May 2022 Jobs Report & Industry Update

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

Life Sciences
“How meditation can help you make fewer mistakes”

“Engineers get under the skin of ionic skin”

“New research helps explain how Ritalin sharpens attention”

The Industrials
“Genetic engineering can have a positive effect on the climate”

Private Equity

“Market volatility could reshape 2021’s wave of PE mega-exits”

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

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 428,000 in April, and the unemployment rate
 was unchanged at 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job 
growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, in manufacturing, and in
 transportation and warehousing.

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 remained at 3.6 percent in April, and the number of unemployed 
persons was essentially unchanged at 5.9 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 rates for adult men (3.5 percent), adult 
women (3.2 percent), teenagers (10.2 percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (5.9 percent),
 Asians (3.1 percent), and Hispanics (4.1 percent) showed little or no change over the
 month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.) 

Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers remained at 1.4 million in April,
 and the number of persons on temporary layoff was little changed at 853,000. These 
measures are little different from their values in February 2020. (See table A-11.) 

In April, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 
little changed at 1.5 million. This measure is 362,000 higher than in February 2020. The 
long-term unemployed accounted for 25.2 percent of all unemployed persons in April. 
(See table A-12.) 

Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.2 percent, and the employment-population 
ratio, at 60.0 percent, were little changed over the month. These measures are each 1.2 
percentage points below their February 2020 values. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was little changed at 4.0
 million in April and is down by 357,000 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 was little changed 
at 5.9 million in April. 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 increased by 262,000 in April to 1.6 million. 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. Discouraged workers, a 
subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, 
numbered 456,000 in April, little different from the prior month. (See Summary table A.) 

Household Survey Supplemental Data 

In April, 7.7 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic,
 down from 10.0 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 April, 1.7 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 2.5 million in the previous month. Among those who reported in 
April that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business,
 19.0 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, 
little different from the prior month. 

Among those not in the labor force in April, 586,000 persons were prevented from looking 
for work due to the pandemic, down from 874,000 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 

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 428,000 in April. Job gains were widespread, with
 the largest gains occurring in leisure and hospitality, in manufacturing, and in 
transportation and warehousing. However, nonfarm employment is down by 1.2 million, or 0.8
 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. (See table B-1.)

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 78,000 in April. Job growth continued 
in food services and drinking places (+44,000) and accommodation (+22,000). Employment in
 leisure and hospitality is down by 1.4 million, or 8.5 percent, since February 2020.

Manufacturing added 55,000 jobs in April. Employment in durable goods rose by 31,000, with
 gains in transportation equipment (+14,000) and machinery (+7,000). Nondurable goods added
 24,000 jobs, with job growth in food manufacturing (+8,000) and plastics and rubber 
products (+6,000). Since February 2020, manufacturing employment is down by 56,000, or 
0.4 percent.

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 52,000 in April. Within the industry,
 job gains occurred in warehousing and storage (+17,000), couriers and messengers 
(+15,000), truck transportation (+13,000), and air transportation (+4,000). Employment in
 transportation and warehousing is 674,000 above its February 2020 level, led by strong 
growth in warehousing and storage (+467,000) and in couriers and messengers (+259,000).

In April, employment in professional and business services continued to trend up 
(+41,000). Since February 2020, employment in the industry is up by 738,000.

Financial activities added 35,000 jobs in April, led by a gain in insurance carriers and 
related activities (+20,000). Employment also rose in nondepository credit intermediation
 (+6,000) and in securities, commodity contracts, and investments (+5,000). Employment in 
financial activities is 71,000 higher than in February 2020.

Health care employment rose by 34,000 in April, reflecting a gain in ambulatory health 
care services (+28,000). Employment in health care is down by 250,000, or 1.5 percent, 
since February 2020.

Employment in retail trade increased by 29,000 in April. Job gains in food and beverage 
stores (+24,000) and general merchandise stores (+12,000) were partially offset by losses 
in building material and garden supply stores (-16,000) and health and personal care 
stores (-9,000). Retail trade employment is 284,000 above its level in February 2020.

In April, wholesale trade employment rose by 22,000. Employment in the industry is down by
 57,000, or 1.0 percent, since February 2020.

Mining added 9,000 jobs in April, with a gain in oil and gas extraction (+5,000). Mining 
employment is 73,000 higher than a recent low in February 2021.

Employment showed little change over the month in other major industries, including 
construction, information, other services, and government.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 10 cents, or
 0.3 percent, to $31.85 in April. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have 
increased by 5.5 percent. In April, average hourly earnings of private sector production 
and nonsupervisory employees rose by 10 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $27.12. (See tables B-3
 and B-8.) 

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.6
 hours in April. In manufacturing, the average workweek for all employees fell by 0.2 hour
 to 40.5 hours, and overtime held at 3.4 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 February was revised down by 36,000, 
from +750,000 to +714,000, and the change for March was revised down by 3,000, from 
+431,000 to +428,000. With these revisions, employment in February and March combined is 
39,000 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 Employment Situation for May is scheduled to be released on 
Friday, June 3, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).

