Daily Briefing – 433

U.S. Trade Deficit in Goods Jumps 17.5% to $97.8 Billion as Imports Surge

The trade deficit in goods surged by 17.5% in November to set an all-time high, largely reflecting faster improvement in the U.S. economy compared to most other countries.  An advanced look at the trade gap in goods showed that it increased to $97.8 billion in November from $83.2 billion in October, the U.S. Census Bureau said. The U.S. is on track in 2021 to post its biggest annual shortfall on record.

An advanced estimate of wholesale inventories, meanwhile, revealed a 1.2% increase in November. And retail inventories jumped 2%, according to an early estimate. Companies sought to stock up ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season, but manufacturing-production bottlenecks, congestion at U.S. ports and other transportations snafus have caused big fluctuations month to month. 

Read more at MarketWatch

Longtime Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Dies

Former Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.), one of the Senate’s longest-serving majority leaders and a Democrat who played a central role in enacting former President Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishments, died Tuesday at 82 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Reid served as majority leader from 2006 to 2014 before retiring from politics in 2017 as one of the most influential and powerful Democratic leaders ever to serve in Washington. Reid, whose service as majority leader was surpassed only by former Sens. Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Alben Barkley (D-Ky.), was not afraid to engage in open partisan warfare on the Senate floor, making him one of the chamber’s most divisive leaders in history. 

Read more at The Hill

NY’s Minimum Wage Set to Increase in 2022. Here’s Where and by How Much

New York’s minimum wage is set to increase on Dec. 31, with three downstate counties arriving at the $15 minimum wage threshold set for the state five years ago. Minimum wage workers in Westchester County and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island will see $15 an hour in the new year, on par with workers employed by large firms in New York City, who have been making $15 an hour since the end of 2018. Workers in the rest of the state will see an increase to $13.20 an hour — a 70-cent increase from the current rate of $12.50 — on Dec. 31.

Fast food workers across New York also make $15 an hour, regardless of location. 

Read more at the Democrat & Chronical

Oil Firms Predict Rising Output, Warn of Higher Costs – Fed Survey

U.S. oil and gas executives are predicting higher production and drilling activity next year as oil prices climb, but say they face sharply higher costs, according to a poll released on Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. U.S. oil prices were up 1.2% on Wednesday at around $76.88 a barrel . They are up almost 60% since the start of the year, as demand for oil and motor fuels rebounds on an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 49% of executives surveyed said they aim to expand output next year, while 15% said their main focus would be to maintain existing production levels and 13% plan to focus on reducing debt. Six-month outlooks remained positive, but the index declined to 53.2 from 58.9 the previous quarter.

Read more at Reuters

US COVID – 126% Increase in Cases, 11% Increase in Hospitalizations

People who are vaccinated and boosted also appear to be less likely to be hospitalized if they are infected with the omicron variant, leading infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said Wednesday. “All indications point to a lesser severity of omicron versus delta,” Fauci told reporters during a White House briefing.

The U.S. on Tuesday broke a record for the most single-day COVID-19 infections, with 441,278 cases. That surpassed the previous daily record by close to 150,000.  Despite the surge in infections over the past month, however, hospitalizations have not increased nearly as quickly. Fauci said there’s been a 126 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks, but only an 11 percent increase in hospitalizations.

Read more at The Hill

NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of December 29:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 83.6% of all New Yorkers – 15,666,883 (plus 35,783 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,629,826 (plus 3,574).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.6% of all New Yorkers – 13,922,808 (plus 17,444).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,422,340 (plus 1,633). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 28 .  There were 97 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,159. 


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 6,767.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 14.61%    –    222.26 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 13.72%   –  184.06 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:

CDC Comes Under Fire for New COVID-19 Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is under fire from some health experts and employee groups who say the new COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance has too many holes. The isolation guidelines announced late Monday apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Some health experts said they worry people will leave isolation while still contagious, and raised questions about the CDC’s decision making.

