Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — January 2021”
“Signs of burnout can be detected in sweat”
“Detecting fake news designed to manipulate stock markets”
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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — January 2021”
The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in January, while nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+49,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In January, notable job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing.
Changes to The Employment Situation Data
Establishment survey data have been revised as a result of the annual benchmarking process and the updating of seasonal adjustment factors. Also, household survey data for January 2021 reflect updated population estimates. See the notes at the end of this news release for more information about these changes.
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 January, the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent, and the number of unemployed persons decreased to 10.1 million. Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively). (See table A-1. See the note at the end of the news release and tables B and C for information about annual population adjustments to the household survey estimates. 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 declined over the month for adult men (6.0 percent), adult women (6.0 percent), Whites (5.7 percent), and Hispanics (8.6 percent). The jobless rates changed little for teenagers (14.8 percent), Blacks (9.2 percent), and Asians (6.6 percent). (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff decreased in January to 2.7 million. This measure is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April but is 2.0 million higher than its February level. The number of permanent job losers, at 3.5 million, changed little in January but is 2.2 million higher than in February. The number of reentrants to the labor force decreased in January to 2.0 million. (Reentrants are persons who previously worked but were not in the labor force prior to beginning their job search.) (See table A-11.)
In January, the number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks decreased to 2.3 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 4.0 million, was about unchanged in January and accounted for 39.5 percent of the total unemployed. (See table A-12.)
After accounting for the annual adjustments to the population controls, both the civilian labor force and the number of employed persons changed little in January. At 61.4 percent, the labor force participation rate was about unchanged over the month but is 1.9 percentage points lower than its February level. The employment-population ratio, at 57.5 percent in January, changed little over the month but is 3.6 percentage points lower than in February. (See table A-1. For additional information about the
effects of the population adjustments, see table C.)
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 6.0 million, changed little in January. This measure is 1.6 million higher than the February 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, at 7.0 million, edged down in January but is 1.9 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.)
The number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.9 million, decreased in January. 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 little changed over the month at 624,000. (See Summary table A.)
Household Survey Supplemental Data
In January, the share of employed persons who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic edged down to 23.2 percent. 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 January, 14.8 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 1.1 million lower than in December. Among those who reported in January that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 12.7 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, little changed from the previous month.
Among those not in the labor force in January, 4.7 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic; this measure is little changed from December. (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. View full article at US BLS
Establishment Survey Data
Total nonfarm payroll employment changed little in January (+49,000) but is below its February 2020 level by 9.9 million, or 6.5 percent. In January, notable job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing. (See table B-1. See the note at the end of this news release and table A for information about the annual benchmark process. 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.)
In January, employment in professional and business services rose by 97,000, with temporary help services accounting for most of the gain (+81,000). Job growth also occurred in management and technical consulting services (+16,000), computer systems design and related services (+11,000), and scientific research and development services (+10,000). These gains were partially offset by job losses in services to buildings and dwellings (-14,000) and in advertising and related services (-6,000). Since February, employment in professional and business services is down by 825,000.
In January, employment increased in local government education (+49,000), state government education (+36,000), and private education (+34,000). In both public and private education, pandemic-related employment declines in 2020 distorted the normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns. This likely contributed to the job gains in January (after seasonal adjustment).
Wholesale trade continued to add jobs in January (+14,000). However, employment in the industry is 263,000 below its February level.
In January, employment in mining increased by 9,000, with a gain of 8,000 in support activities for mining. Mining employment is down by 133,000 since a recent peak in January 2019, though employment in the industry showed little change for several months prior to the uptick in January.
In January, employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 61,000, following a steep decline in December (-536,000). In January, employment edged down in amusements, gambling, and recreation (-27,000) and in accommodation (-18,000). Employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend down (-19,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 8.2 million during March and April, increased by 4.9 million from May to November, and then declined by 597,000 over the past 2 months. Since February, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.9 million, or 22.9 percent.
Retail trade lost 38,000 jobs in January, after adding 135,000 jobs in December. Over the month, employment declined in general merchandise stores (-38,000), electronics and appliance stores (-29,000), and nonstore retailers (-15,000). These job losses were partially offset by gains in food and beverage stores (+15,000), clothing and clothing accessories stores (+15,000), and health and personal care stores (+14,000). Employment in retail trade is 383,000 lower than in February.
