TikTok App on Phone

TikTok Deal Seen as a Positive Against Trump’s Trade War With China

In a move that saw President Donald Trump reportedly give his ‘blessing’, TikTok has struck up a potential deal that will allow the social media company to continue to operate within the United States.

Last month Trump had signed an executive order that meant TikTok’s owners ByteDance had only 90 days to sell their company, or risk being banned within America, something Trump constantly threatened to do due to security fears.

Officials believe that the Chinese government was taking the personal information from all users in America – estimated to be around 100 million – and using it for their own purposes.

The app would have had any new updates or downloads blocked by the US Commerce Department if a deal had not been struck.

The new owners are TikTok Global, a new company that is rumored to be based in Texas. The deal has come with some conditions though. In the first instance, the company is a partnership and not a divestment as first believed. An agreement has also been made that the company will prioritize Trump’s “America First” policy agenda.

The original owners ByteDance had valued the company at $60 billion, an amount that seemed to sit well with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp, who have taken stakes in the company.

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According to recent reports, Walmart will be investing for a 7.5 per cent stake in the app while Oracle will receive 12.5 per cent. Between the two companies they would pay $12 billion but only if the $60 billion price tag was met. Oracle would also be responsible for complying with all requests regarding America’s national security storing the US user data.

However, as all parties involved in the partnership were still discussing the procedures for the data security alongside the equity structure, a final valuation was still to be confirmed.

When discussing the deal at a rally in North Carolina, Trump said, “I said, you know, do me a favor, could you put up $5 billion into a fund for education so we can educate people as to the real history of our country, not the fake history.”

The US commerce department had previously released a statement that said, “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US.”

While other investors – including Sequoia, Coatue and General Atlantic who along with Walmart and Oracle have agreed on an initiative that would provide a video curriculum which would include subjects such as science, computer engineering, math, reading and history – there was no confirmation on how much this project would cost.

Another aspect of the deal would mean that while ByteDance would be allowed to retain TikTok’s source code, Oracle would be allowed to conduct audits on the information.

CEO of Oracle Safra Catz confirmed they were “100 per cent confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok’s American users.”

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According to a report by Reuters, a large proportion of the directors for TikTok Global are to be American and a security expert would be asked to sit on the board alongside a US chief executive. Walmart have since confirmed their CEO Doug McMillon will be one of the five new board members.

President Trump and his administration are continuing to remove any ‘untrusted’ Chinese apps from the country’s networks and has placed an order for WeChat downloads to be removed from app stores.

Trump has also worked to remove any company or nation he views as a threat to America’s national security, particularly those linked with China.

Long before the “China virus” arrived in the US, China and America had been subject to a trade war that had seen both countries impose tariffs on each other’s goods.

While Trump had issues with what he claimed was China’s unfair trading practices and, more recently, their intellectual property theft, China believed that America was trying to stifle their growth and therefore their position as one of the world’s fastest growing economic powers.

Trump’s “America First” policy has been seen as patriotic by many as he continues to encourage consumers to opt for American produced items before looking for imported goods, something he has boosted by raising imported goods tariffs so high the general public can no longer afford them.

At the start of the year tariffs imposed on Chinese produce had reached $360 billion, over three times as much as the tariffs China had imposed on America in an act of retaliation.

Both countries have denied the other’s claims but what is clear is that the actions from America and China have caused damage to the world’s economy. And with coronavirus causing untold damage to the economy for most of 2020 many experts are wondering if business can in fact recover.

Tiktok Logos

TikTok’s Future Remains Unclear After Walmart And Oracle Win Bid For Partial Ownership

President Donald Trump has been battling with video-sharing social networking platform TikTok for months now. Trump has claimed that the Chinese-owned app, run by company ByteDance, is giving personal user information to the Chinese government upon request; a claim that ByteDance and TikTok has denied multiple times on claims that the US branch of TikTok is run in the US and barely connected to the offices in China. 

Recently, the president demanded for a full sale of TikTok to an American owner, and in August he gave ByteDance 90  days to sell or they would face a countrywide shutdown. He then issued twin executive orders that would ban transactions from the US with ByteDance, but in late August the company announced a potential sale of the app.

