April 2022 Jobs Report & Industry Update

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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — March 2022”

Life Sciences
“Genetic engineering can have a positive effect on the climate”

“Smart LED contact lenses for treating diabetic retinopathy”

“How fingers could point to a link between low testosterone and COVID hospitalizations”

The Industrials
“Smart and sustainable food packaging keeps harmful microbes at bay”

Private Equity

“Exclusive: Joseph DaGrosa targets accredited investors with new platform”

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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation – March 2022”

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 431,000 in March, and the unemployment rate
 declined to 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job
 gains continued in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail
 trade, and manufacturing.

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 declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.6 percent in March, and the
 number of unemployed persons decreased by 318,000 to 6.0 million. These measures are 
little different from their values in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, 
respectively), prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women (3.3 percent) 
declined in March. The jobless rates for adult men (3.4 percent), teenagers (10.0 
percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (6.2 percent), Asians (2.8 percent), and 
Hispanics (4.2 percent) showed little change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2,
 and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers decreased by 191,000 to 1.4 
million in March and is little different from its February 2020 level of 1.3 million. The number of persons on temporary layoff was little changed over the month at 787,000
 and has essentially returned to its February 2020 level. The number of job leavers--that
unemployed persons who quit or voluntarily left their previous job and began looking
 for new employment--fell by 176,000 to 787,000 in March. (See table A-11.)

In March, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more)
 decreased by 274,000 to 1.4 million. This measure is 307,000 higher than in February 
2020. The long-term unemployed accounted for 23.9 percent of all unemployed persons in 
March. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate, at 62.4 percent, changed little in March. The 
employment-population ratio increased by 0.2 percentage point to 60.1 percent. Both 
measures remain below their February 2020 values (63.4 percent and 61.2 percent, 
respectively). (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was about unchanged at 4.2
 million in March and is little different from its February 2020 level. 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 increased by 
382,000 to 5.7 million in March, following a decrease of a similar magnitude in the prior
month. This measure is above its February 2020 level of 5.0 million. These individuals 
were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the
4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of persons marginally 
attached to the labor force, at 1.4 million, changed little in March. These individuals
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 essentially unchanged over the month at 373,000. (See Summary 
table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In March, 10.0 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic,
 down from 13.0 percent in the prior month. These data refer to employed persons who 
teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey 
specifically because of the pandemic.

In March, 2.5 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 4 weeks preceding the survey due to the 
pandemic. This measure is down from 4.2 million in the previous month. Among those who
 reported in March that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or 
lost business, 15.4 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours
 not worked, down from 20.3 percent in February.

Among those not in the labor force in March, 874,000 persons were prevented from looking
 for work due to the pandemic, down from 1.2 million in the prior month. (To be counted 
as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for work or on
 temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in 
May 2020 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 www.bls.gov/cps/effects-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.htm.

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 431,000 in March, as job gains continued in 
leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and 
manufacturing. Overall, job growth averaged 562,000 per month in the first quarter of 
2022, the same as the average monthly gain for 2021. However, employment is down by 1.6 
million, or 1.0 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. (See table B-1.)

Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to increase, with a gain of 112,000 in 
March. Job growth occurred in food services and drinking places (+61,000) and 
accommodation (+25,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 1.5 million, or
 8.7 percent, since February 2020.

Job growth continued in professional and business services, which added 102,000 jobs in
 March. Within the industry, job gains occurred in services to buildings and dwellings 
(+22,000), accounting and bookkeeping services (+18,000), management and technical 
consulting services (+15,000), computer systems design and related services (+12,000),
and scientific research and development services (+5,000). Employment in professional 
and business services is 723,000 higher than in February 2020.

Employment in retail trade increased by 49,000 in March, with gains in general 
merchandise stores (+20,000) and food and beverage stores (+18,000). Health and personal
 care stores lost 5,000 jobs. Retail trade employment is 278,000 above its level in 
February 2020.

