October 2020 Jobs Report and Industry Update

 In E Tips


Economics & Job Creation:


Life Sciences:
“Some severe COVID-19 cases linked to genetic mutations or antibodies that attack the body”

“New composite material revs up pursuit of advanced electric vehicles”

“Yoga and meditation reduce chronic pain”

The Industrials:
“Researchers examine COVID-19 impact on manufacturing”

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Economics & Job Creation:


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 661,000 in September, and the unemployment
rate declined to 7.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic
activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and
efforts to contain it. In September, notable job gains occurred in leisure and
hospitality, in retail trade, in health care and social assistance, and in
professional and business services. Employment in government declined over the month,
mainly in state and local government education.

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

In September, the unemployment rate declined by 0.5 percentage point to 7.9 percent,
and the number of unemployed persons fell by 1.0 million to 12.6 million. Both
measures have declined for 5 consecutive months but are higher than in February, by
4.4 percentage points and 6.8 million, respectively. (See table A-1. For more
information about how the household survey and its measures were affected by the
coronavirus pandemic, see the box note at the end of this news release.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates declined in September for adult
men (7.4 percent), adult women (7.7 percent), Whites (7.0 percent), and Asians
(8.9 percent). The jobless rates for teenagers (15.9 percent), Blacks (12.1 percent),
and Hispanics (10.3 percent) showed little change over the month. (See tables A-1,
A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff decreased by 1.5
million in September to 4.6 million. This measure is down considerably from the high
of 18.1 million in April but is 3.8 million higher than in February. In September,
the number of permanent job losers increased by 345,000 to 3.8 million; this measure
has risen by 2.5 million since February. The number of unemployed job leavers rose by
212,000 to 801,000 in September. (Job leavers are persons who quit or voluntarily
left their previous job and immediately began looking for new employment.) (See table

In September, the number of unemployed persons who were jobless less than 5 weeks
increased by 271,000 to 2.6 million. The number of persons jobless 5 to 14 weeks
decreased by 402,000 to 2.7 million, and the number of persons jobless 15 to 26 weeks
fell by 1.6 million to 4.9 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless
for 27 weeks or more) increased by 781,000 to 2.4 million. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate decreased by 0.3 percentage point to 61.4 percent
in September and is 2.0 percentage points lower than in February. The employment-
population ratio, at 56.6 percent, changed little over the month but is 4.5 percentage
points lower than in February. (See table A-1.)

In September, the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes
referred to as involuntary part-time workers) declined by 1.3 million to 6.3 million,
reflecting a decrease in the number of persons whose hours were cut due to slack work
or business conditions. The number of involuntary part-time workers is 2.0 million
higher than in February. 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. (See table A-8.)

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job, at 7.2 million,
changed little in September; this measure is 2.3 million higher than in February.
These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively
looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job. (See
table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons
marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.9 million, changed little in September.
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 but had not looked for work in the
4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the
marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was 581,000 in
September, also little changed from the previous month. (See Summary table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In September, 22.7 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus
pandemic, down from 24.3 percent in August. These data refer to employed persons who
teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically
because of the pandemic.

In September, 19.4 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because
their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic–that is, they did not work
at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic.
This measure is down from 24.2 million in August. Among those who reported in
September that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost
business, 10.3 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not

About 4.5 million persons not in the labor force in September were prevented from
looking for work due to the pandemic. This is down from 5.2 million in August. (To be
counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must either be actively looking for
work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in
May to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are not
seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all
months are available online at

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 661,000 in September, following larger gains
in the prior 4 months. In September, nonfarm employment was below its February level
by 10.7 million, or 7.0 percent. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality,
in retail trade, in health care and social assistance, and in professional and business
services. Employment declined in government, mainly in state and local government
education. (See table B-1. For more information about how the establishment survey and
its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the box note at the end of
this news release.)

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 318,000 in September, with almost
two-thirds of the gain occurring in food services and drinking places (+200,000).
Despite job growth totaling 3.8 million over the last 5 months, employment in food
services and drinking places is down by 2.3 million since February. Amusements,
gambling, and recreation (+69,000) and accommodation (+51,000) also added jobs in

Retail trade added 142,000 jobs over the month, with gains widespread in the industry.
Clothing and clothing accessories stores (+40,000) accounted for about one-fourth of
the over-the-month change in retail trade. Notable employment increases also occurred
in general merchandise stores (+20,000), motor vehicle and parts dealers (+16,000), and
health and personal care stores (+16,000). Employment in retail trade is 483,000 lower
than in February.