The tentative deal from ByteDance was made over this past weekend after the Trump administration announced that if an acceptable deal was not met, TikTok would be removed from the app store starting this weekend and lasting until November when the app would be fully banned.

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ByteDance announced they would create a US subsidiary called TikTok Global which would be part-owned by the US entities of Walmart and Oracle. Four of the company’s five main board members would be American and the fifth would likely be the ByteDance founder himself. After this announcement Trump delayed the app store ban by a week. 

The proposed structure of this agreement is still unclear, as it seems ByteDance announced this deal as a means of getting Trump to ease up on his pressures to ban the app. Oracle and Walmart have stated that they would own 20% of the company while ByteDance would own 80%, however, Oracle’s vice president recently made a statement regarding the deal. 

“Upon creation of TikTok Global, Oracle/Walmart will make their investment and the TikTok Global shares will be distributed to their owners, Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global.”

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The competing claims are leaving the public unsure of what the reality of this deal actually is. It does seem as though the Trump administration is in support of the Oracle Walmart bid for partial ownership of the app, however, the claims from ByteDance that they still would hold a majority stake in the company is concerning for business leaders. 

Professor Paul Haskell-Dowland is an associate dean of Computing and Security at Edith Cowan University in Australia who recently spoke with the press about this confusing deal and what it actually means for the future of TikTok in America. 

“There are competing claims [about ownership] because no one is really telling the full story. The deal seems to be changing by the hour.”

Haskell-Dowland went on to explain that the US and China will likely engage in more back-and-forth in regards to this deal and security updates that will come with the apps new ownership. In the end, he believes that it’s more of a political fight between two nations and has nothing “to do with national security or intellectual property.” Only time will tell what the final deal actually looks like and until then, users will just have to enjoy TikTok as it is before it potentially changes forever.

American Flag

Pompeo Visits Suriname and Guyana

Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Guyana and Suriname was the first visit to the two nations by a US secretary of state and was designed to elicit business from the nations leaders.

Pompeo chose to warn leaders Chan Santokhi – Suriname’s new president – and Guyana president – President Irfaan Ali and also new to his position – against trading with China citing political risks when dealing with the nation, while at the same time promising a deal could be made with America.

Although both the South American countries have been thriving with minerals and lumber, oil has recently been discovered meaning many countries around the world have suddenly become interested in creating new business within the nations.

Citing the discovery as the beginning of an “exciting time” for both the national and international economy, Pompeo made it clear that America is “eager to partner” with them.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Santokhi, Pompeo announced that, “no state-owned operation can beat the quality of the products and services of American private companies.

“We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end and then it all comes falling down when the political costs connected to that becomes clear.”

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Pompeo continued, “and we do our level best wherever I travel to make the case for just making sure everybody understands what they’re getting into.”

After his visit to Suriname, where Pompeo met with Santokhi in the nation’s capital Paramaribo at the leader’s Dutch colonial-era home, Pompeo headed to Guyana where he made a near identical announcement.

A dinner was hosted for Pompeo by President Irfaan Ali and in keeping with local coronavirus rules, the rifle-holding honor guard wore face masks in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

Following a near government controlled state in the 1980s, where it was thought the government owned or controlled around 80% of the country’s economy, foreign investment was sought alongside a privatization programme and government control reduced significantly. However, with the latest discovery the country is now expected to grow by around 85 per cent, which is currently the largest predicted growth in the world.

The opportunity for investment is high and many countries have headed to the areas to talk business. Pompeo’s visit to Guyana and Suriname is a three-day tour and the party will also visit the Brazilian Amazonian border which forms part of Pompeo’s current campaign which is focusing on the extent of the devastation that has economically affected Venezuela. Pompeo will also be visiting Colombia.

The tour has been designed to show both presidents that they have the United States’ confidence as both leaders have been promoted as someone who can turn the countries around and make them both financially stable as well as players in the global arena.

Santokhi came to power in July of this year after defeating dictator turned politician Desi Bouterse. The win for Santokhi means that Bouterse can concentrate on fighting a prison sentence for the order of political opponents to be executed during the early 1980s.

