December 2021 Jobs Report & Industry Update

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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — November 2021”

Life Sciences
“How to eat a poison butterfly”

Technology
“Exploding and weeping ceramics provide path to new shape-shifting material”

Healthcare
“Coffee time: Caffeine improves reaction to moving targets”

The Industrials
“That new EV battery will be a headache to recycle: These solutions can help”

Human Capital Solutions, Inc. (HCS) www.humancs.com is a Retained Executive Search firm focused in Healthcare, Life Sciences, the Industrials, and Technology. Visit our LinkedIn Company Page to learn more about HCS and receive weekly updates.

HCS has created the Prosperity at Work proposition which focuses on creating prosperous relationships between companies and their employees (associates). HCS assists companies in improving bottom line profitability by efficiently planning, organizing and implementing optimized, practical and value-added business solutions.


Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation – November 2021”

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 210,000 in November, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month. 

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 fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2 percent in November. The number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020). (See table A-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the household survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.) 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.0 percent), adult women (4.0 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Blacks (6.7 percent), and Hispanics (5.2 percent) declined in November. The jobless rates for teenagers (11.2 percent) and Asians (3.8 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 declined by 205,000 to 1.9 million in November but is 623,000 higher than in February 2020. The number of persons on temporary layoff decreased by 255,000 to 801,000 in November. This measure is down from the high of 18.0 million in April 2020 and has nearly returned to its February 2020 level of 750,000. (See table A-11.) 

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 2.2 million, changed little in November but is 1.1 million higher than in February 2020. The long-term unemployed accounted for 32.1 percent of the total unemployed in November. (See table A-12.) 

The labor force participation rate edged up to 61.8 percent in November. The participation rate is 1.5 percentage points lower than in February 2020. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.4 percentage point to 59.2 percent in November. This measure is up from its low of 51.3 percent in April 2020 but remains below the figure of 61.1 percent in February 2020. (See table A-1.) 

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.3 million, changed little in November. 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. This figure was about the same as in February 2020. (See table A-8.) 

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 5.9 million in  November, little changed over the month but up by 849,000 since February 2020. 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 was little changed at 1.6 million in November. 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 450,000. (See Summary table A.) 

Household Survey Supplemental Data 

In November, the share of employed persons who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic declined by 0.3 percentage point to 11.3 percent. 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 November, 3.6 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 was little different from the level of 3.8 million in October. Among those who reported in November that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 15.8 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the  hours not worked, little changed from the prior month. 

Among those not in the labor force in November, 1.2 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, little changed from October. (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 210,000 in November. Thus far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 555,000. Nonfarm employment has increased by 18.5 million since April 2020 but is down by 3.9 million, or 2.6 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. In November, notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month. (See table B-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.) 

Professional and business services added 90,000 jobs in November. Job gains continued in administrative and waste services (+42,000), although employment in its temporary help services component changed little (+6,000). Job growth also continued in management and technical consulting services (+12,000) and in computer system design and related services (+10,000). Employment in professional and business services overall is 69,000 below its level in February 2020. 

Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 50,000 in November and is 210,000 above its February 2020 level. In November, job gains occurred in couriers and messengers (+27,000) and in warehousing and storage (+9,000). 

Construction employment rose by 31,000 in November, following gains of a similar magnitude in the prior 2 months. In November, employment continued to trend up in specialty trade contractors (+13,000), construction of buildings (+10,000), and heavy and civil engineering construction (+8,000). Construction employment is 115,000 below its February 2020 level.  

Manufacturing added 31,000 jobs in November. Job gains occurred in miscellaneous durable goods manufacturing (+10,000) and fabricated metal products (+8,000), while motor vehicles and parts lost jobs (-10,000). Employment in machinery declined by 6,000, largely reflecting a strike. Manufacturing employment is down by 253,000 since February 2020. 

Employment in financial activities continued to trend up in November (+13,000) and is 30,000 above its February 2020 level. Job growth occurred in securities, commodity contracts, and investments in November (+9,000).  

