August 2019 Jobs Report and Industry Update


Economics & Job Creation:


Life Sciences:
“Fragrance-releasing fabric could help neutralize sweaty gym clothes”

“Artificial intelligence could help air travelers save a bundle”

“Self-sterilizing polymer proves effective against drug-resistant pathogens”

The Industrials:
“Buying local? Higher price means higher quality in consumers’ minds”

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Economics & Job Creation:


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 164,000 in July, and the unemployment
rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. Notable job gains occurred in professional and technical services,
health care, social assistance, and financial activities.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household
survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic
characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours,
and earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical
methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

The unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent in July, and the number of unemployed
persons was little changed at 6.1 million. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Asians increased to
2.8 percent in July. The jobless rates for adult men (3.4 percent), adult women
(3.4 percent), teenagers (12.8 percent), Whites (3.3 percent), Blacks (6.0
percent), and Hispanics (4.5 percent) showed little or no change over the month.
(See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

In July, the number of persons unemployed less than 5 weeks increased by 240,000
to 2.2 million, while the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27
weeks or more) declined by 248,000 to 1.2 million. The long-term unemployed
accounted for 19.2 percent of the unemployed. (See table A-12.)

In July, the labor force participation rate was 63.0 percent, and the employment-
population ratio was 60.7 percent. Both measures were little changed over the
month and over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred
to as involuntary part-time workers) declined by 363,000 in July to 4.0 million.
These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working
part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-
time jobs. Over the past 12 months, the number of involuntary part-time workers
has declined by 604,000. (See table A-8.)

In July, 1.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force,
essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.)
These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work,
and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted
as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding
the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 368,000 discouraged workers in July,
down by 144,000 from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.)
Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they
believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.1 million persons
marginally attached to the labor force in July had not searched for work for
reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 164,000 in July, in line with
average employment growth in the first 6 months of the year. In 2018, employment
gains had averaged 223,000 per month. In July, notable job gains occurred in
professional and technical services (+31,000), health care (+30,000), social
assistance (+20,000), and financial activities (+18,000). (See table B-1.)

Professional and technical services added 31,000 jobs in July, bringing the
12-month job gain to 300,000. In July, employment increased by 11,000 in computer
systems design and related services; this industry accounted for about one-third
of employment growth in professional and technical services both over the month
and over the year.

Employment in health care rose by 30,000 over the month, reflecting a gain in
ambulatory health care services (+29,000). Health care employment has increased
by 405,000 over the year, with ambulatory health care services accounting for
about two-thirds of the gain.

Social assistance added 20,000 jobs in July. Employment in this industry has
increased by 143,000 over the year.

In July, financial activities employment rose by 18,000, with most of the gain
occurring in insurance carriers and related activities (+11,000).

Mining employment declined by 5,000 in July, after showing little net change
in recent months.

Manufacturing employment changed little in July (+16,000) and thus far in 2019.
Job gains in the industry had averaged 22,000 per month in 2018.

Employment in other major industries, including construction, wholesale trade,
retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality,
and government, changed little over the month.

In July, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
rose by 8 cents to $27.98, following an 8-cent gain in June. Over the past 12
months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent. In July, average
hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose
by 4 cents to $23.46. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by
0.1 hour to 34.3 hours in July. In manufacturing, the average workweek decreased
by 0.3 hour to 40.4 hours, and overtime declined by 0.2 hour to 3.2 hours. The
average workweek of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees
declined by 0.1 hour to 33.5 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was revised down by 10,000
from +72,000 to +62,000, and the change for June was revised down by 31,000 from
+224,000 to +193,000. With these revisions, employment gains in May and June
combined were 41,000 less than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result
from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since
the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.)
After revisions, job gains have averaged +140,000 per month over the last 3 months.


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Life Sciences:

“Fragrance-releasing fabric could help neutralize sweaty gym clothes”

Hot summer weather, stressful situations and intense workouts can produce unpleasant sweaty odors. But what if clothing could cover up these embarrassing smells with a burst of fragrance? Now, researchers have modified cotton fabric to emit a lemony citronella aroma upon contact with sweat. They report their body-odor-fighting strategy in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

In recent years, scientists have developed smart fabrics that react to stimuli such as light, temperature or mechanical stress and respond in certain ways, such as by changing color or conducting an electrical signal. Researchers have also explored different methods to release fragrances from fabrics. Carla Silva, Artur Cavaco-Paulo and colleagues wanted to develop and compare two new strategies for releasing a fragrance — β-citronellol, a lemongrass-derived scent used in some insect repellants — from cotton fabric in response to sweat.

