China Power Crunch Hits GDP Growth

SHANGHAI — China’s economic growth continued to decelerate in the third quarter, as gross domestic product came in at 4.9%, softened by the country’s zero-tolerance COVID measures and energy shortages.

The year-on-year GDP growth rate, published on Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics for the three-month period through September, was below the median 5% expansion forecast by 29 economists in a Nikkei poll released earlier this month.

The figure slid from 7.9% for the April-to-June quarter, weighed down by high commodity prices amid uncertainty kindled by the China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis, which is piling risk onto the property and banking sectors.

The reading also reflects weak overall activity, including in manufacturing and consumer spending. Retail sales of consumer goods, a barometer of household spending, edged up by 4.4% in September, compared to 2.5% in August, but was still well below the double-digit growth that had continued till June.

Certain factors have persuaded economists to be cautious, at least for the near term. Rising coal prices are hitting the profitability of electricity providers, making the utilities reluctant to generate power. As it prioritizes supplying power to sectors that touch everyday life, the government is capping supplies to the steel, cement and other energy-intensive industries. The result has been less production and more inflation.

The statistics office last week announced that the producer price index for manufactured goods in September rose by 10.7% from a year earlier, the strongest surge in the past 25 years, as far back as comparable data goes.

The government forecasts China’s economy to grow 6% for all of 2021, the International Monetary Fund projects 8% and the Asian Development Bank 8.1%.

The economy expanded 9.8% in the first nine months of the year, largely driven by trade as both exports and imports jumped nearly 23% in yuan terms.

Service sector growth of 19.3%, led by software and information technology services, also stoked the nine-month expansion.

The statistics office said GDP grew 0.2% in the third quarter from the previous three months, which the U.K.’s Capital Economics noted is the second lowest since China began revealing such data in 2010.

Growth lost more steam in September as industrial production slid to 3.1% from 5.3% in August, while the official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 49.6. It slipped below 50 — which the statistics office says “reflects the overall economy is in recession” — for the first time since February 2020.

Meanwhile, officials have been playing down the country’s power crunch and worries over the Evergrande crisis.

“The energy supply shortage is temporary, and its impact on the economy is controllable,” Fu Lingxuan, the National Bureau of Statistics’ spokesperson told reporters on Monday, citing recent measures to boost coal supply.

Zou Lan, head of financial markets at the country’s central bank, said Evergrande had “blindly diversified and expanded business,” urging the property group to offload assets to raise funds to pay off debts.

“The risk exposure of individual financial institutions to Evergrande is not big and the spillover effect for the financial sector is controllable,” Zou said on Friday.

While fallout from the power shortages and concerns over the property market may have eased from September, their impact on China’s broader economy should not be underestimated and will be a major downside risk in the fourth quarter, warned Shanghai-based Yue Su, principal economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“The slowdown in the property sector will affect the activities of firms in areas such as construction contracting, building materials and home furnishing,” said Su, adding that energy-intensive industries will face rising costs as well.

Hong Kong-based Tommy Wu of Oxford Economics said policymakers are likely to take more steps to shore up growth, including ensuring ample liquidity in the interbank market, accelerating infrastructure development and relaxing some aspects of overall credit and real estate policies.

And not all economists agree with China’s official data.

Julian Evans-Pritchard of U.K.-based Capital Economics said the research firm’s in-house measure, the China Activity Proxy, tracked a sharp 3.9% quarter-on-quarter contraction in the third quarter, compared to a 3.0% expansion in the previous quarter.

“For now, the blow from the deepening property downturn is being softened by very strong exports,” said Evans-Pritchard. “But over the coming year, foreign demand is likely to drop back as global consumption patterns normalize coming out of the pandemic and backlogs of orders are gradually cleared.”

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped as much as 0.92% on Monday morning, before closing for the midday break down 0.35%.

By:

Source: China power crunch hits GDP growth – Nikkei Asia

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Economy Week Ahead: Inflation, Jobless Claims, Retail Sales

The outlook for the global economy darkened as a stream of data from Europe and Asia suggested growth faltered in the third quarter, hobbled by world-wide supply-chain snarls, sharply accelerating inflation and the impact of the highly contagious Delta variant.