Employment in retail trade declined by 20,000 in November, with job losses in general  merchandise stores (-20,000); clothing and clothing accessories stores (-18,000); and  sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000). These losses were partially offset by job gains in food and beverage stores (+9,000) and in building material and garden  supply stores (+7,000). Retail trade employment is 176,000 lower than in February 2020. 

Employment in leisure and hospitality changed little in November (+23,000), following  large gains earlier in the year. Leisure and hospitality has added 2.4 million jobs thus far in 2021, but employment in the industry is down by 1.3 million, or 7.9 percent, since February 2020. 

Health care employment was about unchanged in November (+2,000). Within the industry, employment in ambulatory health care services continued to trend up (+17,000), while nursing and residential care facilities lost 11,000 jobs. Employment in health care is down by 450,000 since February 2020, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for nearly all of the loss.  

In November, employment showed little change in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, information, other services, and public and private education.  

In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 8 cents to $31.03. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.8 percent. In November, average hourly earnings of private-sector  production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 12 cents to $26.40. (See tables B-3 and B-8.) 

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.8 hours in November. In manufacturing, the average workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 40.4 hours, and overtime was unchanged at 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.1 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.) 

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised up by 67,000, from +312,000 to +379,000, and the change for October was revised up by 15,000, from +531,000 to +546,000. With these revisions, employment in September and October combined is 82,000 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 December is scheduled to be released on Friday, January 7, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. (ET). 

Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov)

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Life Sciences
“How to eat a poison butterfly”

In high enough concentrations, milkweed can kill a horse, or a human. To be able to eat this plant, monarchs evolved a set of unusual cellular mutations. New UC Riverside research shows the animals that prey on monarchs also evolved these same mutations.

Current Biology journal article, published today, describes the research that revealed these mutations in four types of monarch predators — a bird, a mouse, a parasitic wasp, and a worm.

“It’s remarkable that concurrent evolution occurred at the molecular level in all these animals,” said UCR evolutionary biologist and study lead Simon “Niels” Groen. “Plant toxins caused evolutionary changes across at least three levels of the food chain!”

Milkweed toxins target a part of animal cells called the sodium-potassium pump, which helps enable heartbeats and nerve firing. It’s so important in humans that our bodies use a third of all the energy we generate from food to power this pump. When most animals eat milkweed, the pump stops working.

Two years ago, Groen and his colleagues wrote about amino acid changes in three places on the pump that not only allow monarch butterflies to consume milkweed, but also to accumulate the milkweed toxins in their bodies as a defense against attacks. Groen’s team engineered these same amino acid changes in fruit flies, which then became as resistant to milkweed as monarchs.

“It’s been a very long-standing natural history observation that birds and mice are important monarch predators,” Groen said. “But in the 1970s, there weren’t the means to find out what enabled them to be successful at it. Now, with genome sequencing, we can.”

The researchers took DNA sequence information from databases for a variety of birds, wasps, and nematode worms to see if any of them evolved the amino acid changes in their sodium pumps. One of the four animals in which the team found the pump mutations includes the black-headed grosbeak, which eats up to 60% of the monarch butterflies in many colonies each year.

It’s unclear whether there are additional adaptations that help the grosbeak and other monarch predators deal with the toxins. Groen is planning to explore this question in future studies.

Time may be running out to learn the butterflies’ cellular secrets. Experts estimate monarch populations have declined dramatically, from roughly 500 million in the early 1990s to 100 million now.

“Climate change is threatening the Mexican forests where they migrate every winter to mate, and as the flock of butterflies gets smaller, they’re easier prey for birds and mice,” Groen said.

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Technology
“Exploding and weeping ceramics provide path to new shape-shifting material”

The research is published open access in Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal.