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Meanwhile Ali won his position only a few weeks ago after his opponent challenged the election results. However this move forced sanctions to be placed by America on employees of the previous administration.

Speaking to Santokhi, Pompeo announced, “Like your neighbors in Guyana, the people of Suriname spoke clearly, choosing a new leader and securing your future as a democratic nation.”

In response Santokhi confirmed that both himself and his country would work with America in “the defense of democracy and strong democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance and human rights.”

However, in reference to whether the country should partner up with China or the US he confirmed he did not believe that it was an ‘either or’ decision between the two countries.

China has extended an invitation to Guyana and Suriname to join the country’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative leading Santokhi to confirm that “it was not a topic of discussion, so it is not a question of making choices.”

Both Guyana and Suriname have less than one million people living in their countries and have continued to have issues with descendants of the different nations that were kept as slaves in earlier years, including when Guyana was a British colony. Although slavery was abolished by both nations in the 1800s and Guyana became an independent nation in 1966, descendants of both the Indian and African slaves have continued to raise issues. It is hoped that the influx of new money will help to resolve some of these issues.

This is not the first time oil has been found in the area. In 2015 ExxonMobil confirmed they had discovered oil reserves off the coast of Guyana leading to an arrangement with the Guyanese government. However this is now under review with Ali expected to demand around half the revenue made from the oil, an amount that some are saying is not enough.

Coronavirus Economy

How Has Coronavirus Affected The Economy?

The human cost of the current coronavirus pandemic has been highlighted often with figures of worldwide or America’s confirmed cases and fatalities being reported across the media, but what about the financial cost?

While it goes without saying that the human cost is unacceptable – at the time of writing there has been 6,588,448 confirmed cases of coronavirus in America alone with 196,332 deaths – there is an argument that keeping certain sectors of the economy closed will have a far more detrimental effect long term.

A warning has been issued by the Congressional Budget Office stating that they believe the government will have the biggest budget deficit since World War II finished in 1945. And with the virus continuing to stay in high numbers across the country, they predict that next year the federal debt will be bigger than the country’s economy, something that has not happened since 1946. The warning does not stop there as they also believe that by continuing running the economy the way we are, America will have a new high by 2024.

However there are many economists who believe that the over spending was needed to ensure that the country stays afloat and maintains some degree of ‘normality’. The world is currently in the worst public health emergency seen in over 100 years and economists are convinced that the amount of money needed to keep businesses and households out of poverty was an essential expense.

This has been proven by the fact many investors are still keen to get their loans from the Treasury thanks to the extremely low costs the government has placed on borrowing.

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Currently, the annual deficit is estimated to reach $3.3 trillion by the end of September. The deficit, the difference between what the government earns in taxes and what they spend, is around 16% of America’s gross domestic product (GDP). This year will see the deficit become as big as it is for the first time in 75 years.

It is predicted that the federal debt is due to reach 100% of GDP in 2021 and continue to climb, reaching $24.5 trillion by 2023, or 107% of GDP. This would surpass the current record of 106% of GDP which was reached in 1946 however it is worth noting that any debts owed between government agencies, such as the Social Security trust fund, is not included in the percentage.

Many are questioning why the debt is so big. America, as many other first world countries, already had a huge debt due to several reasons including the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009 as well as the 2017 tax cut implemented by President Donald Trump. These factors meant that in 2019 the national debt burden had already reached 79% of GDP, the highest percentage in over 70 years.

Just as the government thought they had put together a plan to bring the economy back on track the coronavirus had other ideas. As the numbers of those falling ill increased rapidly as well as the number of fatalities caused by the virus, it was perceived to be the best course of action across the world to ‘shut up shop’ and try and sit the virus out.

Businesses closed, some never reopened. Employees went home from work; many have as yet to go back. And throughout it all the government handed out money to those in need to ensure they continued to thrive in an already surreal world.

In April the GDP rapidly collapsed at a 31.7% annual rate and continued through to June. In just eight weeks over March and April, 22 million jobs were lost.

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A bill of $2 trillion in relief was passed by Congress to assist those now unemployed with those receiving state jobless benefits also receiving $600 a week as well as a one-off $1,200 check at the beginning of the pandemic.