The first approach involved an odorant-binding protein (OBP) found in pigs’ noses that binds to β-citronellol and other scent molecules. To the OBP, the researchers attached a protein domain, called a carbohydrate-binding module (CBM), that binds to cotton. In their second strategy, the researchers packaged the fragrance in liposomes that displayed CBMs, which anchored the lipid carriers and their cargo to the fabric. The team exposed the modified cotton fabrics to an acidic sweat solution, and the low pH of the simulated perspiration caused the OBP and liposomes to release β-citronellol. Comparing the two strategies revealed that the OBP released a quick burst of scent, while the liposomes showed a slower, controlled release. The liposomes could also hold more fragrance than the other approach. The two strategies could prove useful for different clothing applications, the researchers say.


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“‘Artificial intelligence could help air travelers save a bundle”

Researchers are using artificial intelligence to help airlines price ancillary services such as checked bags and seat reservations in a way that is beneficial to customers’ budget and privacy, as well as to the airline industry’s bottom line.

When airlines began unbundling the costs of flights and ancillary services in 2008, many customers saw it as a tactic to quote a low base fare and then add extras to boost profits, the researchers said. In a new study, the researchers use unbundling to meet customer needs while also maximizing airline revenue with intelligent, individualized pricing models offered in real time as a customer shops.

The results of the study will be presented at the 2019 Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining on Aug. 6 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Airlines operate on very slim margins, the researchers said. While they earn a considerable portion of their revenue on ancillary purchases, unbundling can provide cost-saving opportunities to customers, as well. Customers don’t have to pay for things they don’t need, and discounts offered to customers who may otherwise pass on the extras can help convert a “no sale” into a purchase.

“Most airlines offer every customer the same price for a checked bag,” said Lavanya Marla, a professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering and study co-author. “However, not every customer has the same travel and budget needs. With AI, we can use information gathered while they shop to predict a price point at which they will be comfortable.”

To hit that sweet spot, the pricing models use a combination of AI techniques — machine learning and deep neural networks — to track and assign a level of demand on an individual customer’s flight preferences, the researchers said. The models consider various price factors such as flight origin, destination, the timing of travel and duration of a trip to assign a value on demand.

“For example, a customer who is traveling for a few days may not be motivated to pay for a checked bag,” Marla said. “But, if you discount it to them at the right price — where convenience outweighs cost — you can complete that sales conversion. That is good for the customer and good for the airline.”

In the study, the University of Illinois and Deepair Solutions team collaborated with a European airline over a period of approximately six months to gather data and test their models. While shopping, customers logged in to a pricing page where a predetermined percentage of customers are offered discounts on ancillary services.

“We started by offering the AI-modeled discounts to 5% of the customers who logged in,” said Kartik Yellepeddi, a co-founder of Deepair Solutions and study co-author. “The airline then allowed us to adjust this percentage, as well as to experiment with various AI techniques used in our models, to obtain a robust data set.”

The airline began to see an uptick in ancillary sales conversions and revenue per customer, and allowed the researchers to offer discounts to all of the customers who logged in.

“Because of the unique nature of personalized pricing, we built a high level of equity and privacy into our models,” Yellepeddi said. “There is a maximum price not to be exceeded, and we do not track customer demographics information like income, race, gender, etc., nor do we track a single customer during multiple visits to a sale site. Each repeat visit is viewed as a separate customer.”

With an increase seen in ancillary sales conversions and ancillary revenue per offer — up by 17% and 25%, respectively, according to the study — the team said AI can help the airline industry move away from the concept of the “average customer” and tailor their offers to “individual travelers.”

“In recent years, the airline industry has felt that it has been losing touch with its customer base,” Marla said. “The industry is eager to find new ways to meet customer needs and to retain customer loyalty.”

Deepair Solutions is an artificial intelligence company serving the travel industry. The company is headquartered in London and has an office in Dallas.


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“Self-sterilizing polymer proves effective against drug-resistant pathogens”

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that an elastic polymer possesses broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, allowing it to kill a range of viruses and drug-resistant bacteria in just minutes — including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

“We were exploring a different approach for creating antimicrobial materials when we observed some interesting behavior from this polymer and decided to explore its potential in greater depth,” says Rich Spontak, co-corresponding author of a paper on the work and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State. “And what we found is extremely promising as an alternate weapon to existing materials-related approaches in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens. This could be particularly useful in clinical settings — such as hospitals or doctor’s offices — as well as senior-living facilities, where pathogen transmission can have dire consequences.”

The polymer’s antimicrobial properties stem from its unique molecular architecture, which attracts water to a sequence of repeat units that are chemically modified (or functionalized) with sulfonic acid groups.

“When microbes come into contact with the polymer, water on the surface of the microbes interacts with the sulfonic acid functional groups in the polymer — creating an acidic solution that quickly kills the bacteria,” says Reza Ghiladi, an associate professor of chemistry at NC State and co-corresponding author of the paper. “These acidic solutions can be made more or less powerful by controlling the number of sulfonic acid functional groups in the polymer.”

The researchers tested the polymer against six types of bacteria, including three antibiotic-resistant strains: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. When 40% or more of the relevant polymer units contain sulfonic acid groups, the polymer killed 99.9999% of each strain of bacteria within five minutes.

