Member Briefing February 7, 2022
Omicron “Shromicron” U.S. Jobs Surged by 467,000 in January
U.S. employers hired at a rapid pace late last year and in January, bolstering the economy in the face of the Omicron wave of Covid-19 and staffing shortages. The U.S. economy added 467,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department said Friday. Job growth in November and December combined was about 700,000 higher than previously reported. Overall, the robust job gains this winter signal that hiring demand continued to be high as Delta and Omicron cases surged.
- The unemployment rate rose slightly in January to 4% from 3.9%
- Wages climbed 5.7% in January from a year earlier, nearly double the average of about 3% before the pandemic hit.
- Employers added 6.67 million jobs last year, or just over 200,000 more positions than previously reported for 2021.
- The labor-force participation rate rose to 62.2% last month, the highest level since the pandemic hit in early 2020.
- There are roughly 60 unemployed people for every 100 job openings.
- About 3.6 million Americans were employed but absent from work due to illness in January, up from two million in January 2021 and 1.1 million in January 2020.
13,000 in the Manufacturing Sector
Preliminary labor data for January indicated that the manufacturing industry added only 13,000 new jobs last month, less than half the amount it gained in December. In its February 4 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised up its employment figures for December 2021. According to the Bureau, private nonfarm companies hired 510,000 people in December while manufacturers hired 32,000—both substantial improvements over the previously-published figures of 199,000 and 26,000 new jobs, respectively.
Jobs growth in durable goods production was hamstrung by significant cuts at transportation equipment manufacturers. Companies making durable goods added a net 8,000 new jobs, hampered significantly by the 9,500-job loss in transportation equipment. About half of the losses in that sector were in motor vehicles and parts production. The losses in transportation equipment offset gains in fabricated metal products, which added 5,000 new jobs, machinery, and nonmetallic mineral products.
Its Not Just the Winters… Poll Finds One Third of New Yorkers Frustrated Enough With Political System to Consider Moving
The poll, conducted by John Zogby Strategies, provides some insight on the deepening frustration among voters in the state, which has seen a steady flow of outmigration over the last several decades that is ofen attributed to a desire to move to warmer climes.
The poll found nearly half of voters, 46%, believe the state is on the wrong track, with 37% saying it’s on the right track. More than 75% of voters would support term limits and changes to the campaign finance system. 65% of voters are also considering leaving New York because of high taxes, as well as the regulatory and political environment. The poll also found Gov. Kathy Hochul, holding a 42 percentage point lead over New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. While on the GOP side, Rep. Lee Zeldin draws 28% of the vote to Andrew Giuliani receiving 26%. Hochul leads Zeldin in a general election matchup, 51% to 33%.
Lawsuit Asks Courts to Block NY’s New Congressional Map
A group of 14 New Yorkers filed the suit Thursday in state court in Steuben County against Gov. Kathy Hochul, top Democratic lawmakers, the state board of elections and a state redistricting task force. The voters in their lawsuit ask the state court to declare New York’s congressional map invalid, and either send the maps back to lawmakers or have the court draw up its own map. The court would face a tight deadline to act, with the 2022 election season getting in gear March 1.
“Through this map, Democrats have essentially guaranteed that they will win more congressional districts — and thus more power — than is warranted by the party’s popular support,” the lawsuit reads, later continuing: “Participation in the democratic process will decrease, as voting holds little appeal to those in gerrymandered districts because their votes cannot change the preordained outcomes of elections.” Democrats, including Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris of Queens, have defended the congressional maps as reflective of population loss in rural upstate communities.
US COVID – US Death Toll from COVID-19 Hits 900,000
Propelled in part by the wildly contagious omicron variant, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 900,000 on Friday, less than two months after eclipsing 800,000. “It is an astronomically high number. If you had told most Americans two years ago as this pandemic was getting going that 900,000 Americans would die over the next few years, I think most people would not have believed it,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
The latest bleak milestone came as omicron is loosening its grip on the country. New cases per day have plunged by almost a half-million since mid-January when they more than 800,000. Cases have been declining in 49 states in the last two weeks, by Johns Hopkins’ count, and the 50th, Maine, reported that confirmed infections are falling there, too, dropping sharply over the past week. Also, the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined 15% since mid-January to about 124,000.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update – Hospitalizations Continue to Drop
Vaccine Stats as of February 6:
One Vaccine Dose
- 87.9% of all New Yorkers – 16,244,205 (plus 7,593 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,687,775 (plus 621).
- 74.5% of all New Yorkers – 14,458,475 (plus 12,581).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,473,456 (plus 942).
- All New Yorkers – 6,608,359
- In the Hudson Valley – 791,131
The Governor updated COVID data through February 6. There were 68 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 66,730.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 5,147.
- Patients Currently in ICU Statewide: 854
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 4.65% – 37.78 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 4.56% – 32.68 positive cases per 100,00 population
Covid-19 Commission Modeled on 9/11 Inquiry Draws Bipartisan Backing
A broad and bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around legislation to create a high-level independent commission, modeled after the one that examined the Sept. 11 attacks, with broad powers to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and the response across the Trump and Biden administrations.