U.S. inflation accelerated last month and remained at its highest rate in over a decade, with price increases from pandemic-related labor and materials shortages rippling through the economy from a year earlier.

The Labor Department said last month’s consumer-price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, rose by 5.4%

The gap between yields on shorter- and longer-term Treasury’s narrowed Wednesday after data showed inflation accelerated slightly in September, fueled by investors’ bets that the Federal Reserve may need to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected. Measures of inflation in China and the U.S. highlight this week’s economic data.

China’s exports, long a growth engine for the country’s economy, are expected to increase 21% from a year earlier in September, according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. That is down from a 25.6% gain in August. Meanwhile, inbound shipments are forecast to rise 19.1% from a year earlier, retreating from the 33.1% jump in August.

The International Monetary Fund releases its World Economic Outlook report during annual meetings. The latest forecasts are likely to underscore the relatively quick economic rebound of advanced economies alongside a slower recovery in developing nations with less access to Covid-19 vaccines.

China’s factory-gate prices for September are expected to surge 10.4% from a year earlier, a pace that would surpass its previous peak in 2008, according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. Higher commodity costs have led to the rise in producer prices this year, but so far that hasn’t fed through to consumer inflation. Economists forecast the consumer-price index rose only 0.7% from a year earlier in September.

September’s U.S. consumer-price index is expected to show inflation remained elevated as companies passed along higher costs for materials and labor. Rising energy prices likely contributed to the headline CPI, while core prices, which exclude food and energy, might start to reflect climbing shelter costs.

The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its September meeting, potentially offering additional insight on plans to start reducing pandemic-related stimulus.

U.S. jobless claims are forecast to fall for the second consecutive week as employers hold on to workers in a tight labor market. The data on claims, a proxy for layoffs, will cover the week ended Oct. 9.

U.S. retail sales are expected to fall in September. U.S. consumers appear to be in decent financial shape, but Covid-related caution, rising prices and widespread supply-chain disruptions are tamping down purchases. The auto industry has been especially hard hit by a semiconductor shortage—separate data released earlier this month show U.S. vehicle sales in September fell to their lowest level since early in the pandemic.

By: WSJ staff

Source: Economy Week Ahead: Inflation, Jobless Claims, Retail Sales – TechiLive.in

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The Future Is Looking Up for Small Businesses But Hiring Struggles Continue

A shortage of workers remains a big concern for business owners, and there’s no clear evidence yet that the end of federal unemployment benefits is boosting the labor supply

A lot has changed since unemployment reached a record rate of 14.8 percent in April 2020. Job openings are at their highest number since 2000 — and businesses can’t seem to fill them fast enough.

After any number of pandemic-related setbacks, small businesses are once again optimistic about the near future. Nearly three-fourths expect to increase sales in the next six months — but hiring struggles are putting a damper on these prospects, according to a survey of 500 small-to-medium-size businesses conducted in August 2021 and released yesterday by PNC.

Labor availability is the most-cited concern, and of the those experiencing hiring difficulties, 58 percent point to enhanced federal unemployment benefits as the culprit. With expanded federal unemployment benefits having ended on Labor Day — reducing unemployment pay by $300 a week — businesses widely believed this cut-off would lead to a surge in job applicants.

But the expected surge hasn’t yet materialized. A study released in late August authored by economists Kyle Coombs of Columbia University, Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and others, showed that in the 22 states that ended these federal employment benefits earlier in June, there was only a small rise in employment in subsequent months — 4.4 percent.

Small businesses are now addressing the labor shortage directly by improving pay and benefits. Of those businesses surveyed, more than four in 10 say they’ve increased compensation to help attract and retain talent, and 44 percent have started allowing more flexible work arrangements. Nearly half have also begun implementing improved health and safety measures.