Critics also argue the guidelines ignore the benefits of rapid antigen testing by not requiring those tests, and rely on a one-size-fits-all approach that makes assumptions about the fast-spreading omicron variant that may not be true.

Read more at The Hill

Ulster to Distribute Additional 20,000 Free Rapid at-Home COVID-19 Test Kits

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced Tuesday that the county will hold two free drive-through at-home test distribution events at TechCity in the Town of Ulster on Wednesday, December 29th and at the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz on Thursday, December 30th.

Each event will have 3,000 at-home kits available to county residents, with one kit available per car. The events will start at 6 p.m. and run while supplies last.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News

22,000 Unvaccinated State Workers Remain Unvaccinated – Need Weekly COVID Tests

Slightly more than a fifth of the state workers covered by New York’s vaccine-or-test mandate remain unvaccinated, making those who can’t work remotely subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. It’s an endeavor that could cost the state more than $62 million by the end of winter.

Roughly 22,000 unvaccinated state workers need to be tested weekly under agreements worked out with unions. Just over 12,000 state employees were tested last week, according to data provided by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. Nearly all of those workers are unvaccinated, although certain workers remain under regular testing protocols regardless of their status. (The number of workers tested will likely be much larger during a non-holiday week.) 

Read more at the Albany Times Union

Tesla on Track to Meet Buffalo Billion Job Target

Tesla Inc. is on track to meet its employment goal at its South Buffalo factory and avoid a $41.2 million penalty, according to new job figures from the state. The company had 1,536 full-time jobs at its South Park Avenue factory on Nov. 10, along with 21 part-time positions.  That tops the 1,460 jobs that Tesla was required to have in Buffalo by the end of the year under its agreement with the state in exchange for spending more than $950 million to build and equip the plant. 

Tesla’s agreement with the state, part of the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, only requires the company to have a certain number of jobs in Buffalo. It does not include any provisions on the type of job or how much they pay.  With Tesla’s solar energy business now stagnating at levels that are less than half of what they were five years ago, the company has been shifting other types of work to the Buffalo plant.

Read more at the Buffalo News

Employee Flexibility Becomes Key to Success, if Not Survival

Industry leaders share their thoughts on how recent history has forced companies to rethink staffing or double down on existing policies to keep good workers.

“The new normal has come at the expense of immensely hard-working people all year. From procurement managers thinking they are failing because they can’t get goods, to HR not finding enough new hires, to operations unable to fulfill on-time deliveries or all orders, to salespeople throttling back finding new orders while foisting seven price increases this year on customers: Any semblance of normalcy has taken management teams heroic efforts to achieve.” —IndustryWeek contributor and MAGNET President and CEO Ethan Karp

Read more at IndustryWeek

FuzeHub 2022 Manufacturing Grant – Applications Open January 4th

As part of the Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, FuzeHub’s Manufacturing Grants are designed to encourage collaboration between not-for-profit organizations and small to medium-sized manufacturing companies in New York State.

The grants serve as a resource to help companies achieve success from early stage, proof of concept through maturity. The partnership created with the not-for-profit organization serves as a pathway to technology transfer, adoption and implementation of new manufacturing processes, as well as the creation of enhanced products and services.

Read more at FuzeHub

Who Can Claim to Have Invented Important Elements of the COVID-19 Vaccines?

A high-stakes legal battle is taking shape over lucrative patent rights for Covid-19 vaccines, with drug companies pitted against each other and government and academic scientists over who invented what. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. If anyone succeeds in establishing a role in the discovery of the vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna would have to share with others a bigger cut of the tens of billions of dollars in vaccine sales being generated.

The U.S. government and Moderna Inc., whose collaboration led to one of the most widely used shots, have fought over who discovered a key component and owns its rights. Meantime, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, makers of another leading vaccine, are in a patent battle with a smaller company, and some analysts think they could end up facing off against Moderna.

Read more at the WSJ