Manufacturing added 38,000 jobs in March. Employment in durable goods industries rose by
 22,000, with gains in transportation equipment (+11,000) and electrical equipment and 
appliances (+4,000). These gains were partially offset by a loss of 5,000 jobs in 
nonmetallic mineral products. Nondurable goods manufacturing added 16,000 jobs over the
month, including a gain in chemicals (+7,000). Since February 2020, manufacturing 
employment is down by 128,000, or 1.0 percent.

Employment in social assistance increased by 25,000 in March, with the gain 
concentrated in individual and family services (+18,000). Employment in social 
assistance is down by 126,000, or 2.9 percent, from its level in February 2020. 

Employment in construction continued to trend up in March (+19,000) and has returned to
 its February 2020 level.

In March, employment in financial activities rose by 16,000, with gains in real estate
 and rental and leasing (+14,000) and in securities, commodity contracts, and investments
(+5,000). Employment in financial activities is 41,000 above its level in February 2020.

Health care employment changed little in March (+8,000), after a large increase in the
 prior month. Employment in the industry is down by 298,000, or 1.8 percent, since 
February 2020.

Employment in transportation and warehousing was essentially unchanged in March 
(-1,000), following large gains in the prior 2 months. In March, a job gain in couriers
and messengers (+7,000) was offset by small losses in other component industries. 
Employment in transportation and warehousing is 608,000 higher than in February 2020.

Employment showed little change over the month in mining, wholesale trade, information,
 other services, and government.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 13 cents
 to $31.73 in March. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased 
by 5.6 percent. In March, average hourly earnings of private sector production and
 nonsupervisory employees rose by 11 cents to $27.06. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls fell by 0.1 hour 
to 34.6 hours in March. In manufacturing, the average workweek for all employees was
unchanged at 40.7 hours, and overtime fell by 0.1 hour to 3.4 hours. The average 
workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls 
declined by 0.1 hour to 34.1 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised up by 23,000,
 from +481,000 to +504,000, and the change for February was revised up by 72,000, 
from +678,000 to +750,000. With these revisions, employment in January and February
 combined is 95,000 higher 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 April is scheduled to be released on Friday, 
May 6, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).

Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov)

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Life Sciences
“Genetic engineering can have a positive effect on the climate”

Agriculture accounts for around 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. A large share of these emissions is due to livestock production and fertilizer use. However, more than one-third of agriculture’s emissions is caused by land-use change, especially the conversion of forests and other nature reserves to agricultural land in order to satisfy the rising global demand for food and feed. “Using better technologies to increase crop yields on the land already cultivated could reduce this land-use change and the associated emissions,” says study author Prof. Dr. Matin Qaim, Director of the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn.

Certain types of genetically modified crops — such as GM maize and soybean — are widely grown in other parts of the world, but hardly in Europe. “The main reasons are public acceptance issues and political hurdles,” says Qaim.

In the new study, he and his colleagues from the Breakthrough Institute used global agricultural data and estimates of the yield effects of GM crops to model how increased technology adoption in the EU would affect production, land use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The estimates suggest that more widespread use of genetically modified crops in the EU could prevent the release of 33 million tons of CO2 equivalents, which corresponds to 7.5 percent of the EU’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Higher yields in the EU would have a global effect

“Most of these positive climate effects are attributable to reduced land-use change,” says Dr. Emma Kovak from the Breakthrough Institute, the study’s first author. The conclusion of the research team: “The EU imports a lot of maize and soybean from Brazil, where the expansion of agricultural land contributes to tropical deforestation. Higher yields in the EU could reduce some of these imports and thus help preserve the Amazon rainforest.”

The authors stress that in their analysis they only look at already-existing genetically modified crops. “New genomic breeding technologies are currently being used to develop a wide range of new crop applications that could lead to additional climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits in the future,” says Matin Qaim. The agricultural economist is a member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area “Sustainable Futures” and Cluster of Excellence “PhenoRob — Robotics and Phenotyping for Sustainable Crop Production” at the University of Bonn.