These changes don’t come without a cost. More than half (54 percent) of business owners surveyed say they anticipate raising prices to compensate for increased labor costs and inflation. Once this cost is passed on to consumers, individuals who previously received federal unemployment benefits may, at last, feel increasing financial pressure to re-enter the job market.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Future Is Looking Up for Small Businesses — But Hiring Struggles Continue | Inc.com

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4 Tech Tools Your Business Needs During Natural Disasters

Every day brings new headlines about hurricanes, floods, or wildfires disrupting daily life. As a business owner, you have the added responsibility of deciding when to shut down operations, as well as ensuring your workers are safe and informed of developments. You may have to respond to employees who have been displaced from their homes, or are unable to get to work due to unsafe conditions. That can be a huge challenge when electrical grids are knocked out or wildfires disrupt cell towers.

Here are a few tools and tips that can help your business prepare for and even continue functioning in a natural disaster.

1. Set up a Whatsapp group for emergencies

An internet or power outage can cut off employees’ access to email. Consider setting up a group chat on Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, or another end-to-end encrypted messaging app instead. Such platforms allow users to send and receive messages using either Wi-Fi or mobile data; while most natural disasters pose serious risks to cell and internet infrastructure, one outage may get fixed before the other.

For example, despite an internet outage following the January 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico, many people were able to stay connected through mobile networks. Some ISPs will make their public Wi-Fi hotspots available for free during natural disasters.

Whatsapp also allows users to share their live location, which has helped first responders find missing people. Many companies already use Whatsapp or other messaging apps for internal communications, but there are privacy risks associated with regularly using any app. Instead, consider making such apps an emergency-only tool so employees will only have to use them sparingly.

2. Consider a device with LEO connectivity

Satellite internet is still far from common, and far from a necessity. But LEO (low earth orbit) tech will become cheaper and more available in the near future. Apple’s upcoming iPhone 13 reportedly will feature LEO hardware, which means that users can send or receive messages through satellite internet in case 4G or 5G networks are down.

When available, that might be the most cost-effective satellite internet solution; many satellite internet phones range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Another option is to set up your employees with satellite internet at home. Satellite internet providers like Viasat and HughesNet have special plans for small businesses.

3. Keep track of fuel shortages with GasBuddy

If you or your employees are struggling to find fuel during a hurricane or snowstorm, a free mobile app can help. GasBuddy, which locates the nearest gas station with available fuel, became one of the most-downloaded apps during the Colonial Pipeline hacks earlier this year. The app also has a crowdsourced dashboard that keeps track of fuel outages by city.

4. Inform customers through social media

If you already have an active social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, those channels can come in handy to announce store closures or any changes in hours. It’s likely many of your customers are scouring social media anyway for the latest updates on the weather. Be sure your post doesn’t get lost in the shuffle by using the name of the disaster as a hashtag or within the text of the post. Clearly mention the day and date, so prospective customers don’t get fooled by an old post. Also, be sure to update your social feeds once your business is operating again.

By Amrita Khalid, Staff writer@askhalid

Source: 4 Tech Tools Your Business Needs During Natural Disasters | Inc.com

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Pingdemic Staff Shortages: How Business Can Cope With Isolating Employees

Despite the lifting of most legal COVID-19 restrictions on July 19, the pandemic’s effect on the health, economy and wellbeing of the English public is far from over. The latest development is in the form of the “pingdemic” –- the term referring to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been instructed to self-isolate in recent weeks via the NHS COVID-19 track and trace app.

The so-called pingdemic has had a massively disruptive effect on businesses, who are suffering from widespread staff shortages across sectors. Another casualty is the food supply chain. We are missing items on our supermarket shelves as a result of shortages of workers both because of the pingdemic and Brexit complications.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that people may be deleting or disabling the app, posing a threat to the attempts to control the spread of COVID variants. Business leaders, confused by conflicting government guidance, are now caught between the need to protect their employees’ health and safety, and to avoid the financial impact of closures after many months of lost income.

The government has attempted to combat this through an emergency plan to exempt NHS staff and some key workers, such as in the food supply industry, from isolating if they are pinged, so long as they take daily COVID tests and are fully vaccinated. But food bosses say they have not been properly briefed on what they think is a bureaucratic process to exempt workers.

Get coronavirus updates from health experts

The app, despite its various flaws, is doing what it is designed to do -– businesses cannot ignore requirements to self-isolate, but must be flexible in how they handle employees who have been pinged.