Employment in health care declined by 30,000 in January. Within the industry, job losses occurred in nursing care facilities (-19,000), home health care services (-13,000), and community care facilities for the elderly (-7,000). Since February, health care employment is down by 542,000.
Employment in transportation and warehousing declined by 28,000 in January and is 164,000 lower than in February. In January, job losses occurred in warehousing and storage (-17,000) and in couriers and messengers (-14,000); however, employment in these industries is higher than in February by 97,000 and 137,000, respectively. Employment in air transportation increased by 15,000 over the month but is 105,000 lower than in February.
Employment in manufacturing changed little over the month (-10,000), following 8 months of growth. Within the industry, durable goods lost 17,000 jobs in January. Employment in manufacturing is up by 803,000 since April but is 582,000 lower than in February.
Construction employment changed little over the month (-3,000), after increasing for 8 consecutive months. However, employment in the industry is down by 256,000 since February.
In January, employment changed little in other major industries, including information, financial activities, and other services.
In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 6 cents to $29.96. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, at $25.18, changed little (+3 cents). 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 increased by 0.3 hour to 35.0 hours in January. In manufacturing, the workweek also increased by 0.3 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 increased by 0.2 hour to 34.4 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised down by 72,000, from +336,000 to +264,000, and the change for December was revised down by 87,000, from -140,000 to -227,000. With these revisions, employment in November and December combined was 159,000 lower 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 annual benchmark process also contributed to the November and December revisions.)
The Employment Situation for February is scheduled to be released on Friday, March 5, 2021, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
View full article at US BLS
“Signs of burnout can be detected in sweat”
We’ve all felt stressed at some point, whether in our personal or professional lives or in response to exceptional circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic. But until now there has been no way to quantify stress levels in an objective manner.
That could soon change thanks to a small wearable sensor developed by engineers at EPFL’s Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) and Xsensio. The device can be placed directly on a patient’s skin and can continually measure the concentration of cortisol, the main stress biomarker, in the patient’s sweat.
Cortisol: A double-edged sword
Cortisol is a steroid hormone made by our adrenal glands out of cholesterol. Its secretion is controlled by the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. Cortisol carries out essential functions in our bodies, such as regulating metabolism, blood sugar levels and blood pressure; it also affects the immune system and cardiovascular functions.
When we’re in a stressful situation, whether life-threatening or mundane, cortisol is the hormone that takes over. It instructs our bodies to direct the required energy to our brain, muscles and heart. “Cortisol can be secreted on impulse — you feel fine and suddenly something happens that puts you under stress, and your body starts producing more of the hormone,” says Adrian Ionescu, head of Nanolab.
While cortisol helps our bodies respond to stressful situations, it’s actually a double-edged sword. It’s usually secreted throughout the day according to a circadian rhythm, peaking between 6am and 8am and then gradually decreasing into the afternoon and evening. “But in people who suffer from stress-related diseases, this circadian rhythm is completely thrown off,” says Ionescu. “And if the body makes too much or not enough cortisol, that can seriously damage an individual’s health, potentially leading to obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression or burnout.”
Capturing the hormone to measure it
Blood tests can be used to take snapshot measurements of patients’ cortisol levels. However, detectable amounts of cortisol can also be found in saliva, urine and sweat. Ionescu’s team at Nanolab decided to focus on sweat as the detection fluid and developed a wearable smart patch with a miniaturized sensor.
The patch contains a transistor and an electrode made from graphene which, due to its unique proprieties, offers high sensitivity and very low detection limits. The graphene is functionalized through aptamers, which are short fragments of single-stranded DNA or RNA that can bind to specific compounds. The aptamer in the EPFL patch carries a negative charge; when it comes into contact with cortisol, it immediately captures the hormone, causing the strands to fold onto themselves and bringing the charge closer to the electrode surface. The device then detects the charge, and is consequently able to measure the cortisol concentration in the wearer’s sweat.