While it is firmly believed that this course of action has helped keep the country out of a depression some experts believe more should be done.

So the question now is how can we pay down our debt? And how long will it take? After World War II our economy started to regrow, and it grew quickly ensuring that the debt was back to the pre-war level of 44% of GDP by 1961. This rapid growth allowed those in charge to maintain low interest rates in an attempt to keep the cost of repayments down.

While times are different now we can still work towards growing our economy. However our GDP growth has only reached an average of 2.3% in the last ten years, which could lend itself to stalling our recovery. And following the financial deregulation during the 1980s the government is no longer allowed to control the interest rates.

It has always been a risk when governments borrow money, especially when it is such large amounts however by keeping rates low, especially inflation, the risks can be reduced.

While many of those in power are unable to predict the future they are able to predict that by handing more money to those who can support the economy the debt collectors can stay away just that little bit longer.

Boeing Building

Boeing Under Fire For ‘Gambling With Public Safety’ After Two Crashes 

According to a report from US politicians, Boeing has jeopardized the safety of passengers by cutting certain costs and ignoring software flaws that contributed to two fatal crashes. The cut costs and software flaws mainly existed in the development of Boeing’s 737 Max, an aircraft that has since been grounded indefinitely. 

The first crash occurred in 2018 and involved a Lion Air 737 Max, and the second occurred in 2019 at an Ethiopian Airlines; in total 346 individuals were killed between both crashes. The committee on transportation and infrastructure – made up of members of the House of representatives – in the US published their report on Wednesday, and within the report they claim that “there have been repeated and serious failures by Boeing and its regulator, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in allowing the faulty aircraft to carry passengers.”

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Democratic representative Peter DeFazio is the committee’s chair and expressed that Boeing and the FAA “gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes.” He attributes these failings to a “broken” safety culture at the company, and several gaps in the system that the FAA uses to regulate safety systems on these planes. These gaps are what led to the fatal crashes. 

After new reports of software fixes and new rounds of testing for the 737 Max plane, Boeing is hoping to re-certify the aircraft for public use. Between the coronavirus pandemic and these recent failings from Boeing, the company has had to cut over 16,000 jobs, so they’re hoping the re-certification of the 737 can help them recover. 

Boeing has been under investigation for the past 18 months, and within that investigation officials found that the company had cut some major costs in order to compete with its biggest competitor, Airbus. The report from the US government claims that this competition added an extreme financial strain to Boeing’s spending, which led to even more cut corners. 

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“Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 Max program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 Max production line. There are several instances where the desire to meet these goals and expectations jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”

The report also found that Boeing had made some major errors in their aircraft design, specifically regarding the system put in place for the pilot should a crucial system malfunction during a flight. This system is referred to as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and it was initially designed to push the nose of the plane down during certain flying conditions to prevent it from stalling. However, this system kicked in on both fatal flights shortly after takeoff because of a faulty sensor. 

The report also criticized the FAA greatly on their relationship with Boeing and complete lack of concern over these safety measures that have been overlooked. Boeing not only withheld information from the FAA, but were able to influence their regulator into approving certain flights for travel. 

Boeing is currently working on regaining regulatory approval for its 737 Max aircraft, and the company has “full confidence in its safety,” however, the real test will be to see what airlines continue to have a relationship with Boeing as time goes on.

Male Economist

Consumer Confidence At All Time Low

Senior economists at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress have warned of an economy that is lacking confidence, thanks to the lack of federal aid as well as concerns that there could be a second wave of coronavirus.

In a recent statement Gbenga Ajilore said, “The fear of a second coronavirus wave is real because the first wave never really ended, and countries that have managed the virus well, like New Zealand and Italy, are seeing a large number of cases again.

“So the news of other countries that had controlled the virus getting worse again makes people pessimistic about the virus and the economy here as well”.

When coronavirus first hit America back in the early months of the year consumer confidence dropped however it started to creep up again as the country appeared to recover.

A renewed spike in cases over the summer put a halt to that and by August consumer confidence was at its lowest point in six years.

Many believe that the negativity is due to the forecast of a further outbreak of coronavirus in the fall, and with the flu season appearing at the same time there are major concerns that both viruses combined could see higher numbers of confirmed cases and fatalities.

