Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — June 2021”
“Urban green space affects citizens’ happiness”
“Unbroken: New soft electronics don’t break, even when punctured”
“COVID-19 test offers solution for population-wide testing, scientists say”
“Strategies to speed global vaccine availability”
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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation – June 2021”
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- JUNE 2021 Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 850,000 in June, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 5.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, public and private education, professional and business services, retail trade, and other services. 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 Both the unemployment rate, at 5.9 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 9.5 million, were little changed in June. These measures are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well 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 (5.9 percent), adult women (5.5 percent), teenagers (9.9 percent), Whites (5.2 percent), Blacks (9.2 percent), Asians (5.8 percent), and Hispanics (7.4 percent) showed little or no change in June. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.) Among the unemployed, the number of job leavers--that is, unemployed persons who quit or voluntarily left their previous job and began looking for new employment-- increased by 164,000 to 942,000 in June. The number of persons on temporary layoff, at 1.8 million, was essentially unchanged over the month. This measure is down considerably from the high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 1.1 million above the February 2020 level. The number of permanent job losers, at 3.2 million, was also essentially unchanged over the month but is 1.9 million higher than in February 2020. (See table A-11.) In June, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 233,000 to 4.0 million, following a decline of 431,000 in May. This measure is 2.9 million higher than in February 2020. These long-term unemployed accounted for 42.1 percent of the total unemployed in June. The number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks, at 2.0 million, changed little in June. (See table A-12.) The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.6 percent in June and has remained within a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.7 percent since June 2020. The participation rate is 1.7 percentage points lower than in February 2020. The employment-population ratio, at 58.0 percent, was also unchanged in June but is up by 0.6 percentage point since December 2020. However, this measure is 3.1 percentage points below its February 2020 level. (See table A-1.) The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons decreased by 644,000 to 4.6 million in June. This decline reflected a drop in the number of persons whose hours were cut due to slack work or business conditions. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons is up by 229,000 since February 2020. 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.) In June, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6.4 million, little changed over the month but up by 1.4 million since February 2020. 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 1.8 million, changed little in June but is up by 393,000 since February 2020. 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 617,000 in June, essentially unchanged from the previous month but 216,000 higher than in February 2020. (See Summary table A.) Household Survey Supplemental Data In June, 14.4 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 16.6 percent in the prior month. 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 June, 6.2 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 7.9 million in May. Among those who reported in June that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 10.0 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 June, 1.6 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 2.5 million in May. (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 850,000 in June, following increases of 583,000 in May and 269,000 in April. In June, nonfarm payroll employment is up by 15.6 million since April 2020 but is down by 6.8 million, or 4.4 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. Notable job gains in June occurred in leisure and hospitality, public and private education, professional and business services, retail trade, and other services. (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.) In June, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 343,000, as pandemic- related restrictions continued to ease in some parts of the country. Over half of the job gain was in food services and drinking places (+194,000). Employment also continued to increase in accommodation (+75,000) and in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+74,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 2.2 million, or 12.9 percent, from its level in February 2020. In June, employment rose by 155,000 in local government education, by 75,000 in state government education, and by 39,000 in private education. In both public and private education, staffing fluctuations due to the pandemic, in part reflecting the return to in-person learning and other school-related activities, have distorted the normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns, likely contributing to the job gains in June. (Without the typical seasonal employment increases earlier, there were fewer layoffs at the end of the school year, resulting in job gains after seasonal adjustment.) These variations make it more challenging to discern the current employment trends in these industries. Since February 2020, employment is down by 414,000 in local government education, by 168,000 in state government education, and by 255,000 in private education. Employment in professional and business services rose by 72,000 in June but is down by 633,000 since February 2020. In June, employment rose in temporary help services (+33,000), advertising and related services (+8,000), scientific research and development services (+7,000), and legal services (+6,000). Retail trade added 