Member Briefing February 2, 2022

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Job Openings Totaled Nearly 11 Million in December, 4.6 Million Above the Total Number of Unemployed

Job openings totaled nearly 11 million in December while the Great Resignation cooled off, according to Labor Department data Tuesday. Vacancies rose to 10.92 million, well above the FactSet estimate for 10.28 million and an increase of 1.4% from November. The rate of job openings as a share of the labor force was unchanged at 6.8%. December’s numbers further pointed to how close the economy is to full employment. There were 4.6 million more vacancies than workers considered unemployed for the month.

The quits level, which had soared to record highs in recent months amid a confluence of factors, moved lower to 4.34 million, a decrease of 3.6%. The quits rate fell to 2.9%, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point.

Read more at CNBC


ISM: U.S. Factories Grow at Slowest Pace in 14 Months, Prices Rise

The closely followed ISM barometer of manufacturers slipped to a 14-month low of 57.6% in January as a torrent of omicron cases thumped the U.S. economy and shortages of labor and supplies hindered production. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal forecast the index to decline to 57.7% from 58.8% in December. Any number above 50% signifies growth. 

Although the index is still quite strong historically, it’s fallen three straight months. Prices for raw materials and others supplies also rose again, complicating the decision by manufacturers on how much to buy. The good news? Orders and production are still quite robust, a sign of steady customer demand.

Read more at MarketWatch


Port Congestion Spreads Across More U.S. Import Gateways

Port congestion is spreading across the country, threatening to extend shipping delays and drive up costs for importers seeking to get around the bottlenecks at Southern California’s big gateway complex. Container ships are backing up off coastlines from Oakland, Calif., to Charleston, S.C., because of a record flow of boxes into and out of the country combined with worker shortages triggered by Covid-19’s fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Ship backups that plagued U.S. ports throughout the pandemic have been mainly concentrated along the West Coast. Niels Madsen, a vice president of operations at Denmark-based Sea-Intelligence ApS, said a rise in backups at East Coast ports suggests congestion is worsening there.

Read more at the WSJ


Trucker Protest Strands Beef Shipments at U.S.-Canada Border

Protesters who are rallying against vaccine mandates are holding up shipments of Canadian beef to the U.S. More than 150 loads of beef are stuck at the border at Coutts, Alberta, the Canadian Meat Council said Monday. A blockade of vehicles has been slowing traffic at the crossing between Alberta and Montana since the weekend in a protest against rules that require truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the convoy of truckers and other protesters who have blockaded parts of Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. The protest has become a catch-all movement against Covid restrictions, with many demonstrators carrying anti-Trudeau flags and signs.

“It is not yet clear what the provincial or federal government is doing to facilitate a resolution. The longer this takes, it will cause more supply chain issues and this will affect everyone from producer to consumer,” Marie-France MacKinnon, a spokesperson for the council, said by email. 

Read more at Supply Chain Brain


US COVID - “Stealth Omicron,” Scientists Watching a Sublineage of the original Omicron Variant Known as BA.2

Only about 2 months from first being detected, the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus—the most common form of which is called BA.1—has become the predominant variant worldwide, accounting for nearly 99% of all sequenced cases as of the end of January. Scientists are now tracking a sublineage of the original Omicron variant known as BA.2, or “stealth Omicron,” as well as 2 other subvariants, BA.1.1529 and BA.3. A growing number of cases are being attributed to BA.2, including 82% of new cases in Denmark,* 9% in the UK, and 8% in the US. Though BA.2 appears to be even more transmissible than its cousin, according to a Danish study, vaccines remain effective—perhaps more so—against it than BA.1. 

In a study posted online last week on the preprint server bioRxiv, researchers describe unusual genetic mutations in Omicron’s BA.1 lineage and postulate that it likely evolved under unusual conditions, such as within the body of a person with a compromised immune system. The research—which suggests that Omicron developed over time and not in a stepwise fashion from the last variant, Delta—makes it clear that scientists are unable to predict how and where the next variant will evolve, nor whether it will be more transmissible or virulent. 

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  - Hospitalizations Continue to Drop

Vaccine Stats as of February 1:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 87.6% of all New Yorkers – 16,196,420 (plus 8,823 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,683,134  (plus 1,527).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 74.1% of all New Yorkers – 14,390,881   (plus 10,673).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,467,079  (plus 1,502). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers - 5,923,921
  • In the Hudson Valley - 708,836   

The Governor updated COVID data through February 1.  There were 122 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 66,319. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 7,119.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  - Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 6.27%    -   59.04 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 5.82%   -   52.82 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


The New Clues About Who Will Develop Long COVID

The variety of reasons one person might get long Covid and another might not also reinforce scientists’ increasing belief that there won’t be a single cause or treatment for the condition. Asthma. Unhealthy gut bacteria. The presence of autoantibodies, usually associated with autoimmune conditions.