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One of the economists at the University of Chicago, Tomas Philipson, thinks that the spikes in the summer are a direct link to consumer confidence saying, “The virus revved up again in July and August, and that resulted in lost economic activity, which is reflected in the consumer confidence.”

However there is another major factor in the drop in confidence, the ending of the government relief packages including the $600 per week extra to those applying for jobless benefits and the CARES Act, both of which have recently finished leaving many already on unemployment benefits struggling, and thousands more at a higher risk of losing their jobs.

Conservative think tank economist Brian Riedl agrees. “I think that consumer confidence and spending is likely dropping because there is little assistance from Washington to help people spend.”

Until recently the CARES Act handed out around $1.7 trillion since it was passed by Congress in March while the $600 a week payments finished in July. Some states have continued to hand out some extra jobless funding however there are now millions of households across the country who are struggling to pay the bills and keep hold of their homes.

To back up these claims the Bank of America released data that clearly shows a big drop in spending during August from those who were receiving the extra unemployment payments.

Compounding these already worrying times, the number of employees being laid off have continued to remain high, even more so now that airline companies are able to reduce their numbers of employees. Landlord agencies are also reporting that the number of tenants falling behind on their rent has increased significantly while mortgage arrears have also increased across the board.

While politicians from both Republicans and Democrats as well as the Trump administration are pushing for more relief to be made available Congress has continued to disagree on several points in the legislation.

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A $500 billion GOP bill designed to provide help to small businesses and schools while continuing to help those on unemployment benefits was blocked only this week by Senate Democrats. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke out about the Democrats demands for state and local government aid worth $1 trillion, confirming it is an issue that keeps stalling negotiations:

“Right now, the thing that’s the stumbling block is [aid] to state and local governments. The number that Speaker Pelosi puts forth is just not supported by the facts. So we’re going to continue to negotiate on that.”

With news that the government cannot come to an agreement many households are reluctant to believe there will be any more help and depression and despair is creeping into homes everywhere.

Joe Biden’s economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, agrees that there is a bigger problem on the horizon if the financial issues are not resolved soon. “You don’t have to look at fancy things like people’s psychology. People are not able to meet their basic needs; people are facing hunger and eviction. That’s a big part of why consumer confidence is down.”

The lack of confidence has seen Trump’s approval ratings slip. Only 37% of adults thought the way Trump has dealt with the economy deserved a positive mark while nearly half those questioned were disappointed with him, a significant change from the 43%-40% positive rating only a few short weeks ago.

Bernstein continues, “2020 is the year that things that can go wrong do go wrong, so fears that a second virus surge could occur and our economy will get hit are amplified by an absence of leadership from the administration.”

Smithfield Meat

Smithfield Aims To Be First Carbon Negative Meatpacker

With the closure of most of the world at some point over the last eight months, and many more still being restricted in what they can or cannot do, it seems to be the ideal time to sit back and re-evaluate the way you live within our world, and more importantly, how you can make it better.

There has been an increase in the number of people who have chosen to change to a plant-based diet with numbers of vegetarians and vegans increasing in most countries. The way we leave our footprint on the planet has also featured heavily for many, with millions seeing the changes that occurred to the environment when pollution levels were low – including cleaner canals in Venice and the Himalayas becoming visible from India for the first time in decades. The temporary drop in nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide saw pollution levels drop by nearly 40%, not only making our environment ‘bounce back’ but also improving our health thanks to the improved air quality.

With such positivity in a time of great uncertainty it seemed natural that we would want to become as carbon negative as possible and businesses were no different.

One of America’s leading pork producers Smithfield has pledged to become the first carbon negative meatpacker and aims to remove more carbon emissions than it produces by 2030.

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Kenneth Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield, confirmed the announcement saying, “The future of agriculture lies in minimizing our environmental footprint. Because of our size and scale, we have an obligation to lead.”

Smithfield are the fourth biggest meatpacker within the U.S. and with their pledge the industry could see a monumental change. Currently the fourth biggest contributor to greenhouse gases within America is agriculture, and livestock production and cattle generate around fifty per cent of the sector’s annual emissions.