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“Smart LED contact lenses for treating diabetic retinopathy”

Diabetes is a long-term chronic disease with many complications and requires care over a lifetime. The longer a patient suffers from diabetes, the higher the risk of developing retinopathy which can progressively lead to a decline in vision and even to blindness.

A POSTECH research team led by Professor Sei Kwang Hahn and Ph.D. candidate Geon-Hui Lee (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) in collaboration with Dr. Sangbaie Shin of PHI BIOMED Co. has recently developed a smart contact lens-type wearable device to prevent diabetic retinopathy and treat it in its early stages by irradiating 120 µW far red/LED light to the retina. This technology for smart LED contact lens has attracted a great attention for various ophthalmologic diseases.

Diabetic retinopathy is currently treated by highly invasive repeated therapeutic injections to the eyeball or thousands of small burns made with a laser to destroy capillaries near the edges of retina under anesthesia. Both procedures are considered highly painful for the patient.

Through the study with diabetic animal models, the researchers confirmed that the diabetic retinopathy did not appear in animals that wore the smart contact lenses for 15 minutes 3 times a week for a total of 8 weeks. In contrast, the animals that did not wear the lenses showed retinopathic conditions. The safety and effectiveness of the lenses were also confirmed by the histological analysis of the cornea and retina.

“This study has demonstrated the feasibility of a lens-type wearable device for the applications not only to monitoring oxygen saturation, heart beating rate, and ophthalmologic diseases, but also to treating depression, insomnia, neuronal diseases and more,” remarked Professor Sei Kwang Han who led the study.

Published in the international academic journal Advanced Science, this study was conducted by the support from the Nano · Material Technology Development Program, Disease Oriented Translational Research, Mid-career Researcher Program, Brain Korea 21 Fostering Outstanding Universities (FOUR) project, and the Korea Medical Device Development Fund of the National Research Foundation of Korea, and by the World Class 300 Project of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups of Korea.

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“How fingers could point to a link between low testosterone and COVID hospitalizations”

It is widely recognised that a longer ring finger is a marker of higher levels of testosterone prenatally, whereas a longer index finger is a marker of higher levels of oestrogen. Generally, men have longer ring fingers, whereas women have longer index fingers.

New research involving Swansea University is examining the link between levels of sex hormones in the womb and in puberty and Covid hospitalizations.

Most people who contract the virus only experience mild symptoms. But when it comes to patients who need hospital care, the rates vary depending on age (with elderly people the most affected) and gender (with males experiencing a higher severity than females).

This has led scientists to examine the link between testosterone and Covid-19 severity more closely. One hypothesis implicates high testosterone in severe cases but another links low levels of testosterone in elderly men with a poor prognosis.

Now Professor John Manning, of the Applied Sports Technology, Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM) research team, has been working with colleagues from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland and Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital to look more closely at digit ratios (ratios of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th digits) as predictors of severity of Covid-19 symptoms.

The researchers observed that patients with “feminized” short little fingers relative to their other digits tend to experience severe Covid-19 symptoms leading to hospitalization, and more importantly patients with large right hand — left hand differences in ratios 2D:4D and 3D:5D — have substantially elevated probabilities of hospitalization.

These preliminary findings have just been published in Scientific Reports.

Professor Manning said: “Our findings suggest that Covid-19 severity is related to low testosterone and possibly high oestrogen in both men and women.

“‘Feminized’ differences in digit ratios in hospitalised patients supports the view that individuals who have experienced low testosterone and/or high oestrogen are prone to severe expression of Covid-19. This may explain why the most at-risk group is elderly males.

“This is significant because if it is possible to identify more precisely who is likely to be prone severe Covid-19, this would help in targeting vaccination. Right-Left differences in digit ratios (particularly 2D:4D and 3D:5D) may help in this regard.”

There are currently several trials of anti-androgen (testosterone) drugs as treatment for Covid-19. However, in contrast, there is also interest in testosterone as an anti-viral against Covid-19.

He added: “Our research is helping to add to understanding of Covid-19 and may bring us closer to improving the repertoire of anti-viral drugs, helping to shorten hospital stays and reduce mortality rates.”