Employment in health care and social assistance rose by 108,000 in September but is
down by 1.0 million since February. Health care added 53,000 jobs in September, with
continued growth in offices of physicians (+18,000), home health care services
(+16,000), and offices of other health practitioners (+14,000). Social assistance added
55,000 jobs, mostly in individual and family services (+32,000) and in child day care
services (+18,000).

Professional and business services added 89,000 jobs in September. Employment increased
in services to buildings and dwellings (+22,000), architectural and engineering
services (+13,000), and computer systems design and related services (+12,000). Despite
gains of 910,000 since April, employment in professional and business services is 1.4
million lower than in February.

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 74,000 in September. Within the
industry, job gains continued in warehousing and storage (+32,000), transit and ground
passenger transportation (+21,000), and couriers and messengers (+10,000). Although the
industry has added 291,000 jobs since May, employment in transportation and warehousing
is 304,000 lower than in February.

Manufacturing added 66,000 jobs over the month. Durable goods accounted for about two-
thirds of the gain, led by motor vehicles and parts (+14,000) and machinery (+14,000).
Despite gains over the past 5 months, employment in manufacturing is 647,000 below
February’s level.

Financial activities added 37,000 jobs in September. Job growth occurred in real estate
and rental and leasing (+20,000) and in finance and insurance (+16,000). Employment in
financial activities is 162,000 below the level in February.

In September, the other services industry added 36,000 jobs, largely in membership
associations and organizations (+31,000). Employment in other services is 495,000
lower than in February.

Employment in information grew by 27,000 in September but is down by 276,000 since
February. Motion picture and sound recording industries accounted for most of the
September gain (+23,000).

Construction employment increased by 26,000 in September, with growth in residential
specialty trade contractors (+16,000) and construction of buildings (+12,000).
Construction employment is below its February level by 394,000.

In September, wholesale trade added 19,000 jobs, with gains in both the durable and
nondurable goods components (+13,000 and +8,000, respectively). Employment in
wholesale trade is 312,000 lower than in February.

Government employment declined by 216,000 in September. Employment in local
government education and state government education fell by 231,000 and 49,000,
respectively. A decrease of 34,000 in federal government was driven by a decline in
the number of temporary Census 2020 workers. Partially offsetting these declines,
employment in local government, excluding education, rose by 96,000.

Employment in private education decreased by 69,000 in September, after a gain of
similar magnitude in August. Employment in the industry is down by 355,000 since

Employment changed little in mining in September (+1,000). Employment in the
industry is down by 133,000 since a recent peak in January 2019; about three-fourths
of this decline has occurred since February of this year.

In September, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls,
at $29.47, changed little (+2 cents). Average hourly earnings of private-sector
production and nonsupervisory employees were also little changed in September
(+1 cent) at $24.79. The large employment fluctuations over the past several months–
especially in industries with lower-paid workers–complicate the analysis of recent
trends in average hourly earnings. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour
to 34.7 hours in September. In manufacturing, the workweek rose by 0.2 hour to 40.2
hours, and overtime decreased by 0.1 hour to 2.9 hours. The average workweek for
production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour
to 34.1 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for July was revised up by 27,000,
from +1,734,000 to +1,761,000, and the change for August was revised up by 118,000,
from +1,371,000 to +1,489,000. With these revisions, employment in July and August
combined was 145,000 more 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.)

The Employment Situation for October is scheduled to be released on Friday, November 6,
2020, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).


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Life Sciences:

“Some severe COVID-19 cases linked to genetic mutations or antibodies that attack the body”

People infected by the novel coronavirus can have symptoms that range from mild to deadly. Now, two new analyses suggest that some life-threatening cases can be traced to weak spots in patients’ immune systems.

At least 3.5 percent of study patients with severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have mutations in genes involved in antiviral defense. And at least 10 percent of patients with severe disease create “auto-antibodies” that attack the immune system, instead of fighting the virus. The results, reported in two papers in the journal Science on September 24, 2020, identify some root causes of life-threatening COVID-19, says study leader Jean-Laurent Casanova, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at The Rockefeller University.

Seeing these harmful antibodies in so many patients — 101 out of 987 — was “a stunning observation,” he says. “These two papers provide the first explanation for why COVID-19 can be so severe in some people, while most others infected by the same virus are okay.”