In an even bolder move, Smithfield claim they can make this target without offsetting any of their emissions. Currently they have 40 plants within the country and they believe by changing the animals’ diets they can reduce the methane produced. The company is also aiming to apply ‘no-till farming practices’ at all their farms in an attempt to improve the health of the soil. Finally they will be looking to “aggressively reduce” the consumption of energy required for their equipment, lighting and even their refrigeration.

Sullivan continues, “Big agriculture sometimes gets criticized for its size and scope but there are some big benefits, including the capital we can bring to bear. We’ve put our money where our mouth is (Smithfield has spent over $500 million on renewable projects over the last twenty years). If you start to add up the dollars, it’s clear that we’re a leader in sustainability”.

However, senior research associate at the World Resources Institute, Richard Waite, believes the company’s goal is “quite ambitious”.

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“I see a lot of carbon neutral by 2050 commitments right now—but what are they going to do in 2021? If it’s by 2030 then they really have to do a bunch of work right now.”

Organizations have been working towards becoming more sustainable however in the past many have opted to spend money with carbon credit offset programs. Others have also invested in schemes that are working to provide a better environment such as reforestation projects, wind farming or cleaning the oceans. Celebrities have also used this method of reducing their carbon footprint with Elton John famously admitting he had paid to offset the private jets Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were criticized for using.

In the early 1990s Smithfield created its biogas program using anaerobic digesters to enable them to transform captured methane into renewable natural gas, a procedure that they claim has removed around 25 times more emissions than the company has released.

The change to the way Smithfield looks at their sustainability came after Sullivan was asked to write off over $40 million in 2004 when a renewable gas project did not work. Remembering the occasion Sullivan said, “I had to look at these assets and say, this is not going to work. It’s gratifying to now be in the role I am and set goals and allocate capital and actually see them succeeding.”

In 2016 Smithfield made an announcement that they would be reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, not just in house but across their supply chain. Since then the company has steadily been working towards carbon-negativity and in 2019 they made the announcement that they were working towards reducing the amount of solid waste that they were sending to landfills by around 75% by 2025.

The announcements became conversation pieces around the country and many believe are the reasons competitors Cargill and Tyson announced their own targets for more sustainable business, something that Sullivan believes can be a good thing saying, “The dialogue around climate change has been elevated in everyone’s minds.”

Target Store

Target Announces Diversity Plans To Increase Number Of Black Employees By 20%

Companies all across the country have been put under fire in recent months as the Black Lives Matter movement has been mainstreamed, prompting consumers to call on their favorite brands to step up their inclusion and advocacy for racial justice. 

This Thursday, Target pledged to increase the amount of Black employees across its entire workforce by 20% over the next three years. Target has around 350,000 employees in America, a majority of which are white, especially in their executive and leadership positions. 75% of its leadership team is White and 8% is Black; based on data from 2019. 

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When it comes to the retailer’s overall workforce – including part-time employees – 50% are White, 25% Latino, and 15% are Black; making up the top three groups. Within their pledge, however, Target also mentioned their many previous initiatives to increase representation within their stores and in their corporate offices. They claimed to have doubled their representation of non-White officers in the past five years; equating to about 30%. However, only 5% of that population is Black. 

Target also mentioned how now more than half of their stores are run by women and a third are managed by people of color, however, during a movement that is heavily focused on the injustices Black individuals face on a daily basis, consumers aren’t satisfied with the minimal effort they believe Target has put forward. Chief human resources officer for Target, Melissa Kremer, recently posted a news release regarding Target’s new pledge for inclusivity. 

“Inclusivity is a deeply rooted value at Target and we’ve had an ambitious diversity and inclusion strategy for many years for our guests and team. We know that having a diverse workforce and inclusive environment creates a stronger team.”

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Kremer went on to claim that Target would be emphasizing its recruitment and hiring of Black employees and look for new ways to advance their careers once they join the company. Anti-racist training will be implemented as well as new diversity programs that will focus on things like technology, merchandising and marketing; all aspects of Target’s corporate culture that’s mainly run by White individuals. 