Professor Manning said the team’s work would now continue: “The sample is small but ongoing work has increased the sample. We hope to report further results shortly.”

His previous work in the field highlighted how the length of children’s fingers relate to mothers’ income level and point to susceptibility to diseases that begin in the womb.

Researchers led by Professor Manning revealed that low-income mothers may feminize their children in the womb by adjusting their hormones, whereas high-income mothers masculinize their offspring.

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The Industrials

“Smart and sustainable food packaging keeps harmful microbes at bay”

A team of scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, US, has developed a ‘smart’ food packaging material that is biodegradable, sustainable and kills microbes that are harmful to humans. It could also extend the shelf-life of fresh fruit by two to three days.

The waterproof food packaging is made from a type of corn protein called zein, starch and other naturally derived biopolymers, infused with a cocktail of natural antimicrobial compounds. These include oil from thyme, a common herb used in cooking, and citric acid, which is commonly found in citrus fruits.

In lab experiments, when exposed to an increase in humidity or enzymes from harmful bacteria, the fibres in the packaging have been shown to release the natural antimicrobial compounds, killing common dangerous bacteria that contaminate food, such as E. Coli and Listeria, as well as fungi.

The packaging is designed to release the necessary miniscule amounts of antimicrobial compounds only in response to the presence of additional humidity or bacteria. This ensures that the packaging can endure several exposures, and last for months.

As the compounds combat any bacteria that grow on the surface of the packaging as well as on the food product itself, it has the potential to be used for a large variety of products, including ready-to-eat foods, raw meat, fruits, and vegetables.

In an experiment, strawberries that were wrapped in the packaging stayed fresh for seven days before developing mould, compared to counterparts that were kept in mainstream fruit plastic boxes, which only stayed fresh for four days.

The invention is the result of the collaboration by scientists from the NTU-Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Initiative for Sustainable Nanotechnology (NTU-Harvard SusNano), which brings together NTU and Harvard Chan School researchers to work on cutting edge applications in agriculture and food, with an emphasis on developing non-toxic and environmentally safe nanomaterials.

The development of this advanced food packaging material is part of the University’s efforts to promote sustainable food tech solutions, that is aligned with the NTU 2025 strategic plan, which aims to develop sustainable solutions to address some of humanity’s pressing grand challenges.

Professor Mary Chan, Director of NTU’s Centre of Antimicrobial Bioengineering, who co-led the project, said: “This invention would serve as a better option for packaging in the food industry, as it has demonstrated superior antimicrobial qualities in combatting a myriad of food-related bacteria and fungi that could be harmful to humans. The packaging can be applied to various produces such as fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits. The smart release of antimicrobials only when bacteria or high humidity is present, provides protection only when needed thus minimising the use of chemicals and preserving the natural composition of foods packaged.”

Professor Philip Demokritou, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, who is also Director of Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology Center and Co-director of NTU-Harvard Initiative on Sustainable Nanotechnology, who co-led the study, said: “Food safety and waste have become a major societal challenge of our times with immense public health and economic impact which compromises food security. One of the most efficient ways to enhance food safety and reduce spoilage and waste is to develop efficient biodegradable non-toxic food packaging materials. In this study, we used nature-derived compounds including biopolymers, non-toxic solvents, and nature-inspired antimicrobials and develop scalable systems to synthesise smart antimicrobial materials which can be used not only to enhance food safety and quality but also to eliminate the harm to the environment and health and reduce the use of non-biodegradable plastics at global level and promote sustainable agri-food systems.”

Providing an independent assessment of the work done by the NTU research team, Mr Peter Barber, CEO of ComCrop, a Singapore company that pioneered urban rooftop farming, said: “The NTU-Harvard Chan School food packaging material would serve as a sustainable solution for companies like us who want to cut down on the usage of plastic and embrace greener alternatives. As ComCrop looks to ramp up product to boost Singapore’s food production capabilities, the volume of packaging we need will increase in sync, and switching to a material such as this would help us have double the impact. The wrapping’s antimicrobial properties, which could potentially extend the shelf life of our vegetables, would serve us well. The packaging material holds promise to the industry, and we look forward to learning more about the wrapping and possibly adopting it for our usage someday.”