The work has immediate implications for diagnostics and treatment, Casanova says. If someone tests positive for the virus, they should “absolutely” be tested for the auto-antibodies, too, he adds, “with medical follow-up if those tests are positive.” It’s possible that removing such antibodies from the blood could ease symptoms of the disease.

A global effort

Casanova’s team, in collaboration with clinicians around the world, first began enrolling COVID-19 patients in their study in February. At the time, they were seeking young people with severe forms of the disease to investigate whether these patients might have underlying weaknesses in their immune systems that made them especially vulnerable to the virus.

The plan was to scan patients’ genomes — in particular, a set of 13 genes involved in interferon immunity against influenza. In healthy people, interferon molecules act as the body’s security system. They detect invading viruses and bacteria and sound the alarm, which brings other immune defenders to the scene.

Casanova’s team has previously discovered genetic mutations that hinder interferon production and function. People with these mutations are more vulnerable to certain pathogens, including those that cause influenza. Finding similar mutations in people with COVID-19, the team thought, could help doctors identify patients at risk of developing severe forms of the disease. It could also point to new directions for treatment, he says.

In March, Casanova’s team was aiming to enroll 500 patients with severe COVID-19 worldwide in their study. By August, they had more than 1,500, and they now have over 3,000. As the researchers began analyzing patient samples, they started to uncover harmful mutations, in people young and old. The team found that 23 out of 659 patients studied carried errors in genes involved in producing antiviral interferons.

Without a full complement of these antiviral defenders, COVID-19 patients wouldn’t be able to fend off the virus, the researchers suspected. That thought sparked a new idea. Maybe other patients with severe COVID-19 also lacked interferons — but for a different reason. Maybe some patients’ bodies were harming these molecules themselves. As in autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, some patients might be making antibodies that target the body. “That was the eureka moment for us,” Casanova says.

The team’s analysis of 987 patients with life-threatening COVID-19 revealed just that. At least 101 of the patients had auto-antibodies against an assortment of interferon proteins. “We said, ‘bingo’!” Casanova remembers. These antibodies blocked interferon action and were not present in patients with mild COVID-19 cases, the researchers discovered.

“It’s an unprecedented finding,” says study co-author Isabelle Meyts, a pediatrician at the University Hospitals KU Leuven, in Belgium, who earlier this year helped enroll patients in the study, gather samples, and perform experiments. By testing for the presence of these antibodies, she says, “you can almost predict who will become severely ill.”

The vast majority — 94 percent — of patients with the harmful antibodies were men, the team found. Men are more likely to develop severe forms of COVID-19, and this work offers one explanation for that gender variability, Meyts says.

Casanova’s lab is now looking for the genetic driver behind those auto-antibodies. They could be linked to mutations on the X chromosome, he says. Such mutations might not affect women, because they have a second X chromosome to compensate for any defects in the first. But for men, who carry only a single X, even small genetic errors can be consequential.

Looking ahead Clinically, the team’s new work could change how doctors and health officials think about vaccination distribution strategies, and even potential treatments. A clinical trial could examine, for instance, whether infected people who have the auto-antibodies benefit from treatment with one of the 17 interferons not neutralized by the auto-antibodies, or with plasmapheresis, a medical procedure that strips the antibodies from patients’ blood. Either method could potentially counteract the effect of these harmful antibodies, Meyts says.

In addition to the current work, Meyts, Casanova, and hundreds of other scientists involved with an international consortium called the COVID Human Genetic Effort are working to understand a second piece of the coronavirus puzzle. Instead of hunting for factors that make patients especially vulnerable to COVID-19, they’re looking for the opposite — genetic factors that might be protective. They’re now recruiting people from the households of patients with severe COVID-19 — people who were exposed to the virus but did not develop the disease. “Our lab is currently running at full speed,” Casanova says.

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“New composite material revs up pursuit of advanced electric vehicles”

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory used new techniques to create a composite that increases the electrical current capacity of copper wires, providing a new material that can be scaled for use in ultra-efficient, power-dense electric vehicle traction motors.

The research is aimed at reducing barriers to wider electric vehicle adoption, including cutting the cost of ownership and improving the performance and life of components such as electric motors and power electronics. The material can be deployed in any component that uses copper, including more efficient bus bars and smaller connectors for electric vehicle traction inverters, as well as for applications such as wireless and wired charging systems.