So far, no other system has been developed for monitoring cortisol concentrations continuously throughout the circadian cycle. “That’s the key advantage and innovative feature of our device. Because it can be worn, scientists can collect quantitative, objective data on certain stress-related diseases. And they can do so in a non-invasive, precise and instantaneous manner over the full range of cortisol concentrations in human sweat,” says Ionescu.
Engineering improved healthcare
The engineers tested their device on Xsensio’s proprietary Lab-on-SkinTM platform; the next step will be to place it in the hands of healthcare workers. Esmeralda Megally, CEO of Xsensio, says: “The joint R&D team at EPFL and Xsensio reached an important R&D milestone in the detection of the cortisol hormone. We look forward to testing this new sensor in a hospital setting and unlocking new insight into how our body works.” The team has set up a bridge project with Prof. Nelly Pitteloud, chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), for her staff to try out the continuous cortisol-monitoring system on human patients. These trials will involve healthy individuals as well as people suffering from Cushing’s syndrome (when the body produces too much cortisol), Addison’s disease (when the body doesn’t produce enough) and stress-related obesity. The engineers believe their sensor can make a major contribution to the study of the physiological and pathological rhythms of cortisol secretion.
So what about psychological diseases caused by too much stress? “For now, they are assessed based only on patients’ perceptions and states of mind, which are often subjective,” says Ionescu. “So having a reliable, wearable system can help doctors objectively quantify whether a patient is suffering from depression or burnout, for example, and whether their treatment is effective. What’s more, doctors would have that information in real time. That would mark a major step forward in the understanding of these diseases.” And who knows, maybe one day this technology will be incorporated into smart bracelets. “The next phase will focus on product development to turn this exciting invention into a key part of our Lab-on-SkinTM sensing platform, and bring stress monitoring to next-generation wearables,” says Megally.
View full article at Science Daily
“For the right employees, even standard information technology can spur creativity”
In a money-saving revelation for organizations inclined to invest in specialized information technology to support the process of idea generation, new research suggests that even non-specialized, everyday organizational IT can encourage employees’ creativity.
Recently published in the journal Information and Organization, these findings from Dorit Nevo, an associate professor in the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, show standard IT can be used for innovation. Furthermore, this is much more likely to happen when the technology is in the hands of employees who are motivated to master technology, understand their role in the organization, are recognized for their efforts, and are encouraged to develop their skills.
“What this study reveals is that innovation is found not just by using technology specifically created to support idea-generation,” Nevo said. “Creativity comes from both the tool and the person who uses it.”
Most businesses and organizations use common computer technologies, such as business analytics programs, knowledge management systems, and point-of-sale systems, to enable employees to complete basic job responsibilities. Nevo wanted to know if this standard IT could also be used by employees to create new ideas in the front end of the innovation process, where ideas are generated, developed, and then championed.
By developing a theoretically grounded model to examine IT-enabled innovation in an empirical study, Nevo found that employees who are motivated to master IT can use even standard technology as a creativity tool, increasing the return on investment on the technologies companies already have in-house.
“An organization can get a lot more value out of their IT technology if they let the right people use them and then support them,” Nevo said. “This added value will, in turn, save organizations money because they don’t always have to invest in specialized technology in order for their employees to generate solutions to work-related issues or ideas for improvement in the workplace. You just have to trust your employees to be able to innovate with the technologies you have.”
View full article at Science Daily
“Ultrasound in the treatment of brain diseases”
Ultrasound is not only used as an imaging technique but targeted pulses of ultrasound can be used as a highly accurate treatment for a range of brain diseases, for which there were previously only limited treatment options. Over the last few years, several revolutionary techniques of this kind have been developed, primarily in Toronto but also at MedUni Vienna. The Viennese technique improves brain functions by externally activating neurons that are still functional. Improvements can be expected in various neuropsychiatric brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, and neuralgia. A review jointly written by MedUni Vienna and the University of Toronto and published in the specialist journal “Advanced Science” shows that the new treatments are already on the brink of broad clinical application.
