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Weekly Jobless Claims In The US Much Higher Than Anticipated

The Department of Labor reported that last-week showed first-time claims for unemployment rose at levels much higher than initially anticipated, especially due to the fact that the economy has been showing signs of recovering after the last year.

According to reports from the Labor Department “first-time claims for the week ended April 3 totaled 744,000, well above the expectation for 694,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The total represented an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 728,000. The four-week moving average edged higher to 723,750.”

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The labor market within the last week, however, has shown signs of recovery after the past year of the pandemic. Nonfarm payrolls in march increased by nearly 916,000 while the unemployment rate fell down to 6%.

This increase in jobs marks the biggest increase in employment in the US since August 2020. Before the pandemic the unemployment rate was at 3.5%, however, so there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially after last week’s unexpected reports.

“Continuing claims provided some good news on the labor front, with the total dropping 16,000 to 3.73 million. That’s the lowest level for continuing claims since March 21, 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic hit and companies instituted wholesale layoffs in conjunction with the economic shutdown. Continuing claims run a week behind the headline weekly number,” according to NBC.

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California and New York account for a majority of the increase in employment; California saw a rise of 38,963 last week while New York saw a 15,714 increase. However, those increases were cancelled out by a 13,944 decline in Alabama as well as a 10,502 decline in Ohio.

Economists have reported that filing backlogs could be one of the larger factors that drive claims up throughout the nation, while spikes in Covid-19 cases are also keeping the filings elevated due to a lack of individuals able to work.

Federal Reserve officials claim that despite the recent progress America has experienced, “much more progress is needed on the jobs front before we can consider changing economic policy.” The most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting cited a better outlook for the US economy in the coming year based on a continued need for an easy policy.

Federal Governor Lael Brainard told the media this week that “the economic outlook has brightened considerably but there are still about 9 million fewer workers than there were before the pandemic. Central bank officials have said they want to see not only full employment but also inclusive gains across income, racial and gender lines. In that sense, we’ve got some distance to go before the outcomes are achieved.”

Sabra Recalls Classic Hummus Due To Salmonella Contamination 

Sabra Dipping Company, the maker of popular Sabra Hummus, has announced a recall of about 2,100 tubs of its classic hummus after a routine test performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed a potential salmonella contamination. The FDA made the announcement this Monday, stating that all 10-ounce tubs should be called back. 

The FDA claimed that “the recall is limited to one single SKU of the brand’s 10-ounce classic hummus with the UPC number 300067. The product was produced on Feb. 10, 2021 between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight with a “best before” date of April 26.”

Sabra themselves released a statement which stated that “no other Sabra products are affected by this recall. The product was distributed to 16 states. The product is over halfway through its shelf life, so it’s unlikely you will find this product on the shelf to begin with.”

So far, there have been no reports of illness or contamination, hence the voluntary aspect of the recall. However, salmonellosis, the condition most commonly caused by salmonella, is an intense sickness that can lead to “diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating a contaminated product,” according to the FDA. 

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According to the Mayo Clinic, “salmonella infection can cause dehydration, which for some can require hospitalization. But typically, people with salmonella do not exhibit any symptoms unless they have a weakened immune system.”

“Salmonella infection usually isn’t life-threatening. However, in certain people — especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems — the development of complications can be dangerous.”

The 16 states included in the recall were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Customers who believe that they purchased the specific recalled product should immediately return it to the place of purchase, or they can visit the Sabra recall website for additional information. Sabra also wants their customers to know that they can contact Sabra Consumer Relations at 1-866-265-6761 Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Social Media Apps on iPhone

CEO’s Of Google, Facebook, And Twitter To Testify In Front Of Congress On Misinformation

This marks the first time the chief executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter will be appearing before lawmakers since the Capitol riots and Covid-19 vaccine distributions.

