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Daily Briefing – 445

Post: Jan. 19, 2022

Biden Nods to COVID Missteps, Inflation Pain at Rare Press Conference

President Joe Biden acknowledged the frustration many Americans say they are feeling as both inflation and the pandemic surge at a rare news conference Wednesday, the final day of his first year in office. He has hit the one-year mark of his presidency with COVID case numbers surging, including among the vaccinated, and hospitals overwhelmed with seriously ill unvaccinated patients. On the economy, unemployment numbers have dropped, but still fewer Americans are working than before the pandemic and inflation has hit the highest level in decades.

Biden’s approval numbers have consistently fallen since the summer as Democrats on Capitol Hill have struggled to find the votes to pass his social spending bill and voting rights legislation — measures he spent much of his first year in office trying to push through Congress.

Read more at NBC News

At the World Economic Forum in Davos Manufacturers Share Ideas on Industry Transformation

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to transform manufacturing operations, and leading manufacturers are revising their operations in ways that can serve as beacons for others. The grand challenges of the coming decades require deep, responsible industry transformation along entire value chains, however, including the creation of quality jobs, and environmental sustainability.

“Manufacturing companies are uniquely positioned to drive responsible growth while addressing the increasingly complex challenges posed by consumers, climate change and digital transformation,” says Eric Enselme, Founder & Principal at XP2XL Consulting and retired Global Vice President at Procter & Gamble. “But that requires their leaders to leverage technology, not only to optimize their operations, but also – and importantly – to unlock new business models.”

Read more at The World Economic Forum

Lockdowns, Lunar New Year and the Beijing Olympics May Impact Supply Chain in February

Before the Omicron COVID variant hit, there was a growing confidence that the worst was behind us, but now that is tempered. Many in the West are relieved that Omicron has proven to be less deadly than Delta; however, executives that I speak with are expressing a lot of concern around what February will hold for goods exported from China. 

Things are likely to get more challenging based on Beijing’s response to Omicron—particularly when coupled with ongoing logistics constraints, Lunar New Year’s and the Beijing Winter Olympics. Any one of these events could disrupt supply chains with origins in China, but together they have the potential to be the perfect storm. 

Read more at IndustryWeek

Survey: Businesses Are Doubling Down on Automation in Face of Global Labor Shortage

A survey commissioned by UiPath, Inc., a leading enterprise automation software company, found that 62% of executives at large U.S. companies are struggling with the current labor shortage. As a result, 78% of them are likely to invest or increase their investment in automation to manage through the impact of higher-than-normal turnover rates.

Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed believe automation will enable their employees to focus on more creative work—and spend less time on mundane, repetitive, time-consuming tasks. As a result, 85% say that incorporating automation and automation training into their organization will help them retain employees and attract new talent. Surveyed executives also believe automation is helping their companies perform better by saving time (71%), improving productivity (63%), and saving money (59%).

Read more at UiPath

US COVID – After Omicron, We Could Use a Break. We May Just Get It.

By month 25 of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all probably should have learned not to try to anticipate what the SARS-CoV-2 virus is going to do next. It has so consistently defied predictions. But the tsunami that is the Omicron wave is tempting us all the same, in large part because of an inescapable fact: By the time it crashes, the immunological landscape in this country — and in much of the world — is going to be profoundly altered.

Far more people will have some immunity to Covid-19 than was the case before the wave began. Many will have what is effectively hybrid immunity, from vaccination and infection. Caveats abound, and most experts who spoke to STAT weren’t ready to predict that a reprieve, if it comes, will be an actual end to the pandemic — the point where SARS-2 pivots to becomes endemic. But they generally agreed that the accumulation of population immunity could slow things down, at least for a while.

Read more at STAT News

NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  – Cases Per 100k (7-Day Average) Declining in All Regions

Vaccine Stats as of January 19:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 86.4% of all New Yorkers – 16,044,922   (plus 15,448 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,667,401  (plus 1,769).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 73.1% of all New Yorkers – 14,210,043   (plus 16,570).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,451,004   (plus 1,977). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,507,856
  • In the Hudson Valley – 656,347   

The Governor updated COVID data through January 19.  There were 165 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 63,980. 


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 12,027.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 14.07%    –    205.41 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 14.27%   –  198.77 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:

White House: Free N95 Masks to Be Made Available at Pharmacies

The Biden administration on Wednesday is expected to announce plans to make 400 million N95 masks available free at pharmacies and community health centers across the country, a White House official said. Some scientists and doctors have said popular single-layer cloth masks may not be sufficient to protect against Omicron and called on the administration to expand access to high-filtration masks such as N95s.

The nonsurgical N95 masks will start to be available at pharmacies and community health centers late next week and the program will be fully up and running by early February, the White House official said. The masks will be sourced from the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s safety net of medical-equipment supplies.

Read more at the WSJ

Canada Inflation Reaches 30-Year High, Placing Spotlight on Central Bank

Canada’s consumer-price index increased 4.8% on a year-over-year basis in December, Statistics Canada said Wednesday, or slightly faster than the 4.7% rise in November. December data matched market expectations, according to TD Securities. Excluding gasoline, annual prices rose 4% in December.