Employment Situation Summary (

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Life Sciences
“How meditation can help you make fewer mistakes”

If you are forgetful or make mistakes when in a hurry, a new study from Michigan State University — the largest of its kind to-date — found that meditation could help you to become less error prone.

The research, published in Brain Sciences, tested how open monitoring meditation — or, meditation that focuses awareness on feelings, thoughts or sensations as they unfold in one’s mind and body — altered brain activity in a way that suggests increased error recognition.

“People’s interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits,” said Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author. “But it’s amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of a guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators.”

The findings suggest that different forms of meditation can have different neurocognitive effects and Lin explained that there is little research about how open monitoring meditation impacts error recognition.

“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open monitoring meditation is a bit different,” Lin said. “It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery.”

Lin and his MSU co-authors — William Eckerle, Ling Peng and Jason Moser — recruited more than 200 participants to test how open monitoring meditation affected how people detect and respond to errors.

The participants, who had never meditated before, were taken through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation exercise while the researchers measured brain activity through electroencephalography, or EEG. Then, they completed a computerized distraction test.

“The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses,” Lin said. “A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls.”

While the meditators didn’t have immediate improvements to actual task performance, the researchers’ findings offer a promising window into the potential of sustained meditation.

“These findings are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes,” Moser said. “It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment.”

While meditation and mindfulness have gained mainstream interest in recent years, Lin is among a relatively small group of researchers that take a neuroscientific approach to assessing their psychological and performance effects.

Looking ahead, Lin said that the next phase of research will be to include a broader group of participants, test different forms of meditation and determine whether changes in brain activity can translate to behavioral changes with more long-term practice.

“It’s great to see the public’s enthusiasm for mindfulness, but there’s still plenty of work from a scientific perspective to be done to understand the benefits it can have, and equally importantly, how it actually works,” Lin said. “It’s time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens.”

Read original article here

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“Engineers get under the skin of ionic skin”

In the quest to build smart skin that mimics the sensing capabilities of natural skin, ionic skins have shown significant advantages. They’re made of flexible, biocompatible hydrogels that use ions to carry an electrical charge. In contrast to smart skins made of plastics and metals, the hydrogels have the softness of natural skin. This offers a more natural feel to the prosthetic arm or robot hand they are mounted on, and makes them comfortable to wear.

These hydrogels can generate voltages when touched, but scientists did not clearly understand how — until a team of researchers at UBC devised a unique experiment, published today in Science.

“How hydrogel sensors work is they produce voltages and currents in reaction to stimuli, such as pressure or touch — what we are calling a piezoionic effect. But we didn’t know exactly how these voltages are produced,” said the study’s lead author Yuta Dobashi, who started the work as part of his master’s in biomedical engineering at UBC.

Working under the supervision of UBC researcher Dr. John Madden, Dobashi devised hydrogel sensors containing salts with positive and negative ions of different sizes. He and collaborators in UBC’s physics and chemistry departments applied magnetic fields to track precisely how the ions moved when pressure was applied to the sensor.

“When pressure is applied to the gel, that pressure spreads out the ions in the liquid at different speeds, creating an electrical signal. Positive ions, which tend to be smaller, move faster than larger, negative ions. This results in an uneven ion distribution which creates an electric field, which is what makes a piezoionic sensor work.”

The researchers say this new knowledge confirms that hydrogels work in a similar way to how humans detect pressure, which is also through moving ions in response to pressure, inspiring potential new applications for ionic skins.

“The obvious application is creating sensors that interact directly with cells and the nervous system, since the voltages, currents and response times are like those across cell membranes,” says Dr. Madden, an electrical and computer engineering professor in UBC’s faculty of applied science. “When we connect our sensor to a nerve, it produces a signal in the nerve. The nerve, in turn, activates muscle contraction.”

“You can imagine a prosthetic arm covered in an ionic skin. The skin senses an object through touch or pressure, conveys that information through the nerves to the brain, and the brain then activates the motors required to lift or hold the object. With further development of the sensor skin and interfaces with nerves, this bionic interface is conceivable.”

Another application is a soft hydrogel sensor worn on the skin that can monitor a patient’s vital signs while being totally unobtrusive and generating its own power.

Dobashi, who’s currently completing his PhD work at the University of Toronto, is keen to continue working on ionic technologies after he graduates.

“We can imagine a future where jelly-like ‘iontronics’ are used for body implants. Artificial joints can be implanted, without fear of rejection inside the human body. Ionic devices can be used as part of artificial knee cartilage, adding a smart sensing element. A piezoionic gel implant might release drugs based on how much pressure it senses, for example.”

Dr. Madden added that the market for smart skins is estimated at $4.5 billion in 2019 and it continues to grow. “Smart skins can be integrated into clothing or placed directly on the skin, and ionic skins are one of the technologies that can further that growth.”