67,000 jobs in June, but employment is down by 303,000, or 1.9 percent, since February 2020. Over the month, job growth in clothing and clothing accessories stores (+28,000), general merchandise stores (+25,000), miscellaneous store retailers (+13,000), and automobile dealers (+8,000) was partially offset by losses in food and beverage stores (-13,000) and health and personal care stores (-7,000). The other services industry added 56,000 jobs in June, with gains in personal and laundry services (+29,000), in membership associations and organizations (+18,000), and in repair and maintenance (+9,000). Employment in other services is 297,000 lower than in February 2020. Employment in social assistance rose by 32,000 in June, largely in child day care services (+25,000). Employment in social assistance is down by 236,000 from its level in February 2020. In June, wholesale trade added 21,000 jobs, with gains in both the durable and nondurable goods components (+14,000 and +9,000, respectively). Employment in wholesale trade is 192,000 lower than in February 2020. Employment in mining rose by 10,000 in June, reflecting a gain in support activities for mining. Mining employment is down by 110,000 since a peak in January 2019. Employment in manufacturing changed little in June (+15,000). Within the industry, job gains in furniture and related products (+9,000), fabricated metal products (+6,000), and primary metals (+3,000) were partially offset by a loss in motor vehicles and parts (-12,000). Employment in manufacturing is down by 481,000 from its level in February 2020. Employment in transportation and warehousing was little changed in June (+11,000). Employment gains in warehousing and storage (+14,000), air transportation (+8,000), and truck transportation (+6,000) were partially offset by a loss in couriers and messengers (-24,000). Since February 2020, employment in transportation and warehousing is down by 94,000. Construction employment changed little in June (-7,000). Over-the-month job losses in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-15,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-11,000) were partially offset by a gain in residential specialty trade contractors (+13,000). Employment in construction is 238,000 lower than in February 2020. In June, employment showed little change in other major industries, including information, financial activities, and health care. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 10 cents to $30.40 in June, following increases in May and April (+13 cents and +20 cents, respectively). Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 10 cents to $25.68 in June. The data for recent months suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages. However, because average hourly earnings vary widely across industries, the large employment fluctuations since February 2020 complicate the analysis of recent trends in average hourly earnings. (See tables B-3 and B-8.) In June, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.1 hour to 34.7 hours. In manufacturing, the average workweek fell by 0.2 hour to 40.2 hours, and overtime declined by 0.1 hour to 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 0.2 hour to 34.1 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.) The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for April was revised down by 9,000, from +278,000 to +269,000, and the change for May was revised up by 24,000, from +559,000 to +583,000. With these revisions, employment in April and May combined is 15,000 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 July is scheduled to be released on Friday, August 6, 2021, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
“Urban green space affects citizens’ happiness”
A recent study revealed that as a city becomes more economically developed, its citizens’ happiness becomes more directly related to the area of urban green space.
A joint research project by Professor Meeyoung Cha of the School of Computing and her collaborators studied the relationship between green space and citizen happiness by analyzing big data from satellite images of 60 different countries.
Urban green space, including parks, gardens, and riversides not only provides aesthetic pleasure, but also positively affects our health by promoting physical activity and social interactions. Most of the previous research attempting to verify the correlation between urban green space and citizen happiness was based on few developed countries. Therefore, it was difficult to identify whether the positive effects of green space are global, or merely phenomena that depended on the economic state of the country. There have also been limitations in data collection, as it is difficult to visit each location or carry out investigations on a large scale based on aerial photographs.
The research team used data collected by Sentinel-2, a high-resolution satellite operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate 90 green spaces from 60 different countries around the world. The subjects of analysis were cities with the highest population densities (cities that contain at least 10% of the national population), and the images were obtained during the summer of each region for clarity. Images from the northern hemisphere were obtained between June and September of 2018, and those from the southern hemisphere were obtained between December of 2017 and February of 2018.
The areas of urban green space were then quantified and crossed with data from the World Happiness Report and GDP by country reported by the United Nations in 2018. Using these data, the relationships between green space, the economy, and citizen happiness were analyzed.
The results showed that in all cities, citizen happiness was positively correlated with the area of urban green space regardless of the country’s economic state. However, out of the 60 countries studied, the happiness index of the bottom 30 by GDP showed a stronger correlation with economic growth. In countries whose gross national income (GDP per capita) was higher than 38,000 USD, the area of green space acted as a more important factor affecting happiness than economic growth. Data from Seoul was analyzed to represent South Korea, and showed an increased happiness index with increased green areas compared to the past.