Movie & Popcorn

Cineworld Signs Multi-Year Deal With HBO, Plans To Reopen Regal Cinema Theaters In April

Cineworld and Warner Brothers are the parent company of Regal Cinema, one of the most popular movie theater chains in the country. The company recently announced that they are projected to reopen all Regal Cinema theaters in the beginning of April to line up with the theatrical release of Godzilla Vs Kong on April 2nd. 

More Regal locations are set to open on April 16th in order to line up with the release of Mortal Kombat. Both Cineworld and Warner Bros have also reached a multi-year deal with HBO Max that would give subscribers same day access to all movies as they’re released in theaters. Warner Bros has already been releasing their new movies on HBO Max for one month as a means of gaining viewership during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Beginning in 2022, Warner Bros theatrical films will all have a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity at Regal Cinema theaters as well. Theaters in New York and Los Angeles have already begun reopening with limited capacity. Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger claims that Regal’s reopenings will be great news for the industry overall. 

“This is a great moment for us, the US market represents 75% of our business, and soon will be followed with all our marklets. We are great believers in the theatrical experience, which only one year ago generated $43 billion worldwide.”

The UK is Cineworld’s second largest market, and Greidinger claimed that the company reached a deal to show Warner Bros movies in Regal Cinemas 31 days prior to general release. “We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros. This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business and we see this agreement as an important milestone in our 100 year relationship with Warner Bros,” Greidinger explained. 

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Cineworld announced last year that it was temporarily closing 536 Regal locations in the US and 127 in the UK. 11 locations have since been able to reopen in New York. In late November of last year Cineworld secured an additional liquidity that helped ensure it would be able to survive the pandemic. 

Greidinger told the media last year that “reopening Cineworld’s theaters would hinge upon a clear picture of the lineup of the studios… It cannot be one movie only. We have long awaited this moment when we can welcome audiences back to our Regal theaters and restore our essential role within the communities we serve.”

“With the health and safety of our customers, staff, and communities as our top priority, we continue to take all the necessary precautions and abide by our CinemaSafe guidelines to confidently provide a safe and comfortable experience.”

Greidinger went on to explain that with health and safety procedures, including capacity restrictions expanding to 50% or more across most U.S. states, the company will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets. We will also be monitoring developments closely in the UK and across Europe as we set to gradually reopen across the world in line with local government guidance.”

Business Conference

Global Business Leaders Working To End The Death Penalty 

Global business leaders have launched a campaign declaring their opposition to the death penalty, and urged government leaders all around the world to end the practice and consider asking their international peers to join them in this effort. 

Sir Richard Branson, one of the campaign’s leaders, recently spoke at the virtual South by Southwest festival in which he claimed that the “death penalty is broken beyond repair and plainly fails to deliver justice by every reasonable measure. It is marred by cruelty, waste, ineffectiveness, discrimination, and an unacceptable risk of error.” 

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“By speaking out at this crucial moment, business leaders have an opportunity to help end this inhumane and flawed practice.” 

The campaign is formally titled Business Against Death Penalty, and it includes a slew of notable members including billionare fashion mogul François-Henri Pinault, telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim, Ben & Jerry founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, tech entrepreneur and Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox, and co-founder of the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington.

The campaign is also being coordinated by the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, which is a nonprofit human rights group led by former death row lawyer Celia Ouelette, who recently spoke to the press about the importance of these major figureheads joining this effort. 

“This campaign is an opportunity for business leaders to embrace their responsibility to speak out authentically on issues of racial and social justice in a way that delivers real impact.”

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Ouellette went on to explain that “in light of the business communities support for the Black Lives Matter and racial justice movement, there was a growing awareness of the long history of race and the death penalty among business leaders, and now many are prepared to stand against it.” 

Ben & Jerry founders Cohen and Greenfield also released a statement regarding their joining of the campaign: “Business leaders need to do more than just say Black Lives Matter. They need to walk the talk and be instrumental in tearing down all the symbols of structural racism in our society. The death penalty has a long history with oppression, and it needs to end. Now.”

Joe Biden is also the first US president to openly oppose executions and is facing growing pressure from Democrats to end the federal death penalty. Ouelette claims that she is hopeful that all the notable business leaders within the campaign can help make that a reality as well. “Bringing powerful voices to the table will be highly impactful,” she said. 