These are among the risk factors identified in new studies as potentially making someone at greater risk of developing long Covid, a condition in which wide-ranging symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and racing heart rate persist months after an initial Covid-19 infection. The studies help advance scientists’ understanding of the biology behind long Covid, and provide clues to potential treatments. Patients with autoantibodies, for instance, might get relief from existing treatments for lupus, an autoimmune disease.

Read more at the WSJ


COVID-19 Vaccine for Young Kids Could be Ready this Month

Pfizer-BioNTech is expected to file a submission for emergency use to the Food and Drug Administration for a vaccine regimen designed for use in children aged six months to five years, according to a person familiar with the plan. The companies could file for the authorization as early as Tuesday.  Emergency use authorization could allow children to begin a two-dose regimen, which would prepare children between 2-5 years old to receive a third shot when the data demonstrates its effective.

Pfizer plans to test a third dose of its COVID vaccine on infants and young children
Clinical trials last fall showed that the low doses of the vaccine generated protection in children up to 2 years old but failed to do so in kids aged 2-5. The companies announced in December they'd add a third dose to its trials, which would delay the submission to the FDA.

Read more at NPR


US-China Trade Relations in 'Difficult' Stage: Tai

Trade relations between Washington and Beijing are at a "difficult" stage but President Biden's administration is committed to protecting the US economy from negative impacts of China's policies, the top American trade official said Monday. The two countries signed a so-called "phase one" agreement in January 2020, in which Beijing pledged to increase its purchases of American products and services by at least $200 billion over 2020 and 2021.T

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said her team will "engage robustly" with China in ongoing talks over Beijing's commitments to buy American goods under a deal signed under former president Donald Trump. "We're in a very difficult stage of this trade relationship," Tai said, adding that "the conversations are not easy."

Read more at IndustryWeek


China Factory Activity Edges Down in January Amid COVID Outbreaks

Factory activity in China edged down in January, official figures showed Sunday, but slightly exceeded expectations as businesses struggled with sporadic disruptions due to coronavirus outbreaks. The Purchasing Managers' Index -- a key gauge of manufacturing activity -- in the world's second-largest economy inched down to 50.1, just above the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction.

The data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows a slight decrease from last month's reading of 50.3, when activity was buoyed by an easing of commodity prices.

Read more at IndustryWeek


CDC Advises Against Travel to Mexico, Brazil, Singapore

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday issued travel advisories for a dozen countries — including Mexico, Brazil and Singapore — citing high rates of COVID-19 infections. These countries were raised to the CDC's highest COVID-19 warning, "Level Four: Very High." The State Department also raised the risk of general travel to Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Peru, and several other countries to "Level 4: Do Not Travel." 

The omicron variant has caused a worldwide surge in cases and the CDC now lists over 60 countries as places to avoid due to COVID-19.


U.S. Steel Production Up 18% Last Year

Steel mills in the United States produced 86 million tons last year, a 18% year-over-year jump, according to the World Steel Association.  The United States ranked fourth worldwide in steel production last year, according to the association. In December, U.S. steel mills produced 7.2 million tons of steel, an 11.9% increase.

Mills worldwide produced 1.9 billion tons of steel last year, a 3.7% increase as compared to 2020. Worldwide steel production fell 3% to 158.7 million tons in December.  Africa made 16 million tons of steel last year, a 26.7% increase as compared to 2020. Steel production fell by 0.6% to 1.38 billion tons in Asia and Oceania. Output rose 15.4% to 152.5 million tons in the Commonwealth of Independent States in Eurasia; by 27.1% to 11.6 million tons in the European Union; by 11.6% to 51.2 million tons in the rest of Europe; by 1.2% to 41.2 million tons in the Middle East; and by 17.8% to 45.6 million tons in South America.

Read more at Northwest Indiana Time


Small Manufacturers Pursuing State Tax Cut

New York’s manufacturing industry has been resilient during the pandemic, despite supply chain issues that have created capacity issues. Manufacturers Association of Central New York President, and Chairman of the Manufacturers Alliance of New York, Randy Wolken discusses changes to the state tax code and federal investments that could help grow the sector in New York on the Capitol Pressroom.

Passthrough tax breaks for manufacturing, will be a focal point of our advocacy efforts in Albany this year including at Advocacy Day March 9th.

Listen to the Interview


Boeing Wins Qatar Airways Order for 737 Max Planes, New 777X Freighters

Boeing won a big order from Qatar Airways on Monday as the airline feuds with rival manufacturer Airbus.  Shares of Boeing surged on the orders, ending the day up 5.1% at $200.24.

The order is worth $34 billion at list prices, the aircraft manufacturer said, though airlines usually receive discounts, especially for such large orders.

Read more at CNBC