The authors point out their work has several policy-level implications. First, public green space should be made accessible to urban dwellers to enhance social support. If public safety in urban parks is not guaranteed, its positive role in social support and happiness may diminish. Also, the meaning of public safety may change; for example, ensuring biological safety will be a priority in keeping urban parks accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second, urban planning for public green space is needed for both developed and developing countries. As it is challenging or nearly impossible to secure land for green space after the area is developed, urban planning for parks and green space should be considered in developing economies where new cities and suburban areas are rapidly expanding.
Third, recent climate changes can present substantial difficulty in sustaining urban green space. Extreme events such as wild?res, ?oods, droughts, and cold waves could endanger urban forests while global warming could conversely accelerate tree growth in cities due to the urban heat island effect. Thus, more attention must be paid to predict climate changes and discovering their impact on the maintenance of urban green space.
“There has recently been an increase in the number of studies using big data from satellite images to solve social conundrums,” said Professor Cha. “The tool developed for this investigation can also be used to quantify the area of aquatic environments like lakes and the seaside, and it will now be possible to analyze the relationship between citizen happiness and aquatic environments in future studies,” she added.
“Unbroken: New soft electronics don’t break, even when punctured”
Want a smartphone that stretches, takes damage, and still doesn’t miss a call?
A team of Virginia Tech researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Macromolecules Innovation Institute has created a new type of soft electronics, paving the way for devices that are self-healing, reconfigurable, and recyclable. These skin-like circuits are soft and stretchy, sustain numerous damage events under load without losing electrical conductivity, and can be recycled to generate new circuits at the end of a product’s life.
Led by Assistant Professor Michael Bartlett, the team recently published its findings in Communications Materials, an open access journal from Nature Research.
Current consumer devices, such as phones and laptops, contain rigid materials that use soldered wires running throughout. The soft circuit developed by Bartlett’s team replaces these inflexible materials with soft electronic composites and tiny, electricity-conducting liquid metal droplets. These soft electronics are part of a rapidly emerging field of technology that gives gadgets a level of durability that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
The liquid metal droplets are initially dispersed in an elastomer, a type of rubbery polymer, as electrically insulated, discrete drops.
“To make circuits, we introduced a scalable approach through embossing, which allows us to rapidly create tunable circuits by selectively connecting droplets,” postdoctoral researcher and first author Ravi Tutika said. “We can then locally break the droplets apart to remake circuits and can even completely dissolve the circuits to break all the connections to recycle the materials, and then start back at the beginning.”
The circuits are soft and flexible, like skin, continuing to work even under extreme damage. If a hole is punched in these circuits, the metal droplets can still transfer power. Instead of cutting the connection completely as in the case of a traditional wire, the droplets make new connections around the hole to continue passing electricity.
The circuits will also stretch without losing their electrical connection, as the team pulled the device to over 10 times its original length without failure during the research.
At the end of a product’s life, the metal droplets and the rubbery materials can be reprocessed and returned to a liquid solution, effectively making them recyclable. From that point, they can be remade to start a new life, an approach that offers a pathway to sustainable electronics.
While a stretchy smartphone has not yet been made, rapid development in the field also holds promise for wearable electronics and soft robotics. These emerging technologies require soft, robust circuitry to make the leap into consumer applications.
“We’re excited about our progress and envision these materials as key components for emerging soft technologies,” Bartlett said. “This work gets closer to creating soft circuitry that could survive in a variety of real-world applications.”
“COVID-19 test offers solution for population-wide testing, scientists say”
In an article appearing in Nature Biomedical Engineering, a team of scientists from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA School of Engineering report real-world results on SwabSeq, a high-throughput testing platform that uses sequencing to test thousands of samples at a time to detect COVID-19. They were able to perform more than 80,000 tests in less than two months, with the test showing extremely high sensitivity and specificity.