Of course, as has been highlighted throughout the pandemic, there is a vast gap between jobs that can and cannot be done remotely. While no solution will be one-size-fits-all, there are a few things that businesses affected by isolating workers can do to mitigate the disruption and ensure the safety of both their employees and their business success.

How can businesses respond?

Now that we are hopefully on the way out of the depths of the pandemic, the pingdemic calls for businesses to persevere and innovate. This means that in the short term, they may need to rotate employees into different roles, as well as change existing ways of working.

Employers should make workplace changes to reduce the likelihood of contact with others and being pinged – whether this means returning to early-COVID days of social distancing, reduced opening hours, or more people working from home.

If they have not done so already, businesses who can afford to should set up isolation funds, independent of the government’s support payments for low-income individuals, to ensure that workers experience no financial impact from being asked to isolate. If a job cannot be done from home, employers could use the opportunity to invest in remote training or development for workers who are healthy but have been asked to isolate.

For sectors like social care and construction, partnerships with employment agencies could temporarily increase their pool of workers and provide a “safety net” of employees.

Businesses in sectors like retail and hospitality may have to initially operate under reduced hours. But looking to the longer term, they could learn to cope with staff shortages in different ways. For example, a warehouse operative may rotate to an administrative position while they are in isolation, or help to train agency workers remotely, or work on their own development and training.

HGV drivers are currently in high demand due to staff shortages in their industry. This has led to a potentially dangerous situation where some are driving for too many hours. Government plans to improve working conditions and recruit more drivers have not been received well, and industry groups are calling for longer-term proposals to combat the shortage, including better pay and new recruitment techniques.

Business leaders, like all citizens, have a moral responsibility to protect others and prevent further pressure on the NHS. They should respond in a way which protects their employees, and gives them adequate financial protection and flexibility to self-isolate, as well as making workplace changes to reduce the likelihood of being pinged.

Finally, as much as the pingdemic is a concern, it may also be a distraction from wider sociopolitical issues like Brexit, an ageing population, inflation and increasingly also youth unemployment – not to mention the continuing health threat of COVID-19.

Misinformation and outlandish claims are reaching a wider audience now more than ever. The Conversation publishes research-informed journalism by academics to help you understand what’s really happening. Our only aim is to make sure people hear from experts. But without your support, we won’t be able to keep going.

Authors:

Senior Lecturer in International Human Resource Management, University of Portsmouth

Reader in Leadership & Development, Manchester Metropolitan University

Source: Pingdemic staff shortages: how business can cope with isolating employees

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How to Build a Water-Smart City

As water shortages and drought become increasingly common, cities will need to invest in infrastructure and find ways to recycle their supply.

Cities across time have stretched to secure water. The Romans built aqueducts, the Mayans constructed underground storage chambers, and Hohokam farmers dug more than 500 miles of canals in what is now the U.S. Southwest.

Today’s cities use portfolios of technologies to conserve supply — everything from 60-story dams and chemicals to centrifugal pumps and special toilets. And yet, the cities of tomorrow will have to do more.

A recent United Nations report on drought says climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and duration of droughts, which contribute to food insecurity, poverty and inequality. The report also asserts that “drought has been the single longest-term physical trigger of political change in 5,000 years of recorded human history.” It calls for urgent action and a transformation in governance to manage modern drought risk more effectively.

Examples can be found globally. In 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly averted a “Day Zero,” when the taps would have run dry. Indian aquifers are falling fast. The Colorado River, a water source for 40 million people, faces dire shortages as the American West slides deeper into “megadrought.” By 2050, the world’s population is projected to near 10 billion, increasing water demand by 55%. And by then, two-thirds of people will live in cities.

US-CLIMATE-DROUGHT
Houseboats sit in low water on Lake Oroville on July 25, 2021, as California’s drought emergency worsens.
Photographer: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

“As cities continue to grow, they will have more water demand from many sectors: residential, industrial, ecological,” says Enrique Vivoni, a hydrologist at Arizona State University. “City planners have to think ahead, and not only 5, 10 years, but perhaps 50 or 100 years.”

Every place is different when it comes to preparing for these challenges, but some tactics are universally applicable enough that they can be united into a blueprint for the water-smart cities of tomorrow.