The group is going to be working for the next few months to build a greater public presence so that they can increase the pressure placed on the US government to make these changes by World Day Against the Death Penalty; which is scheduled for October 10th. More than 170 United Nations member states have abolished the death penalty. 

AstraZeneca Vaccine

Doctors ‘Disappointed And Confused’ That Some Countries Are Suspending Use Of AstraZeneca Vaccine

Health experts in Europe say they’re feeling “disappointed and confused” by the slew of suspicions that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine can lead to blood clots. Doctors are claiming that there’s not enough evidence for these countries to be raising these suspicions, and going so far as to suspend the use of the vaccine from the University of Oxford, especially considering a lot of European countries are still moving slowly in their vaccine distribution.  

Sweden and Latvia announced this week that they would be joining the growing number of European nations now suspending the use of the vaccine as a “precautionary measure” following reports of blood clots. Germany, France, Italy, and Spain also announced that they would cease administering the shot. 

Thailand also joined Europe in their removal of the AstraZeneca vaccine from its lineup. The UK, Canada, and Australia, on the other hand, are still distributing the vaccine, and are working to reassure their citizens that it is indeed safe, or else it wouldn’t have gotten the approval for its distribution in the first place. 

“The World Health Organization, Europe’s drug regulator and the International Society, have all recommended that countries continue to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The decisions by France, Germany and other countries look baffling, the data we have suggests that numbers of adverse events related to blood clots are the same (and possibly, in fact lower) in vaccinated groups compared to unvaccinated populations,” said Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, U.K.

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“Halting a vaccine roll out during a pandemic has consequences. This results in delays in protecting people, and the potential for increased vaccine hesitancy, as a result of people who have seen the headlines and understandably become concerned. There are no signs yet of any data that really justify these decisions,” he added.

The WHO is meeting this week to review the safety of the shot to really give citizens that additional reassurance. The European Medicines Agency is doing the same thing, but has also already claimed that there is “no indication that the AStraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots, the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”

AstraZeneca themselves have claimed 17 million people have now received a full dose of their vaccine, and of those individuals there have been 15 reported incidents of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism across the EU. 

“This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines. The data available so far showed that the number of blood clots in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen among the general population,”  AstraZeneca said.

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Dr. Stephen Griffin is an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, who recently spoke to the media about how disappointed he was that so many nations were using this fear as a reason to delay vaccine distribution. 

“Since many European countries are currently experiencing another resurgence of SARS-CoV2 infections and yet are lagging behind in terms of roll out, the importance of continuing the vaccination programs cannot be underestimated, and the harm caused by depriving people of access to a vaccine will likely vastly outweigh even the worst case scenario if any link to the clotting disorders is eventually found. It should also be noted that nationwide gestures such as this are bound to fuel hesitancy, or more extreme anti-vaccine sentiment, further undermining the vaccination effort,” Griffin proclaimed. 

“Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the AZ vaccine have now been administered across the UK, and the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine is not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population,” he continued.

“We are working closely with international counterparts in understanding the global safety experience of COVID-19 vaccines and on the rapid sharing of safety data and reports. People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so,” Griffin reassured, guaranteeing European citizens that by the end of the week these major medical groups will likely re-release more updated data regarding the safety of this vaccine. 

Shell Chief Executive Receives 40% Pay Cut Due To Covid-19 Pandemic

Royal Dutch Shell has cut the pay of its chief executive by more than 40% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic which dramatically dropped the demand for oil in the world; 2020 is regarded as the year with the steepest decline in demand for oil. Shell reported a loss of about $20 billion for 2020 due to this lack of demand.

Ben Van Beurden, the CEO, took a cut of around $5.8 million in 2020, and the year before he received a cut of around $10 million, marking the second consecutive year in which the chief executive received a major pay cut. His salary was completely halved back in 2019.