SwabSeq uses sample-specific molecular barcodes to simultaneously analyze thousands of samples for the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. SwabSeq was granted FDA Emergency Use Authorization in October and is currently deployed at UCLA in a high-complexity CLIA laboratory, which has performed over 150,000 tests since December 2020. SwabSeq is a flexible protocol and can rapidly scale up testing for novel pathogens, including COVID-19 and future emerging viruses.
“We have optimized SwabSeq to prioritize scale and low cost, key factors that are missing from current COVID-19 diagnostics,” the authors write.
“These results demonstrate the potential of SwabSeq to be used for SARS-CoV-2 testing on an unprecedented scale,” said Dr. Valerie Arboleda, Assistant Professor and lead scientist on the project. “SwabSeq offers a potential solution to the need for population-wide testing to stem the pandemic.” In the months since, the team has continued to use the test, and as of this date has performed more than 150,000 tests.
The groundbreaking technology was developed in a collaboration between scientists at the Department of Computational Medicine affiliated with both the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Samueli School of Engineering at UCLA, the Department of Human Genetics, the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Octant, a start-up company founded and incubated at UCLA. SwabSeq is a modification of Octant’s technology that is being applied toward drug discovery and has been made available broadly to fight the pandemic. UCLA scientists have been leading a broader coalition of academic and industrial labs around the country and the world to develop the technology to scale up COVID-19 testing.
“Strategies to speed global vaccine availability”
In a new paper published in the journal Vaccine: X, public health experts from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the University of Oslo, and Spark Street Advisors highlight actions to accelerate access to vaccines globally. The paper reviews the vaccine research and development process and proposes areas where reforms could increase access, speed time to market and decrease costs — from R&D to manufacturing and regulation to the management of incentives like patents and public funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of vaccines as public health and pandemic preparedness tools and amplified the importance of issues ranging from equitable distribution to reliable supply of quality, affordable vaccines. Delays in time from the first dose in a high-income country to introduction at scale in a low-income country can take years. These delays are driven by several challenges, some of which are unique to the vaccine development ecosystem. The authors write that the patenting and overall intellectual property (IP) protection are complex, regulatory oversight is rigorous, manufacturing processes require technical support or know-how transfer from the innovator, and market dynamics create obstacles to delivering at scale. To address these challenges, the authors propose several opportunities to accelerate the availability of vaccines in low and middle-income countries:
- Regulatory harmonization. Regulatory agencies around the world are increasingly recognizing the need to harmonize their approval process to enable efficiencies to save both time and money — something particularly important with regard to new technologies. For example, mRNA and DNA vaccines have the greatest potential of speeding the development processes and the recent approval of mRNA vaccine against COVID-19, brings promise for fully establishing regulatory pathways for these innovations. While mRNA vaccines do pose some challenges for low-income settings, in particular their requirement for ultra-cold storages, there are ongoing efforts to try to address this issue, including the establishment of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.
- Manufacturing capacity building. In order for vaccines to be deployed quickly and at scale, manufacturing capacity must be in place to allow for sufficient scale up when demand is high. Given the substantial know-how required, access to facilities is not enough; low-income countries and regions must also have sufficient know-how about manufacturing processes. This will require freedom to operate around patents and investment in technology transfer. To face the unprecedented need and opportunity for rapid and massive worldwide availability of COVID-19 vaccines, new business models have emerged with agreements between originator companies and manufacturing companies operating in different geographical and market environments.
- Streamlined IP arrangements. With regard to IP arrangements, biopharmaceutical manufacturers and governments have made use of governmental compulsory licensing, patent oppositions, IP pools and voluntary IP licenses and technology transfer to advance access to new technologies. Although this has been limited in the field of vaccines, improving transparency and creating more streamlined IP arrangements, could contribute to increased diversity of supplier which will also help alleviate supply constraints.
“The COVID-19 outbreak and steps that have been taken to speed time to market could act as a catalyst for other vaccines,” says senior author Nina Schwalbe, MPH, adjunct assistant professor of Population and Family Health. “While still very much a work in progress, the advancements demonstrated through the R&D of COVID-19 vaccines, give promise that many of the challenges to efficient and equitable vaccine development can be successfully addressed with adequate financing and political will.”