Target is no stranger to publicly advocating for issues of social justice. They’ve made public statements telling customers not to carry guns in stores and welcomed all transgender customers to use their bathrooms and changing rooms whenever they need; which caused conservative groups to boycott the brand. 

After George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police this year, Target CEO Brian Cornell and other top executives released a statement expressing their pain over Floyd’s death, and made a call for change. He joined a subcommittee of the Business Roundtable to look for new policy recommendations that would directly address the issues with US law enforcement as well as create more opportunities for individuals who were previously incarcerated and looking for work. 

Other retailers joined target in this initiative by donating to civil rights causes and setting new standards when it comes to hiring and recruiting employees in the future. 


Unemployment Figures Drop to 8.4%

Unemployment figures dropped again across the country for the month of August, falling from 10.2% to 8.4%, despite many employers reducing the number of new positions available.

According to the Labor Department, a further 1.4 million jobs were added within the last month, down from 1.7 million in July. Although the economy appears to be refilling the jobs lost when the coronavirus pandemic first hit America, only around half the 22 million jobs have been filled, meaning many more U.S. citizens are still relying on unemployment benefit.

Last month’s increase in positions filled is believed to be due to staff returning to work rather than new positions, however there are millions of Americans who no longer believe they will be returning to their previous positions.

August also saw around 350,000 government positions become available as well as a further 1 million jobs added by private companies. Although the numbers seem encouraging they are still down on July showing that employers are still unsure of how the economy is progressing, especially with the pandemic still prevalent in many states.

Economist at Oxford Economics Lydia Boussour believes the report “confirms that the labor market has entered a frustratingly slower second phase of the recovery.”

“The fact that employment is settling into a trend of slower, grinding growth is worrisome for the broader recovery” Boussour continued.

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Small businesses are continuing to have low hiring figures as many sectors are continuing to struggle with the effect coronavirus has had on the country. Industries including entertainment, restaurants and hotels have struggled to stay in business due to stay-at-home orders and borders being closed. The airline industry continues to announce layoffs with Delta, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic all announcing job losses in the last week.

Retailers however have seen some growth with an extra 250,000 positions becoming available. Warehousing and transportations organizations have also added jobs with around 80,000 positions emerging thanks to the increase in online shopping.

Another area that has seen growth is manufacturing with 29,000 jobs being added in the car production sector, however construction has seen new opportunities continue to suffer with only 16,000 jobs being added.

Thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic economies around the world have suffered significantly with many nations, including the UK and Australia, confirming they are in a recession. And America is no different, the economy shrank at around 30% annual rate when the country seemed to close down however some states are having a stronger growth than others, in part due to the number of ongoing cases they have.

Daily confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to remain high across the country although some states have managed to reduce their figures dramatically, including New York who has gone from being the epicenter of the crisis to one of the states with the lowest rates of cases. At the time of writing we are seeing around 290,000 new cases per day with more than a thousand daily deaths from covid-19.

However the uncertainty of the virus is causing economies to debate about what to do next. While we are continuing to see high numbers of coronavirus cases other countries including New Zealand, Germany and Spain, have seen numbers of cases surge again meaning that after a partial reopening they have had to close many areas.

In some European countries British tourists were forced to head home early or risk being stranded overseas after their government changed the travel rules for countries where their rates of infection had increased. Like America, this has had a heavy impact on their economies and tourism businesses are desperate for borders to be fully reopened.

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With American unemployment figures continuing to fluctuate President Donald Trump is having a difficult time rallying support for a second term in the White House. The current situation is the worst that America has seen since the 1930s.

Furthermore, future jobs are continuing to decline due to companies, mainly within travel and tourism, announcing they will be reducing their workforces due to the impact of the pandemic.

Coca Cola have announced that they are offering 4,000 employees buyouts due to the loss of 50 per cent of their sales. With arenas, theaters and stadiums continuing to stay closed the company has had to find other ways to replace the sales. The same applies to MGM Resorts who recently announced they would be making 18,000 employees redundant.

Retail is also continuing to struggle with more companies in the first half of 2020 filing for Chapter 11 protection than for the whole of 2019. This week both Bed, Bath & Beyond and Salesforce have confirmed they are cutting jobs – 2,800 and 1,000 respectively.