Rate-increase expectations mounted after the release of the central bank’s quarterly business-outlook survey on Monday, which suggested a second round of elevated inflation is brewing. For instance, companies anticipate raising wages at a faster pace relative to the previous 12-month period to attract and retain workers in light of labor shortages.

Read more at theWSJ

UK Inflation Rate Soars to 30-Year High 

Inflation hit an annual 5.4%, its highest since March 1992 and up from 5.1% in November, itself a decade high. Economists polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 5.2%.   
On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.5%, outstripping economist projections for a 0.3% climb.

The surging cost of living is raising expectations that the Bank of England will look to hike interest rates again. In December, the BOE became the first major central bank to begin lifting borrowing costs from their pandemic-era lows. Markets will be closely watching the Monetary Policy Committee’s next meeting on Feb. 3, with policymakers considering another rate increase following the 15-basis-point hike to 0.25% in December. 

Read more at CNBC

FTC, DOJ are Rewriting Merger Rules, Signaling a Tougher Look at Deals

The U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are asking for public comment on potential revisions to merger guidelines. The agencies held a joint press conference with FTC head Lina Khan and DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter. The agencies hope to craft the revised rules this year.
“The agencies are particularly interested in aspects of competition the guidelines may underemphasize or neglect, such as labor market effects and non-price elements of competition like innovation, quality, potential competition, or any “trend toward concentration,” according to a statement from the agencies.

Khan, who was appointed chair of the FTC earlier this year, is a well-known critic of technology behemoths like Apple, Facebook and Google. Some of the areas that the agencies are asking the public to comment on as far as merger guidelines are concerned include market definition, unilateral effects, potent and nascent competition, remedies, monopsony power and labor markets, digital markets, barriers to firm entry and growth and failing and flailing firms, according to the statement from the agencies.

Read more at Seeking Alpha

Airline Recovery in Sight

Shares of America’s big carriers might finally be ready for take-off. Executives at Delta Air Lines forecast that pent-up travel demand will help the company return to long-term profitability in March, despite a loss when they recently posted the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings. As the first major American carrier to release its earnings, the firm provided an indication of what might be on the tarmac for American Airlines and United Airlines when they report this week.

Carriers are scaling up. American Airlines plans to hire 18,000 employees in 2022. Delta expects to add as many as 5,000 and will offer a majority of its staff a $1,250 bonus in February. Airlines hope that falling cases of COVID-19 will get potential passengers booking vacations and encourage staff who have been hesitant to return to work. Carriers might still report fourth-quarter losses, but Wall Street analysts are betting covid won’t keep them grounded much longer.

 Read more at CNBC

Toyota Cuts Annual Production Target Again

Toyota Motor Company announced January 18 that it would revise its annual and monthly targets for 2022 and February down as it faces the beginning of a new year still burdened by a lack of available computer chips.

The company said January 18 it would fall sort of the 9 million units it had hoped to build by March 31, 2022, the end of its fiscal year. Toyota had previously lowered its annual production target to 9 million from 9.3 million in early fall 2021 and held on to it despite further monthly production cuts later in the year.

Read more at IndustryWeek

Meanwhile in Europe… Chip Crisis Pushes European Car Sales to New Low

E.U. car sales fell to a new low last year as the auto sector was hobbled by the COVID pandemic and a shortage of computer chips, industry figures showed Tuesday. Registrations of new passenger cars in the E.U. slid by 2.4% in 2021, to 9.7 million vehicles, the worst performance since statistics began in 1990, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

That follows the historic fall of nearly 24% suffered in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, and brought new car registrations in the EU to 3.3 million below the pre-crisis sales of 2019.

Read more at IndustryWeek

Texas Power Plants Ready for Winter, Grid Says Ahead of Cold Snap

Nearly all of Texas’ electric generation units and transmission facilities have passed the state’s new winterization rules, the state grid reported just before the expected coldest day so far this winter hits the West Texas Permian oil and natural gas producing area on Thursday. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state’s power grid, on Tuesday filed its final winter weatherization readiness report, which showed 321 out of 324 facilities passed the new rules.

Extreme cold in Texas, which caused power plants and gas pipes to freeze last February, was the reason state agencies adopted new power plant winterization and other rules to avoid a repeat of last winter’s energy emergency. 

Read more at Reuters

Here’s Why People are Leaving — and What to do About it

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in November, the “quit rate” rose to 3%, with more than 4.5 million people voluntarily leaving their jobs. Employers are struggling with a challenging labor supply shortage as people seek out new opportunities.  But this shift is deeper than employees jumping to new jobs; it is also about people re-evaluating their priorities and purpose. To be successful in this new age of work, employers should focus on three key areas:

  • Reimagining the office
  • Revisiting company values
  • Getting onboarding right

In October 2021, DISQO asked 39,477 US adults about their attitudes on remote work and priorities. We learned that people are looking for more flexibility, whether it’s how they work or where they work. While better pay was still the most popular reason for leaving a job, the possibility of remote work, less stress and better work-life balance were also important motivating factors.

Read more at SmartBrief