Recycle Water

Experts point to one way everyone on the planet can conserve water: Use it more than once. We recycle plastics and metals, but why not water? Dragan Savic, chief executive officer of KWR Water Research Institute in the Netherlands, believes recycling at home is a “huge” opportunity. Newsha Ajami, director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford University’s Water in the West initiative, says onsite reuse is perhaps the best way to improve efficiency.

“If we think about the cities that we have right now, it’s pretty much a one-use system,” Ajami says. “So, water comes in, we use it once, it goes out. You flush down the toilet the same water that you drink, which is not very efficient, if you think about it.”

Homes should use water many times, according to Ajami. A multi-use approach is possible because several uses — landscaping, gardening and toilet water — don’t require drinking-quality water. Many of these needs can be met with greywater, meaning waste-free recycled water. As much as 75% of domestic water can be reused as greywater.

Installation of diverter valve for greywater system at new home construction site, California
A diverter valve for a greywater system is installed at a new home construction site in Los Angeles. A branched greywater system diverts discarded water from sinks and washing machines away from sewage lines, and recycles it back via a gravity-fed drain system for irrigation and back into the aquifer.
Photographer: Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Consider the toilet. Toilets account for up to 30% of indoor domestic water use. However, toilet water could be second use, routed from sinks, showers and dishwashers, cutting demand. Some cities are acting on this knowledge. Sydney, Australia, has designed Green Square, a town center designed for sustainability and water reuse, including as toilet water. Microsoft’s office in Herzliya, Israel, is routing greywater to toilets as well.

Greywater can also help meet water needs for landscaping, which comprises almost one-third of residential American water use. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that informed plant selection can save 20% to 50% of landscaping water. Proper irrigation can save even more.

Measure Usage

More precise data on water usage could also aid conservation. With better water metering, people might better understand their home usage, both indoors and outdoors.

“Water is less measured than other systems, like transportation,” KWR’s Savic says. “If you don’t measure it, you cannot manage it.”

Ajami says she believes a “Nest-like device” that measures water usage by category could aid in such efforts. It might, for one, “let you know that you’re using too much water in the shower.” She also advocates for reforming water utilities themselves, since those companies profit from increased usage. Rate structures must be decoupled in a way that lets utilities recover their costs regardless of the water volume they sell.

“If you want to promote conservation, these utilities are not set for these consumption patterns,” Ajami says. “They’re selling you a commodity.”

Get Creative

As water becomes scarcer, some have even returned to the ancient art of rainwater harvesting, which can relieve pressure on surface water and groundwater sources if scaled broadly.

Cities across the globe are encouraging the practice, and, even in the driest of places, people have found a way to collect and store rain. In Tucson, Arizona, resident Brad Lancaster meets 95% of his water needs via rain. Many American cities offer financial incentives to people who install rainwater harvesting systems, making local water systems more resilient. In India, mandatory rainwater harvesting laws have arisen in some states and cities, like Tamil Nadu and New Delhi.

“Every drop of water we harvest from an alternative source is a drop of water we’re not taking out of the environment in a different way,” Ajami says.

Air conditioner condensate is another water source with potential, though it’s not likely to be a major contributor, especially in cities lacking humidity. Water is a byproduct of air conditioning. Places like the San Diego Airport and the Austin Public Library are collecting this water condensate and using it for power-washing, gardening and even brewing beer.

In the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S., greater Phoenix, towns are ramping up reclaimed wastewater use, efforts that have led to some reduction in groundwater dependency. Similarly, Orange County in California has set records for reclaimed wastewater production. And in the desert city of Windhoek, capital of Namibia, reclaimed wastewater has been a vital water source for 50 years.

Desalination is another possibility. Turning salt water to fresh water has proven an important water source even in wet cities like London. The largest desalination plant in North America, in San Diego, produces tens of millions of gallons of freshwater per day. The process, however, is energy intensive and often uses fossil fuels (for now), meaning cities must balance costs and carbon emissions with their water needs.

Additionally, there are offsite water sources with narrower applicability, like the fog-catching machines of Lima, Peru. Even the International Space Station treats astronaut sweat, urine and breath moisture for water reuse.