To produce a lighter weight conductive material with improved performance, ORNL researchers deposited and aligned carbon nanotubes on flat copper substrates, resulting in a metal-matrix composite material with better current handling capacity and mechanical properties than copper alone.

Incorporating carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, into a copper matrix to improve conductivity and mechanical performance is not a new idea. CNTs are an excellent choice due to their lighter weight, extraordinary strength and conductive properties. But past attempts at composites by other researchers have resulted in very short material lengths, only micrometers or millimeters, along with limited scalability, or in longer lengths that performed poorly.

The ORNL team decided to experiment with depositing single-wall CNTs using electrospinning, a commercially viable method that creates fibers as a jet of liquid speeds through an electric field. The technique provides control over the structure and orientation of deposited materials, explained Kai Li, a postdoctoral researcher in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. In this case, the process allowed scientists to successfully orient the CNTs in one general direction to facilitate enhanced flow of electricity.

The team then used magnetron sputtering, a vacuum coating technique, to add thin layers of copper film on top of the CNT-coated copper tapes. The coated samples were then annealed in a vacuum furnace to produce a highly conductive Cu-CNT network by forming a dense, uniform copper layer and to allow diffusion of copper into the CNT matrix.

Using this method, ORNL scientists created a copper-carbon nanotube composite 10 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide, with exceptional properties. The microstructural properties of the material were analyzed using instruments at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science user facility. Researchers found the composite reached 14% greater current capacity, with up to 20% improved mechanical properties compared with pure copper, as detailed in ACS Applied Nano Materials.

Tolga Aytug, lead investigator for the project, said that “by embedding all the great properties of carbon nanotubes into a copper matrix, we are aiming for better mechanical strength, lighter weight and higher current capacity. Then you get a better conductor with less power loss, which in turn increases the efficiency and performance of the device. Improved performance, for instance, means we can reduce volume and increase the power density in advanced motor systems.”

The work builds on a rich history of superconductivity research at ORNL, which has produced superior materials to conduct electricity with low resistance. The lab’s superconductive wire technology was licensed to several industry suppliers, enabling such uses as high-capacity electric transmission with minimal power losses.

While the new composite breakthrough has direct implications for electric motors, it also could improve electrification in applications where efficiency, mass and size are a key metric, Aytug said. The improved performance characteristics, accomplished with commercially viable techniques, means new possibilities for designing advanced conductors for a broad range of electrical systems and industrial applications, he said.

The ORNL team also is exploring the use of double-wall CNTs and other deposition techniques such as ultrasonic spray coating coupled with a roll-to-roll system to produce samples of some 1 meter in length.

“Electric motors are basically a combination of metals — steel laminations and copper windings,” noted Burak Ozpineci, manager of the ORNL Electric Drive Technologies Program and leader of the Power Electronics and Electric Machinery group. “To meet DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office’s 2025 electric vehicle targets and goals, we need to increase power density of the electric drive and reduce the volume of motors by 8 times, and that means improving material properties.”

Other ORNL scientists on the project were Michael McGuire, Andrew Lupini, Lydia Skolrood, Fred List and Soydan Ozcan. The work was funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office.



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“Yoga and meditation reduce chronic pain”

A mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course was found to benefit patients with chronic pain and depression, leading to significant improvement in participant perceptions of pain, mood and functional capacity, according to a study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Most of the study respondents (89%) reported the program helped them find ways to better cope with their pain while 11% remained neutral.

Chronic pain is a common and serious medical condition affecting an estimated 100 million people in the United States, which correlates with annual costs of approximately $635 billion. The small-scale study was conducted in a semi-rural population in Oregon where issues of affordability, addiction and access to care are common. Participants received intensive instruction in mindfulness meditation and mindful hatha yoga during an eight-week period.

“Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve,” says Cynthia Marske, DO, an osteopathic physician and director of graduate medical education at the Community Health Clinics of Benton and Linn County. “However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing.”

Healing and curing are inherently different, explains Dr. Marske.

“Curing means eliminating disease, while healing refers to becoming more whole,” Dr. Marske says. “With chronic pain, healing involves learning to live with a level of pain this is manageable. For this, yoga and meditation can be very beneficial.”

The study found mindful meditation and yoga led to significant improvements in patients’ perceptions of pain, depression and disability. Following the course, Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores, a standard measure of depression, dropped by 3.7 points on a 27-point scale. According to Dr. Marske, some patients experience a similar drop from the use of an antidepressant.

“Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression,” says Dr. Marske. “Mindfulness-based meditation and yoga can help restore both a patient’s mental and physical health and can be effective alone or in combination with other treatments such as therapy and medication.”

Study participants received instruction in MBSR, a systematic educational program based on training people to have an awareness of the self in the present moment and a nonjudgmental manner. The findings bolster other evidence that MBSR can be a useful adjunctive treatment for chronic pain while improving perceived depression.

“The bottom line is that patients are seeking new ways to cope with chronic pain and effective non-pharmaceutical treatments are available,” says Dr. Marske. “Our findings show meditation and yoga can be a viable option for people seeking relief from chronic pain.”

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The Industrials:

“Researchers examine COVID-19 impact on manufacturing”

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have examined how manufacturers are — or aren’t — pivoting successfully in response to major manufacturing disruptions as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a study published July 27 in IEEE Engineering Management Review, two faculty members from the Naveen Jindal School of Management found that manufacturing response to the disruption has been largely reactive and uncoordinated, and many firms’ crisis communication plans do not include managing an infectious-disease outbreak.

The researchers identified the supporting enablers and competing barriers of manufacturing repurposing within the context of disruption caused by COVID-19. The article offers practitioners and policymakers best practices for pivoting successfully.

“The research was an eye-opener in terms of understanding the challenges for manufacturers in dealing with such an abrupt, massive disruption,” said Dr. Ramesh Subramoniam, clinical associate professor of operations management and one of the paper’s co-authors.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a standstill. Even before that, supply chain disruption frequency had increased in recent years. Establishing a resilient framework to meet such supply chain disruptions is the immediate need for practitioners,” he said.

Because of the extensive scope of disruption distributed across countries and industries, pandemics are different from typical disruptions, which are generally focused on specific industries or products, Subramoniam said.

According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 47 million employers, representing some 54% of all employers worldwide, operate businesses in the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19: manufacturing, accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate, business and administrative activities.

Manufacturing is expected to be one of the most severely affected sectors in terms of the negative economic impact, said Dr. David Widdifield, a co-author of the paper, clinical associate professor of operations management and director of the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management program.

“A sudden disruption, such as the pandemic, opened up questions on the critical need for companies to reevaluate their existing supply chain risk mitigation strategies — this includes the sectors of manufacturing responsible for the mass production of personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care workers,” said Widdifield, who also serves as assistant dean of graduate programs in the Jindal School.

The researchers surveyed employees of manufacturing firms. Completed between June and July 2020, the study assessed online responses from 71 manufacturing practitioners across 39 facilities and six continents.

Some companies supplied critical equipment and devices needed by the public and health care workers, oftentimes exploring new technologies.

Others found “repurposing and pivoting” — the process of manufacturers rapidly switching to a new product or process — more challenging. Manufacturing repurposing includes adapting production plans, lines and capabilities to meet new demand goals.

“The research shows a lack of capability among some manufacturers to deal with the increased demand for new products, such as medical devices, while other manufacturers have the ability to pivot to a new normal,” Widdifield said. “The study also brings forward the impact of digital technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how they prime organizations to respond faster and be more resilient to such rapid disruptions in the future.”

The study found:

  • Almost all the organizations (94%) were operational during the peak of the pandemic. Of those, 56% were at full operations capacity, and 44% were at partial capacity.
  • Multiple manufacturing firms repurposed during the pandemic. Target products included respirators and their components, medical PPE and hand sanitizers.
  • Repurposing was less likely and did not occur for several product families, including mobile X-rays, surgical gloves, screening test kits and other diagnostic equipment.
  • Despite the increasing number of disruptions caused by epidemics, natural disasters and other large-scale regional and global events, many firms’ crisis communication plans do not specifically include managing an infectious-disease outbreak.
  • The research also has implications for consumers, Subramoniam said. Companies were tested on how well they took care of their employees during the pandemic.

“The average consumer should look at how companies responded to the pandemic in treating them, their friends and relatives,” he said. “These are very strong indications of an organizational culture and capability. Future employees want to work for such companies with a strong culture of product and process innovation and growth, with the employees as the core asset.”

Co-authors of the paper included Dr. Okechukwu S. Okorie and Dr. Fiona Charnley of the University of Exeter in England, and John Patsavellas and Dr. Konstantinos Salonitis of Cranfield University in England.



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