Van Beurden also was reportedly forced to cut Shell’s dividend for the first time since World War 2. It’s expected that the company will be cutting 7,000-9,000 staff members across their global businesses as well. These cuts are also the result of the massive financial loss the company is experiencing due to a lack of need for oil and other fossil fuels, as well as the growing need to live a greener lifestyle.

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Shell also announced that its chairman, Chad Holliday, will be stepping down after six years with the company. He will be replaced by the former BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, who also spent six years at his former company. His time with BHP was defined by his coworkers as an “ambitious turnaround in which we were able to streamline operations.”

“Right now it’s a pivotal time for the industry and wider society. I plan to profitably accelerate Shell’s transition into a net zero emissions energy business that would continue to generate substantial value for shareholders, customers and communities alike,” Mackenzie explained. Van Beurden also recently claimed that he was looking forward to working closely with Mackenzie.

“We are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic with a clear and distinct strategy that I believe will enable us to seize the opportunities presented by the energy transition. I cannot think of anyone better than Andrew to take this role,” he said.

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Oil prices have dropped dramatically since March of last year when the pandemic began. This was initially due to traders adjusting their prospects to cope with the lower demand. Shell cut its spending which lowered its pricing and future pricing as well.

Van Beurden refused to take an annual bonus last year, however, he still received one of about $3.7 million due to his long-term incentive plan which initially gave him a bonus of $8 million before his major pay cut back in 2019.

Oil prices have begun recovering in the early parts of 2021 due to dramatic cuts in production, as well as a rollout of multiple vaccine programs throughout the world that is helping stimulate the economy and return the world to a greater sense of normalcy.

One Year Since The Covid-19 Pandemic Began And America Is Still Down 10 Million Jobs 

Nearly one year after the Covid-19 pandemic initially shut down America the nation is still finding itself down by 10 million jobs compared to where we were at this time last year. 745,000 additional Americans have filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, according to the US Labor Department. 

The number of new claims is up from the previous week, however, it’s slightly less than what economists were expecting for the month of March. 436,696 workers also applied for Pandemic Unemployment benefits which are mainly available for gig workers or self-employed individuals. 

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First-time jobless claims in total equated to about 1.2 million without seasonal adjustments for last week. Continued benefit claims, which specifically count applicants that submitted their forms for at least two weeks in a row or more, reached 4.2 million in the last week of February, which is slightly smaller when compared to the week prior. 

At this point last year the labor crisis was just beginning with about 6.9 million Americans applying for first-time unemployment, and millions of jobs disappearing in general. While millions of new jobs have been created within the past year and many Americans were able to get back to work, the nation is still struggling to rebuild the economy.

The American Department of Labor employment report cited “fewer jobs added in February than expected: 117,000 versus the 177,000 forecast. Even though the private sector report and the government’s official figures, which are due Friday at 8:30 am ET, aren’t correlated, it’s not a great sign.”

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Economists estimate that about 182,000 new jobs were added to the US market in February, which is up 49,000 from the previous month. When compared to February 2020, however, the nation is still down about 9.7 million jobs; at that point in time the unemployment rate for America was actually at a 50-year low of 3.5%.

“The expectations are widely different, ranging from a 100,000 jobs lost to 500,000 jobs gained. We expect the US jobs recovery to show some encouraging progress in February,” said Lydia Boussour, lead US economist at Oxford Economics.

The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and the reopening of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses will hopefully help assist the nation in creating new jobs. The winter storms that have been impacting the country, however, are also influencing how many new jobs are created. The unemployment rate is currently projected to remain at 6.3% for now as well, however, the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell claimed last week that the actual unemployment rate is likely closer to 10%.

Fast Food

Beyond Meat Announces Collaborative Deals With McDonald’s And Yum Brands

Beyond Meat announced this week that they have signed a deal with fast-food giants Yum Brands and McDonald’s. The collaborations couldn’t have come at a better time for Beyond Meat, as their shares recently fell due to a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss which occurred as a result of weak restaurant sales brought on by the pandemic, as well as the increasing cost of global expansion.