Under a plan proposed by the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Health Committee — Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina — a 12-member panel would have subpoena power to “get a full accounting of what went wrong during this pandemic,” Ms. Murray said in an interview, and make recommendations for the future.
Strong Jobs Report Points to Likely Fed Rate Rises in March and May
A steady gain in hiring last month keeps the Federal Reserve on track to lift interest rates next month and could prompt increases at meetings in May and June. Fed officials had already signaled they were prepared to look past Friday’s report amid fears of a hiring slowdown from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which surged across the U.S. last month. Instead, the report showed surprising strength in hiring, not just last month, but over the past several months.
Mr. Powell and his colleagues have signaled they are likely to continue raising interest rates after the March increase and that they could do so at a faster pace than the central bank did during the past decade because labor demand is historically strong and inflation is well above the Fed’s 2% target.
Ice Storm Wreaks Havoc in Mid-Hudson
A dangerous storm brought snow and ice to our region Thursday night and most of the day Friday, in some areas more than .6 inches of radial ice accumulated, nearly twice that of the initial weather forecasts. Many Council members and their employees have lost electricity and internet service.
With a field force of more than 680 line and tree professionals working to restore power, Ryan Hawthorne, Vice President of Electric Engineering and Operations for Central Hudson expects to have service restored to 95 percent of their customers by 7:00 pm today (Monday)
CDC Backs Full Approval of Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of Moderna Inc’s (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine in those aged 18 and over, the agency said on Friday. While the FDA approves vaccines, the CDC needs to sign off on how they will be implemented in the United States. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s green light is the final formality of the approval process.
The vaccine has been in use under the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization since December 2020, and is now the second fully approved vaccine for COVID-19 in the United States.E
After Court ETS Ruling Employers are Rethinking Vaccines, Starbucks, GE Drop Mandates, Many More Proceed
Not long after announcing its vaccine mandate for employees in December, Starbucks said recently it is dropping its vaccine policy, although the company said it’s still strongly encouraging workers to be vaccinated and boosted. Starbucks isn’t the only employer scrapping mandates: General Electric is another major employer to recently drop its mandate for employees.
Although some employers are dropping mandates as a result of last month’s Supreme Court ruling on the employer mandate, a greater number are moving ahead with their own policies. About a fifth of employers say the ruling has made them reconsider policies: 12% say they’re less likely to put a vaccine mandate in place, 5% say they’re less likely to put a testing strategy in place, and just 4% said they would drop their vaccine mandate. Another 29% said they haven’t made a decision yet.
Bi-Partisan “Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths (REEShore) Act Introduced in Senate.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) took a clear step toward national and economic security with the recent introduction of the Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths (REEShore) Act. The act first seeks a reinforced national stockpile, tasking the Departments of Interior and Defense to create a strategic reserve and add greater preparedness for military and other industrial sectors.
With the U.S. rare earth “pipeline” plainly dependent on China, national interests are exposed to just a singular disturbance. The effort, therefore, is unquestionably influenced by China’s primacy in this arena. Requirements for fact-checking minerals’ source of origin for defense-related elements will specifically assist supply chain mapping and identify potential vulnerabilities — as well as avenues to address such through allied partnerships.
Jobless Claims: 238,000 American Filed New Claims
Jobless claims trended lower in the latest weekly data, underscoring still-elevated demand for workers even as Omicron-related disruptions continued to exert pressure on the labor market. The Labor Department released its latest weekly jobless claims report Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main metrics from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:
- Initial jobless claims, week ended Jan. 29: 238,000 vs. 245,000 expected and a revised 261,000 during prior week
- Continuing claims, week ended Jan. 22: 1.628 million vs. 1.620 million expected and a revised 1.672 million during prior week
First-time unemployment claims fell for a back-to-back week after rising to the highest level since October in mid-January, coming in at nearly 300,000.
More Companies Invest in Robots
Companies across North America laid out more than $2 billion for almost 40,000 robots in 2021 to help them contend with record demand and a pandemic-fueled labor shortage. Robots went to work in a growing number of industries, expanding well beyond their historic surge in the automotive sector.
“The number one driver for automation is the labor shortage in manufacturing,” said Joe Campbell, a senior manager for applications development at Universal Robots, a unit of Massachusetts-based Teradyne Inc. which specializes in cobots. And the pandemic is not the only factor driving the change. Universal estimates 2,000 Baby Boomers are retiring daily in manufacturing, robbing factory floors of veteran expertise.
Ford Forecasts ’22 Production Will Rise 10%+, See Chip Shortage Easing
Ford Motor Co.’s leaders say that, despite a disappointing set of fourth-quarter results and supply-chain problems that are hurting sales early in 2022, the auto giant will ramp up production by more than 10% this year and grow its adjusted pretax profits by 15% to 25%.
President and CEO Jim Farley and his lieutenants are forecasting that EBIT will grow to between $11.5 billion and $12.5 billion, powered in part by continued strong pricing thanks to sticky demand. Capital spending for the year is expected to be between $7 billion and $8 billion versus $6.2 billion in 2021. Suppliers’ troubles with COVID-19 and semiconductors caused Q4 production to fall 11% and are expected to have first-quarter sales come in 10% below the levels of early ’21 but Ford’s leaders—echoing General Motors Corp.’s Mary Barra—see them easing as the year progresses.