The researchers also tested the polymer against three viruses: an analog virus for rabies, a strain of influenza and a strain of human adenovirus.

“The polymer was able to fully destroy the influenza and the rabies analog within five minutes,” says Frank Scholle, an associate professor of biological sciences at NC State and co-author of the paper. “While the polymer with lower concentrations of the sulfonic acid groups had no practical effect against human adenovirus, it could destroy 99.997% of that virus at higher sulfonic acid levels.”

One concern of the researchers was that the polymer’s antimicrobial effect could progressively worsen over time, as sulfonic acid groups were neutralized when they interacted with positively charged ions (cations) in water. However, they found that the polymer could be fully “recharged” by exposing it to an acid solution.

“In laboratory settings, you could do this by dipping the polymer into a strong acid,” Ghiladi says. “But in other settings — such as a hospital room — you could simply spray the polymer surface with vinegar.”

This “recharging” process works because every time one of the negatively charged sulfonic acid groups combines with a cation in water — which can happen when the polymer comes into contact with microbes — the sulfonic acid group becomes electrically neutral. That makes the acid group ineffective against microbes. But when the neutralized polymer is subjected to acid, those functional groups can exchange bound cations with protons from the acid, making the sulfonic acid groups active again — and ready to kill microbial pathogens.

“The work we’ve done here highlights a promising new approach to creating antimicrobial surfaces for use in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens — and hospital-acquired infections in particular,” Ghiladi says.

“Functional block polymers like this are highly versatile — usable as water-treatment media, soft actuators, solar cells and gas-separation membranes — and environmentally benign since they can be readily recycled and re-used,” Spontak adds. “These features make them particularly attractive for widespread use.

“And this work focused on only one polymer series manufactured by Kraton Polymers,” Spontak says. “We are very eager to see how we can further modify this and other polymers to retain such effective and fast-acting antimicrobial properties while improving other attributes that would be attractive for other applications.”


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The Industrials:

“Buying local? Higher price means higher quality in consumers’ minds”

Why are we willing to pay much more for a six pack of craft beer, a locally produced bottle of wine or a regional brand item, often choosing them over national brands?

It’s because when people prefer to “buy local,” they more frequently base their decisions on price as a perception of quality, according to research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and three other universities.

The study, published in the Journal of Marketing, suggests that marketers can use this understanding of local identity versus global identity to shape consumers’ price perceptions and behavior.

“Consumers tend to use price to judge a product’s quality when their local identity is most important to them,” said Ashok Lalwani, associate professor of marketing at Kelley. “When promoting high-priced or branded products, marketers can situationally activate consumers’ local identity. To accomplish this objective, businesses can encourage consumers to ‘think local’ or employ local cultural symbols in advertising and other promotional material.

The researchers also suggested that the opposite was true for low-price products.

“Discount stores, such as dollar stores, should discourage consumers from using the price of a product to infer its quality,” Lalwani said. “They would be better served by temporarily making consumers’ global identity more prominent. Cues in advertisements that focus on a product’s global appeal would help achieve that goal.”

Many companies find it difficult to set and increase prices in the digital marketplace because of the pricing transparency of the internet, consumers’ deal-seeking attitudes and global product availability.

For their study, Lalwani and his colleagues conducted in-depth interviews, two field studies and seven experiments, and reviewed secondary data. In their interviews with 15 senior-level managers from Fortune 500 companies, they found that while the executives considered local or global communities in their pricing decisions, none knew when such strategies were effective or why.

For example, an executive at a snack food maker told them, “It is important to have a reasonably high price since it communicated ‘premium-ness’ and then reinforce it with advertising and packaging. But we don’t know for sure why such consumers prefer premium brands.” A pet products manager said, “In dog sweaters, it is difficult to judge quality, so I am sure that my pet parents use price, in addition to other factors, to choose.”

Through the field studies, experiments and secondary data, the researchers found that when consumers choose to identify more with others around them, they perceive greater variance among brands, which increases their reliance on price as a cue to judge quality.

Past research has found that consumers from more globalized countries and communities, such as the United States and its larger cities, often have a stronger global mindset because they interact with many types of people and cultures and hear news from abroad. In contrast, those living in smaller population areas or from isolated or insular nations often have a stronger local identity because they have less access to other cultures.

This paper provides useful guidelines for firms to adapt strategies for different regions and address whether companies should be more locally or globally oriented.

“For products to be marketed to the places where people tend to have a more local identity (such as rural areas), local flavors and ingredients can be used in the products. As these consumers are more likely to make price-quality associations, marketers may not need to allocate much ad budget to convince consumers about price-quality associations,” Lalwani and his co-authors wrote.

The opposite is true as well, according to the authors, indicating that in more metropolitan areas, consumers most often don’t have an established connection between price and quality. For marketers, this means that putting additional effort into differentiating their brand will help consumers associate a higher price with higher quality.

Lalwani is in the process of reviewing results of a large-scale national survey of the U.S. that measures which states tend to have more of a local identity versus a global one, for a follow-up study.

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