The research includes contributions from UBC chemistry PhD graduate Yael Petel and Carl Michal, UBC professor of physics, who used the interaction between strong magnetic fields and the nuclear spins of ions to track ion movements within the hydrogels. Cédric Plesse, Giao Nguyen and Frédéric Vidal at CY Cergy Paris University in France helped develop a new theory on how the charge and voltage are generated in the hydrogels.

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“New research helps explain how Ritalin sharpens attention”

Even half a century after a drug comes on the market, scientists can still learn new things about how it works. New research from University of Pittsburgh neuroscientists provides a rare look at how Ritalin affects activity in the brains of animals, providing a deeper understanding of how groups of brain cells govern attention and pointing to new possible uses for the stimulant.

Around one in 11 children in the U.S. are prescribed stimulants like methylphenidate (also known by its brand name Ritalin) to improve attention and focus in people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Many more adults, an estimated 1 in 5 according to surveys, also use the drugs off-label. And while the safety and efficacy of these drugs is well understood, there’s still plenty left to learn about how they work.

“We really know very little about what these drugs do to the activity of groups of neurons,” said senior study author Marlene Cohen, a professor of neuroscience in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “But basic scientists like us have been investigating what groups of neurons can tell us about behavior and cognition, and so understanding what these drugs do to groups of neurons can maybe give us hints about other things that they would be useful for.”

Previous work led by Pitt postdoctoral researcher Amy Ni showed a link between how well animals did on a visual task and a particular measurement of neurons in the visual cortex — specifically, how likely they are to fire off independent of one another, as opposed to being synched up.

In the current work, they found that animals that had taken methylphenidate performed better on a visual task of attention, and that the improvement happened exactly when that same metric of neuron activity shifted. The team, led by Ni, published their research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 25.

Some of the study results were expected from what’s already known about the drug. The three animals took methylphenidate or a placebo on alternating days for two weeks of tests. On days when they took the drug, they spent longer on the task and performed better at it, but only when the required task occurred in a spot they were already paying attention to.

In most neuroscience experiments, researchers target very small groups of neurons with electricity or light. “We definitely didn’t do that — we took these drugs, mixed them in fruit juice and gave them to the animals,” Cohen said. “It surprised me that a very general manipulation would have a very specific behavioral effect.”

Along with learning more about how the drug works, such experiments allow researchers to gain a broader understanding of how patterns of firing neurons translate into behaviors like paying attention to what we see. By comparing how neurons act when the brain is in different states — such as when a subject has taken a drug versus when they haven’t — researchers can create more complete and useful models of how brain cells and behavior are linked.

It’s an approach that hasn’t received much attention, Cohen said, due in part to a lack of ways to fund research on how drugs change the activity of neurons. That makes it difficult to look for “crossover treatments,” i.e., novel uses for drugs that are already on the market.

In light of the current study, previous work in the lab hints at some of these potential crossovers. Research by Ni has found similarities between neural patterns linked to attention and certain kinds of learning, suggesting that treatments for disorders involving one might be effective for the other.

“These stimulants might actually be useful for treating a lot of things, ranging from the cognitive changes associated with normal aging, to Alzheimer’s disease and others,” Cohen said. Though it’s currently just a well-informed hunch, it’s one the lab plans to pursue in future studies.

For now, this study remains an important first step in a line of research Cohen hopes to see far more of: connecting the dots between the neural underpinnings of our behavior and how drugs affect it.

“It’s one test case, and I think there’s a lot more to be done,” she said. “I hope that people will see that these approaches are important.”

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The Industrials

“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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Private Equity

“Market volatility could reshape 2021’s wave of PE mega-exits”

The growing size of PE-backed exits became a ubiquitous storyline in 2021, but current market volatility could force the trend to falter.

US mega-exits activity, which refers to transactions of $1 billion or more, had an unprecedented year, with 75 PE-backed companies listed at valuations above the $1 billion mark—a record far beyond previous annual numbers. The median size of PE-backed public listings hit $1.8 billion by the end of 2021, according to our recent analyst note on mega-deals and exit activity.

PE firms seized on unusually high valuations to list their portfolio companies, and as public multiples rose—thanks to government stimulus measures and solid corporate earnings amid the pandemic recovery—mega-sized IPOs boomed.

IT was among the most prolific sectors in 2021, accounting for 39% of the total value of PE-backed public listings worth more than $1 billion. In its public listings, the IT sector posted an aggregate $99.5 billion enterprise value, which was more than triple that of IT mega-listings in 2020.

Numerous subsectors in IT were notably successful in these giant IPOs, including data management, software, fintech and mobile gaming.

Healthcare also saw a jump in mega-listings, as public investors increasingly became interested in innovative industry areas such as healthtech, patient engagement, home care and urgent care.

While 2021 was a breeding ground for mega-exits, it’s likely the trend will lose some steam in 2022.

Market conditions have been volatile so far this year, driven by additional rate hikes, slowing growth from continued supply chain issues, inflation and geopolitical tensions. As a result, many investors could be less willing to publicly list their companies, and those that do could have to grapple with lower valuations as stock prices take a hit.

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