the electric-vehicle pioneer warned that growth would be “notably lower” this year, as motorists’ enthusiasm for battery power loses charge. The same month it had to suspend most production at its giant factory near Berlin because of supply disruptions caused by turmoil in the Red Sea. Its market share in China, the world’s biggest ev market, is falling as it fends off cheaper local competition, especially from byd, which late last year briefly eclipsed Tesla as the world’s biggest ev-maker. Tesla hit another big pothole on April 2nd, when it reported that it had delivered fewer than 390,000 cars in the first quarter. That was down by 8.5% from a year ago.

Overall electric vehicle sales in the United States have flattened out in recent months. EV sales growth has been slowing for a while but in the last two quarters, EV sales didn’t increase much at all, according to estimates from Cox Automotive. In response Tesla is canceling its plans to build a Model 2 sedan, Reuters reported, which many believed would start around $25,000, compared to around $40,000 for today's Model 3. Instead, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly wants to go all-in on robotaxis, which he has long seen as one of Tesla's ultimate goals.

Read more at CNN

Brent Settles Above $90 for First Time since October, Gold’s Record High Close

Oil prices extended gains on Thursday, settling up more than $1 as geopolitical tensions and output cuts outweighed caution about U.S. Federal Reserve rate cuts. Brent futures for June rose above $91 a barrel before settling up $1.30, or 1.5%, to $90.65. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures for May settled up $1.16, or 1.4% to $86.59 a barrel. Both contracts closed on Thursday at their highest levels since October and continued to climb after the session ended, having received support in recent days from heightened geopolitical tensions and potential supply risks.

Meanwhile gold prices raced to a record high last week after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that recent readings on job gains and higher-than-expected inflation do not materially change the overall picture of economic policy this year. Spot gold hit a record high of $2,294.99 Wednesday. Investors often turn to commodities as a hedge against inflation.

Read more at Reuters

Japan Eyes Hydrogen Production Using Next-Gen Nuclear Reactor

The Japanese government plans to start field testing clean hydrogen production using nuclear power as soon as 2028 after a successful safety test of a next-generation reactor last week. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) tested the High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) in Ibaraki prefecture on March 28. The trial was conducted in conjunction with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) generates less power than a typical reactor, but is considered safer. Because nuclear energy doesn't produce greenhouse gases, the hydrogen production process using a reactor can be executed with nearly zero emissions.

Read more at Nikkei Asia

NASA Tasked With Creating a Time Zone for the Moon

The White House has asked NASA to create a new time zone for the moon. Arati Prabhakar, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), said in a letter Tuesday that the office wants NASA to establish a unified standard time for the moon and “celestial bodies other than Earth” to create a standard for timekeeping. Coordinated Lunar Time, LTC, is intended to aid future space missions that require precise navigation and science. NASA must develop the time zone by the end of 2026, Prabhakar said in the letter.

Prabhakar said the U.S. will work with allies and partners to return humans to the moon “and develop capabilities to enable an enduring presence.” The U.S. anticipates that “many other actors,” including other governments and private companies, will be sending spacecraft to the moon.

Read more at The Hill