Tackle the Underlying Cause

Cities can employ a range of solutions to tackle water scarcity, but climate change remains the root cause of many looming water issues. It drives supply-side water problems — lowering rivers, increasing evapotranspiration and disrupting precipitation patterns. If greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed, supply-side problems might be mitigated, according to water experts. (Demand, however, will continue to rise with population.)

Even so, some warming is already a certainty, and cities will need to become far more water efficient and invest in related education. Outdated pipes and water infrastructure must be updated. Savic emphasizes the need to equip water systems with cybersecurity. There are also a host of potential policy changes, including requiring buildings to reuse water, encouraging greywater systems, and pursuing innovative financing, like the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Fee that Tucson charges residents. That money funds rainwater capture systems and the development of green spaces.

“We are buildings future cities today,” says Ajami. “Every new development that goes up is going to be around for another 20, 40 or 100 years.”

When to build the necessary water-smart future cities? In a perfect world, 20, 40 or 100 years ago. But in our world, now.

By: Chris Malloy

Source: How to Build a Water-Smart City – Bloomberg

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How ‘Chaos’ In The Shipping Industry Is Choking The Economy

Whidbey Island is a lovely place about 30 miles north of Seattle on the Puget Sound. Most days the tranquil sounds of rolling waves and chirping birds provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. But these days, all is not so serene. Residents are complaining about the ruckus created by humongous container ships anchored off their shore.

“We’ve never seen them this close before,” a Whidbey Islander told a local news station. “We’re hearing the throbbing noise at night. … It’s a nuisance.” The noise has been so loud that residents have been complaining to the county sheriff’s office about it.

Whidbey Islanders are getting a front row seat to the growing U.S. trade deficit, which is hitting record highs. It’s fueled by a surge in demand for imports, mostly from East Asia. There’s so much cargo being shipped to the U.S. from Asia right now that the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are chock-full of container ships.

“We are seeing a historic surge of cargo volume coming into our ports,” says Tom Bellerud, the chief operations officer of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages all cargo processing at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. “The terminals are having a difficult time keeping up with processing all the cargo off these vessels fast enough.”

On both land and at sea, the entire supply chain is struggling to keep up. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s become such a clusterfest that the U.S. Coast Guard has been redirecting boats to anchor off the coast of Whidbey Island and other places they typically don’t park. Ship crews are having to wait days, even weeks, for the chance to dock at the ports and offload their precious goods.

It’s the same story up and down the West Coast. In San Francisco Bay, the traffic jam of container ships has gotten so bad that the U.S. Coast Guard has been asking ships not to enter the bay at all. Robert Blomerth, director of the USCG’s San Francisco Vessel Traffic Service, said last week that there were 16 container ships waiting in the open ocean outside the Golden Gate to get in and unload their cargo. He says it’s “completely abnormal.”

When we spoke to Gene Seroka, the head of the Port of Los Angeles, he said his port had 19 ships waiting to dock and they’re now waiting, on average, about five days to get in. In normal times, they don’t have to wait at all.

Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, has spent 20 years studying the industry and he says what’s going on is unprecedented. “The container shipping industry is in a state of chaos that I don’t think it has ever been since it was invented,” he says.

The maiden voyage of the first container ship set sail from Newark, N.J., back in 1956. It may be hard to fathom just how big a deal this innovation was. It was just a big ship that carried containers, literally metal boxes. But these metal boxes enabled ships to carry dramatically more cargo, and, by standardizing shipping practices and using new machines to handle the boxes, shippers were able to slash costs and the time it takes to load, unload and transport that cargo.

Economists credit these metal boxes with increasing the efficiency of shipping so much that it stitched the modern global economy together more than anything else — more than all free-trade agreements put together.

Now economists are concerned that the plumbing provided by these miracle boxes and the vessels that transport them is clogged. It’s making it more difficult for stores to restock their shelves, manufacturers, carmakers and builders to get the parts they need, and farmers to export their products. It’s an important reason, analysts say, that we’re seeing consumer prices surge.

How did shipping get topsy-turvy?