Anyone who has ever dropped a coffee cup and watched it break into several pieces, knows that ceramics are brittle. Subject to the slightest deformation, they shatter. However, ceramics are used for more than just dishes and bathroom tiles, they are used in electronics because, depending on their composition, they may be semiconducting, superconducting, ferroelectric, or insulating. Ceramics are also non corrosive and used in making a wide variety of products, including spark plugs, fiber optics, medical devices, space shuttle tiles, chemical sensors, and skis.

On the other end of the materials spectrum are shape memory alloys. They are some of the most deformable or reshapable materials known. Shape memory alloys rely on this tremendous deformability when functioning as medical stents, the backbone of a vibrant medical device industry both in the Twin Cities area and in Germany.

The origin of this shape-shifting behavior is a solid-to-solid phase transformation. Different from the process of crystallization-melting-recrystallization, crystalline solid-solid transitions take place solely in the solid state. By changing temperature (or pressure), a crystalline solid can be transformed into another crystalline solid without entering a liquid phase.

In this new research, the route to producing a reversible shape memory ceramic was anything but straightforward. The researchers first tried a recipe that has worked for the discovery of new metallic shape memory materials. That involves a delicate tuning of the distances between atoms by compositional changes, so that the two phases fit together well. They implemented this recipe, but, instead of improving the deformability of the ceramic, they observed that some specimens exploded when they passed through the phase transformation. Others gradually fell apart into a pile of powder, a phenomenon they termed “weeping.”

With yet another composition, they observed a reversible transformation, easily transforming back and forth between the phases, much like a shape memory material. The mathematical conditions under which reversible transformation occurs can be applied widely and provide a way forward toward the paradoxical shape-memory ceramic.

“We were quite amazed by our results. Shape-memory ceramics would be a completely new kind of functional material,” said Richard James, a co-author of the study and a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Mechanics. “There is a great need for shape memory actuators that can function in high temperature or in corrosive environments. But what excites us most is the prospect of new ferroelectric ceramics. In these materials, the phase transformation can be used to generate electricity from small temperature differences.”

The team from Germany was responsible for the experimental part and the chemical and structural investigation at the nanoscale.

“For the explanation of our experimental discovery that, contrary to expectation, the ceramics are extremely incompatible and explode or decay, the collaboration with Richard James’ group at the University of Minnesota was very valuable,” says Eckhard Quandt, a co-author of the study and a professor in the Institute for Materials Science, at Kiel University. “The theory developed on this basis not only describes the behavior, but also shows the way to get to the desired compatible shape memory ceramics.”

James also highlighted the importance of the collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Kiel University.

“Our collaboration with Eckhard Quandt’s group at Kiel University has been tremendously productive,” added James. “As in all such collaborations, there is sufficient overlap that we communicate well, but each group brings plenty of ideas and techniques that expand our collective ability to discover.”

In addition to James and Quandt, the research team included Lorenz Kienle from Kiel University Andriy Lotnyk from the Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering, and graduate students Hanlin Gu, Jascha Romer, and Justin Jetter.

The researchers were supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, a Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship on the `Mathematical Design of Materials’ from the U.S. Department of Defense, a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI) grant from the Office of Naval Research, a Mercator Fellowship from the German Research Foundation, and the Reinhart Koselleck Project from the German National Science Foundation.

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Healthcare
“Coffee time: Caffeine improves reaction to moving targets”

“A lot of what happens in our environment is moving — like trying to cross a busy intersection as a pedestrian or finding something on a shelf as you’re walking through the aisles of a grocery store,” said Dr. Kristine Dalton of Waterloo’s School of Optometry & Vision Science. “Testing visual acuity under dynamic conditions can provide more information about our functional performance in these scenarios than traditional static visual acuity measurements alone.”

Visual acuity, also known as clarity of vision or sharpness of vision, refers to a person’s ability to detect and recognize small details and can be measured under static (stationary) or dynamic (moving) conditions. While both static and dynamic visual acuity provide important information about how we interact with the world around us, dynamic visual acuity skills are especially important in the many daily activities in which we, or objects around us are moving.