The results of the study were published in the peer-reviewed academic journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfacesin October.

Cutting down on packaging waste

The packaging industry is the largest and growing consumer of synthetic plastics derived from fossil fuels, with food packaging plastics accounting for the bulk of plastic waste that are polluting the environment.

In Singapore, packaging is a major source of trash, with data from Singapore’s National Environment Agency showing that out of the 1.76 million tonnes of waste disposed of by domestic sources in 2018, one third of it was packaging waste, and over half of it (55 per cent) was plastic.

The smart food package material, when scaled up, could serve as an alternative to cut down on the amount of plastic waste, as it is biodegradable. Its main ingredient, zein, is also produced from corn gluten meal, which is a waste by-product from using corn starch or oils in order to produce ethanol.

The food packaging material is produced by electrospinning[1] the zein, the antimicrobial compounds with cellulose, a natural polymer starch that makes up plant cell walls, and acetic acid, which is commonly found in vinegar.

Prof Mary Chan added: “The sustainable and biodegradable active food packaging, which has inbuilt technology to keep bacteria and fungus at bay, is of great importance to the food industry. It could serve as an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based polymers used in commercial food packaging, such as plastic, which have a significant negative environmental impact.”

Prof Demokritou added: “Due to the globalisation of food supply and attitude shift towards a healthier lifestyle and environmentally friendly food packaging, there is a need to develop biodegradable, non-toxic and smart/responsive materials to enhance food safety and quality. Development of scalable synthesis platforms for developing food packaging materials that are composed of nature derived, biodegradable biopolymers and nature inspired antimicrobials, coupled with stimuli triggered approaches will meet the emerging societal needs to reduce food waste and enhance food safety and quality.”

The team of NTU and Harvard Chan School researchers hope to scale up their technology with an industrial partner, with the aim of commercialisation within the next few years.

They are also currently working on developing other technologies to develop biopolymer-based smart food package materials to enhance food safety and quality.

[1] Electrospinning is an industrial method to produce fibres using electric force to draw charged threads of polymer solutions into tubes.

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Private Equity

“Exclusive: Joseph DaGrosa targets accredited investors with new platform”

US investor Joseph DaGrosa, the founder of DaGrosa Capital Partners and Kapital Football Group, is planning to launch a new private markets platform that seeks to raise up to $2.5 billion from accredited investors.

The platform will be called Axxes Capital and its launch is part of a broader, long-term trend that has made it easier for ordinary investors—as in neither institutional investors nor high-net-worth individuals—to gain exposure to private market investments.

This gradual drift toward this so-called democratization of private equity has been advocated by the Securities and Exchange Commission in reaction to a decline in the number of publicly listed companies. The SEC published a report in 2019 looking at ways to expand retail access to the asset classes like private equity.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented movement of capital among institutions from the public markets to the private markets,” DaGrosa said. “It’s just natural for advisers of accredited investors seeing this going on to want to find ways to enable their clients to get the same level of diversification and returns that larger institutions are enjoying.”

The venture capital space has seen wider access via the growth of things like equity crowdfunding, while established PE players have also been looking further down the investor food chain.

Recent examples include KKR, which last year invested in iCapital Network, giving accredited investors access to its private market strategies—accredited investors being generally defined by the SEC as an individual having a net worth of over $1 million. More recently, Singaporean securities exchange ADDX tokenized a commitment to Partners Group’s global private equity to be distributed to these investors.

DaGrosa said his firm differs from other platforms in that it is not looking to reduce the use of financial advisers as intermediaries by having individuals invest directly. Instead, financial advisers will invest on behalf of their accredited clients. Axxes plans to indirectly invest across private equity, venture capital, real estate, private secondaries and private debt, raising around $250 million to $500 million for each strategy.

The platform itself will invest across business development companies, which specialize in corporate debt and minority stakes, and real estate investment trusts. It will also set up separately managed accounts to make control investments.

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