In the early days of the pandemic, global trade hit an iceberg and sank into the abyss. The decline of maritime shipping was so dramatic that American scientists saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study what happened to whales in the absence of a constant deluge of vessels. The noise from the ships apparently stresses them out — kind of like they’re currently stressing out the residents of Whidbey Island.

Greater tranquility for whales in the first half of 2020 was the result of shipping companies canceling their trips and docking their ships. Then the economy rebounded, and American consumers unleashed a tidal wave of demand that swept through the shipping industry when they started shifting their spending patterns. Unable to spend money on going out, many started spending their money (and their stimulus checks) on manufactured goods — stuff that largely comes from China on container ships.

At first, it wasn’t the ships that were the problem; it was the containers. When the buying spree began, Chinese exporters struggled to get their hands on enough empty boxes, many of which were still stranded in the U.S. because of all the canceled trips at the beginning of the pandemic. More importantly, processing containers here has been taking longer because of all the disruptions and inefficiencies brought about by the pandemic. Containers have been piling up at dockyards, and trains and trucks have struggled to get them out fast enough.

“The pandemic has exacerbated longstanding problems with the nation’s supply chain, not just at the ports but in the warehouses, distribution centers, railroads, and other places that need to run smoothly in order for Longshore workers to move cargo off of the ships,” says Cameron Williams.

He’s an official at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dock workers, primarily on the West Coast. Dock workers have been working through the pandemic to handle the increased cargo volume, he says, and at least 17 ILWU workers lost their lives to COVID-19. “We continue to work hard and break records month after month to clear the cargo as quickly as the supply chain allows,” Williams says.

It’s been all hands on deck to supply ravenous consumers and businesses with the stuff they want. The resulting traffic jams at West Coast ports means it takes longer to unload stuff, which then extends the time it takes for ships to get back across the Pacific to reload.

That congestion was already creating massive delays on both ends of the shipping supply chain, tying up large numbers of containers and ships and leading to growing backlogs and shortages. Then, in March 2021, the Ever Given, one of the largest container ships in the world, got stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt. While the blockage didn’t directly affect the Asia-West Coast shipping corridor, it added to the global shortage of ships and containers by stranding even more of them out at sea.

As if all this weren’t enough, last month there was a COVID-19 outbreak at the Yantian International Container Terminal in China, which is normally one of the busiest ports in the world. The Chinese government implemented stringent measures to control the outbreak, and as a result, more than 40 container ships had to anchor and wait. “In terms of the amount of cargo, what’s going on in South China right now is an even larger disturbance than the Suez canal incident,” Jensen says.

The effects on the American economy

With so much shipping capacity bogged down, importers and exporters have been competing for scarce containers and vessels and bidding up the price of shipping. The cost of shipping a container from China/East Asia to the West Coast has tripled since 2019, according to the Freightos Baltic Index. Many big importers pay for shipping through annual contracts, which means they’ve been somewhat insulated from surging prices, but they are starting to feel the pain as they renegotiate contracts.

Rising shipping costs and delays are starving the economy of the stuff it needs and contributing to shortages and inflation. It’s not just consumers and retailers that are affected: American exporters are complaining that shipping companies are so desperate to get containers back to China quickly that they’re making the return trip across the Pacific without waiting to fill up containers with American-made products. That’s bad news for those exporters — and for America’s ballooning trade deficit.

As for when it’s going to get better, none of the people we spoke to believes it’ll be anytime soon. And it’s not even considered peak season for the shipping industry yet. That typically begins in August, when American stores start building their inventories for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. The residents of Whidbey Island may have to continue dealing with the nuisance of gigantic, noisy ships cluttering up the horizon for the foreseeable future.

By:

Source: How ‘Chaos’ In The Shipping Industry Is Choking The Economy : Planet Money : NPR

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References:

Shipbuilding NewsCruise Ship News, Ports News ,Salvage News ,Training News ,Government News, Environment News,Corporate News, Maritime Executive , Volga Targets Market, Nuclear-Powered Cargo Ship, China’s Exports, American Vulkan’s Service Team, JFE Steel, OMSA, OceanManager Inc.