“While we already know that caffeine increases the velocity of rapid-eye movements, we wanted to further investigate how exactly caffeine enhances visual processing and facilitates the detection of moving visual stimuli by testing dynamic visual acuity,” said co-author Beatríz Redondo of the University of Granada’s Department of Optics.

On two separate days, half of the study’s participants ingested a caffeine capsule (4mg/kg) while the other half ingested a placebo capsule. Using a computer-based test designed and validated at the University of Waterloo, each participant’s dynamic visual acuity skills were measured before and 60 minutes after caffeine ingestion.

Researchers found that participants who had ingested the caffeine capsules showed significantly greater accuracy and faster speed when identifying smaller moving stimuli, inferring caffeine positively influences participants’ stimulus processing and decision-making. Eye movement velocity and contrast sensitivity, which are implicated in dynamic visual acuity performance, were also sensitive to caffeine intake.

“Our findings show that caffeine consumption can actually be helpful for a person’s visual function by enhancing alertness and feelings of wakefulness,” Dalton said. “This is especially true for those critical, everyday tasks, like driving, riding a bike or playing sports, that require us to attend to detailed information in moving objects when making decisions.”

The study, Effects of caffeine ingestion on dynamic visual acuity, co-authored by Waterloo’s School of Optometry & Vision Science’s Dalton, and the University of Granada’s Redondo, Raimundo Jiménez, Rubén Molina and Jesús Vera, was recently published in the Psychopharmacology journal.

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The Industrials

“That new EV battery will be a headache to recycle: These solutions can help”

A new Cornell University-led study identifies several keys to sustainably managing the influx, with an emphasis on battery chemistry, second-life applications and recycling.

“What to do with all these retired electric vehicle batteries is going to be a huge issue,” said Fengqi You, professor in energy systems engineering at Cornell, who used advanced modeling to examine environmental and economic tradeoffs in how batteries are built, used and recycled.

The life-cycle analysis, which considered a variety of options for battery materials and technologies, is detailed in research published in Science Advances.

“Lithium-ion batteries are designed today for performance and not for recycling or second life,” said You, noting that electric vehicle batteries typically last five to 12 years before they lose the energy capacity needed to power a vehicle. “There’s very little discussion right now about these environmental dimensions of improving battery design for recycling or reuse.”

One finding is that a battery’s chemistry can affect its overall environmental impact. For instance, cobalt is a common battery material that, when mined, is energy-intensive and damaging to the environment. Replacing cobalt with nickel can alleviate those concerns, but most life cycle scenarios reveal there are tradeoffs.

“Cobalt’s presence, even at relatively small amounts, in a battery cathode leads to a much less oxidative environment for other components, extending the lifespan of the battery and increasing options for second-life use and materials recycling,” said Lynden Archer, dean of engineering at Cornell and co-author of the study.

But, Archer said, cobalt’s expense — and association with exploitative child labor — has led the material to be “conventionally thought of as undesirable in the low-cost batteries needed for an ‘electrify-everything’ future.”

The analysis also found that an electric vehicle battery’s overall carbon footprint can be reduced by up to 17% if it can be reused before it is recycled. One choice for battery reuse is power stations that store wind and solar energy. Such energy storage is growing in demand and can make use of retired batteries with reduced energy capacity. And as the share of renewable energy contributing to the power grid grows, a reused battery’s carbon footprint shrinks by around a quarter.

Most of today’s recycling facilities have difficulty breaking apart heavily fortified car batteries and recovering the raw materials within. Yanqiu Tao, a doctoral student who co-authored the study, said policymakers should consider ways to incentivize recycling techniques that optimize the battery’s sustainability.

“In the study we consider the commonly used graphite as the anode-active material, which is hard to recycle and emits carbon dioxide when it’s combusted,” Tao said. “If policymakers can promote graphite separation or emerging recycling methods, it would reduce the environmental impact.”

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