Over the last few years, new concepts for ultrasound brain therapy have been developed. Highly focused ultrasonic waves can now be used for non-invasive surgery, focal delivery of therapeutics or genes to selected areas of the brain and therapeutic modulation of neural networks in various brain diseases. According to Roland Beisteiner, who oversaw the development of the new method of transcranial pulsed stimulation with ultrasound (TPS) at the Department of Neurology of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, the new ultrasound techniques are not just a “take-it-or-leave-it” choice but a genuine advantage for clinical practice. “The techniques developed in Vienna and Toronto represent innovative additional options we can use to supplement the existing established treatments. The patient data that has now been published show that the transcranial ultrasound innovations are safe and ready for broad clinical application.” The huge extra advantage of the Viennese technique is that it is virtually free from any side-effects.
Viennese TPS: broad clinical roll-out in sight
The TPS neural stimulation technique developed by an international consortium led by Vienna was presented as the cover article in a top scientific journal at the beginning of 2020. Alzheimer’s patients in this pilot study displayed sustained improvements over a period of three months. The broad clinical roll-out has already started but, according to Beisteiner, requires special expertise: “The new treatment is an ongoing scientific development and requires clinicians to have specific neurological and methodological expertise, as well as knowledge of brain function,” explains Beisteiner. As well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, and neuralgia, which have previously also been investigated with older, less accurate brain stimulation techniques, there are probably completely new applications for TPS as well. TPS is the only technique that can also activate deep regions of the brain in a targeted and non-invasive way. Therefore, all diseases where it is possible to restore disrupted brain functions by activating still-functional neurons, are candidates for the new Viennese therapy. TPS is already licensed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s (CE certification).
Ultrasound techniques from Toronto: different technique, different targets
The two other techniques developed at the University of Toronto under the clinical lead of study co-author Andres Lozano likewise use ultrasonic waves. Targeted, non-invasive ultrasound surgery is already licensed for essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease.
For the first time, it is now possible to treat brain malfunctions by targeted deactivation of overactive neurons without the need to open the skull, making this a technique that could be relevant in the future for many neurological movement disorders. The third innovative ultrasound technique, targeted drug, antibody or gene therapy, solves one of the main challenges in neurology, in that it facilitates non-invasive local opening of the blood-brain barrier. Although many highly effective therapeutics are essentially available, it is not always possible to deliver them to the necessary site in the brain. “By overcoming this barrier, it is now possible to deliver therapeutics and genes to the affected brain areas for the first time. This can potentially be used to treat all brain diseases where local drug therapy is effective, such as tumours and motor system diseases, for example,” says Beisteiner.
Requests to participate in studies
The new ultrasound treatments are being offered in the context of studies and at various treatment centres. However, since these are highly complex techniques, they require extensive briefing of patients and proven neuroscientific expertise to carry out the treatment.
View full article at Science Daily
“Detecting fake news designed to manipulate stock markets”
Social media is increasingly used to spread fake news. The same problem can be found on the capital market — criminals spread fake news about companies in order to manipulate share prices. Researchers at the Universities of Göttingen and Frankfurt and the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana have developed an approach that can recognize such fake news, even when the news contents are repeatedly adapted. The results of the study were published in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.
In order to detect false information — often fictitious data that presents a company in a positive light — the scientists used machine learning methods and created classification models that can be applied to identify suspicious messages based on their content and certain linguistic characteristics. “Here we look at other aspects of the text that makes up the message, such as the comprehensibility of the language and the mood that the text conveys,” says Professor Jan Muntermann from the University of Göttingen.
The approach is already known in principle from its use by spam filters, for example. However, the key problem with the current methods is that to avoid being recognized, fraudsters continuously adapt the content and avoid certain words that are used to identify the fake news. This is where the researchers’ new approach comes in: to identify fake news despite such strategies to evade detection, they combine models recently developed by the researchers in such a way that high detection rates and robustness come together. So even if “suspicious” words disappear from the text, the fake news is still recognized by its linguistic features. “This puts scammers into a dilemma. They can only avoid detection if they change the mood of the text so that it is negative, for instance,” explains Dr Michael Siering. “But then they would miss their target of inducing investors to buy certain stocks.”
The new approach can be used, for example, in market surveillance to temporarily suspend the trading of affected stocks. In addition, it offers investors valuable information to avoid falling for such fraud schemes. It is also possible that it could be used for criminal prosecutions in the future.
View full article at Science Daily