Currently more than 29 million state unemployment aid payments are being made however many of those are now receiving a lower amount due to the end of the $600 a week federal supplement. There is some good news though as the Trump administration is working to provide some of those with a further $300 each week.

To be able to qualify citizens must receive a weekly payment of at least $100 in state unemployment aid which could see over 850,000 Americans lose out on the payment.

America’s Older Department Store Closes Its Doors

The list of retail companies that have had to close their stores, many due to the effect of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, has seen a new business added to the list. Lord & Taylor, America’s oldest department store have announced they will be closing their doors for the final time after nearly 200 years of shopping. In a previous statement the company had said they would try and keep 14 of their locations open as they seek Chapter 11. However an announcement this week confirmed that they would be closing all 38 of their stores in liquidation sales.

The company originated in 1824 in Manhattan as a dry goods store and continued to grow, being sold to Le Tote Inc – a French rental clothing company – in 2019. However both companies have now independently filed for bankruptcy protection in the Eastern Court of Virginia.

Le Tote’s chief restructuring officer, Ed Kremer, released a statement saying:

“While we are still entertaining various opportunities, we believe it is prudent to simultaneously put the remainder of the stores into liquidation to maximize value of inventory for the estate while pursuing options for the Company’s brands.” The company appeared to be selling off assets as early as last year, before coronavirus, with the sale of its flagship building on Fifth Avenue in New York. The building, which they had owned for over 100 years, was snapped up by co-working company WeWork, although earlier this month Amazon confirmed that they have taken it over.

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Lord & Taylor are not the first company to have filed for Chapter 11 protection this year and it is highly unlikely they will be the last. Due to the effect coronavirus has had on America the first half of 2020 saw more retail bankruptcies than the entire 2019 period. One of the first retailers to file for bankruptcy this year was stationery and greeting card chain Papyrus who closed their doors after parent company Schurman Fine Paper were forced to call time on their business. Speaking at the time, chief executive Dominique Schurman said, “despite our Herculean efforts to realign our Papyrus and American Greetings stores to fit today’s shopping environment, Schurman Retail Group had to make the difficult decision to close all 254 of our stores in North America.”

Only 5 retailers filed for bankruptcy in the first two months of the year, however when coronavirus hit America the numbers increased significantly with 7 more stores closing in March, followed by a further 6 in April.

Popular department store chain J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy in March, becoming one of the first bricks-and-mortar stores to become a victim of Covid-19. The retailer worked with their existing lenders for “$900 million of debtor-in-possession financing” to enable them to continue operating as they worked their way through bankruptcy proceedings. As the pandemic has continued to tighten its grip on America more stores continued to close with a further 8 being forced to stop trading in May and a further six in June, including Old Time Pottery Inc (OTP) who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Nashville on June 28.

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This is the second time the company has filed for bankruptcy, the first time being in August 2009. That time the reason listed was the 2008 recession although their bank (SunTrust) had reportedly cut the lines of credit to OTP from $40 million to $18 million, finally refusing any advances on the line at all, effectively forcing the retailer into bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor’s announcement came on the same day as Tailored Brands also confirmed they had filed for bankruptcy. The company, who own Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank had already admitted they were having financial difficulties before the shelter-in-place orders were enforced as the demand for smarter wear such as suits and ties was diminishing. The country’s ever-changing dress sense has also forced Brooks Brothers to file for bankruptcy protection. The company, who famously dressed virtually every American president, closed after 200 years of trading while their rivals, Barneys New York, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and is currently being dismantled.

Tailored Brands has been able to allow their brands, including Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank as well as Moores Clothing For Men and K&G Fashion Superstore, to continue trading while they restructure, the company is working towards reducing its funded debt and has a goal to reduce it by at least $630 million. With July seeing a further nine retailers close – including The Paper Store Inc and Occasion Brands LLC – it is a worry as to what the rest of the year will bring. Along with the store closures the number of unemployed is increasing with businesses having to let employees go – not just in retail but also in businesses across the board. And with different types of federal aid either stopping or being reduced people are starting to worry not about where they can buy their next suit or stationery, but their next meal.