Here’s What Could Happen When $300 Unemployment Expires, According To Goldman Sachs


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Amid reports of labor shortages and fears of economic overheating thanks to what some view as excessive government stimulus spending, a total of 26 states are now planning to end the $300 federal unemployment supplement in order to spur hiring—here’s what analysts from Goldman Sachs expect to happen once payments stop.

Key Facts

Goldman’s analysts point out that since 25 of the states ending the benefit early only account for 29% of pandemic job losses, it’s likely that the pressures on the labor market—worker shortages and a depressed labor force participation rate—will continue until the benefits expire in every state at the beginning of September.

The analysts note that it’s too soon to say how the early end of benefits will affect official employment statistics—that insight will likely be contained in the July jobs report the Labor Department will publish in August.

That said, claims for regular state unemployment insurance benefits have fallen faster in states that have announced they will end the supplement early—the analysts say this is a “hint” that hiring will pick up once the benefits are phased out, but note that other data like the volume of job postings don’t yet support that conclusion.

The analysts say their “best guess” is that the expiring benefits will “provide a significant tailwind to hiring in the coming months,” spurring growth of more than 150,000 jobs in July and more than 400,000 jobs in September, though they note that the prediction is still uncertain.

Based on previous academic studies, the analysts estimate that a typical worker receiving regular state benefits will see those benefits drop by 50% once the $300 supplement expires in their state, and the duration of their unemployment would fall roughly 25%.

Crucial Quote

“The temporary boost in unemployment benefits . . . helped people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are still maybe in the process of getting vaccinated, but it’s going to expire in 90 days,” President Biden said during prepared remarks after the release of the May jobs report last week. “That makes sense.”

Big Number

$12 billion. That’s how much local economies in the 24 red states that had announced an early termination of the $300 federal supplement as of June 2 are expected to lose as a result of ending the benefit early, according to a report from Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.

Surprising Fact

On Thursday, Louisiana became the first state with a Democratic governor to announce the early expiration of the $300 supplement. The other 25 states have Republican governors.

Key Background

An emergency federal unemployment insurance supplement was first authorized in the amount of $600 per week as part of the CARES Act last year. A new supplement of $300 was authorized by executive order under President Trump after the first supplement lapsed. The $300 supplement was extended once by Congress as part of a stimulus bill last December, and again by Congress as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Further Reading

Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards Becoming First Democratic Governor To Cut $300-A-Week Federal Unemployment Benefits (Forbes)

Biden: It ‘Makes Sense’ That $300 Unemployment Will End In September (Forbes)

California And Florida Are Sending Out More Stimulus Checks. Could Your State Be Next? (Forbes)

IRS Releases Child Tax Credit Payment Dates—Here’s When Families Can Expect Relief (Forbes)

Source: Here’s What Could Happen When $300 Unemployment Expires, According To Goldman Sachs

I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.

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Critics:

Several coronavirus relief bills have been considered by the federal government of the United States:

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.First proposed on January 14, 2021, the package builds upon many of the measures in the CARES Act from March 2020 and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, from December.

Beginning on February 2, 2021, Democrats in the United States Senate started to open debates on a budget resolution that would allow them to pass the stimulus package without support from Republicans through the process of reconciliation. The House of Representatives voted 218–212 to approve its version of the budget resolution.

A vote-a-rama session started two days later after the resolution was approved, and the Senate introduced amendments in the relief package. The day after, Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote as vice president in order to give the Senate’s approval to start the reconciliation process, with the House following suit by voting 219–209 to agree to the Senate version of the resolution.

Prior to the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act from March and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, from December were both signed into law by then-president Donald Trump. Trump previously expressed support for a direct payments of $2,000 along with Joe Biden and the Democrats. Even though Trump called for Congress to pass a bill increasing the direct payments from $600 to $2,000, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the bill.

Additionally, the House voted on the HEROES Act on May 15, 2020, which would operate as a $3 trillion relief package, but it wasn’t considered by the Senate as Republicans said that it would be “dead on arrival”.Prior to the Georgia Senate runoffs, Biden said that the direct payments of $2,000 would be passed only if Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won; the promise of comprehensive Covid-19 relief legislation was reported as a factor in their eventual victories.On January 14, prior to being inaugurated as president, Biden announced the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

See also

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