Recently shares for Beyond Meat were down by about 3%. The company is remaining hopeful due to an increase in restaurant orders throughout the nation, but the newest fast food collaborations will hopefully bring the company back to their pre-pandemic success.

Wall Street specifically cited the loss in revenue and shares for Beyond Meat as 34 cents lost per share (they were expecting 13 cents for the quarter) and earning $101.9 million in revenue (expecting $103.2 million). “The company reported its fiscal fourth-quarter net loss of $25.1 million, or 40 cents per share, widened to a loss of $452,000, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier.”

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Total net sales rose by 3.5% to $101.9 million, and US grocery revenues for the company rose by 76% this quarter; an understandable increase considering how much grocery store delivery services have grown in popularity with the pandemic.

Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said that “Beyond is still the top plant-based meat alternative in grocery stores. Listen in total U.S. foodservice revenue tumbled 42.6% during the fourth quarter as the pandemic continued to weigh on restaurant demand for meat substitutes. But the years-long partnerships with McDonald’s and Yum show that restaurant companies still believe consumers want plant-based alternatives.”

Beyond has just signed a three-year long deal with McDonald’s which will make the company the prime plant-based patty provider for the fast food giants McPlant burger; currently being tested in some global markets. McDonald’s and Beyond also announced that they would be collaborating to develop new substitutes for pork, chicken, and egg, to really make their menu more inclusive.

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Beyond and Yum Brands will also be working together to create exclusive menu items for KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut over the next few years. The financial specifics of these deals were not made public information, but based on the fact that Beyond is now teaming up with some of the world’s most notable fast food brands, it likely was a big one.

“These deals are enormous. They are the biggest deals you could possibly put together in food in our sector. And we don’t want people to get ahead of themselves.”

Brown explained that “Beyond is trying to position itself as a global player. Its international revenue fell 16.5% during last quarter, dragged down by declines in its foodservice segment. But our spending in Europe and China is showing massive success.”

Brown announced that Beyond would be releasing two updated meatless burger patties in the spring as well. Both patties are thought to be the juiciest burgers from Beyond yet, one being made with 55% less saturated fat than a traditional beef patty.

Walmart Raises Wages For Over 400,000 US Workers 

Walmart has announced that they would be raising the wages for 425,000 of its 1.5 million US workers, and will be investing $14 billion in speeding up distribution networks to help workers better cope with the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart has been at the forefront of providing supplies for Americans as they continue to navigate this global health crisis. 

Walmart reported a relatively mixed performance for their fourth quarter. The pandemic has obviously caused all businesses to struggle one way or another with keeping up with the demands, and with the sales of Walmart’s Japan and UK divisions, the retailer was relying on American sales to make up for the losses. 

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Online sales have surged by 69% this past quarter, which has been the slowest growth since the beginning of the pandemic for the retailer. Walmart has been pushing throughout the entire pandemic to increase its convenient delivery services, however, the millions of Americans who are needing to stay home for their own safety have thrown a wrench in their plans. 

The company has had to spend a decent amount of money to accommodate shoppers who have grown accustomed to online shopping for all of their needs and wants. They announced that this year they would be building warehouses at stores where self-driving robots could gather groceries to be picked up or delivered to customers. 

“Change in retail accelerated in 2020. The capabilities we’ve built in previous years put us ahead, and we’re going to stay ahead. Our business is strong, and we’re making it even stronger with targeted investments to accelerate growth,” said CEO Doug McMillon.

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Walmart announced this Thursday that it would be raising its average hourly wage to more than $15 an hour, and those raises would be concentrated in online and stocking roles. Starting on March 13th, depending on the store, workers in those sectors will begin earning between $13 to $19 an hour. 

Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs claimed that “Walmart Inc. lost $2.09 billion, or 74 cents per share, compared with last year’s $4.14 billion profit during the fourth quarter, or $1.45 per share. Adjusted per-share earnings came to $1.39, which was well short of the $1.51 that Wall Street expected. Rolled into those numbers is a $1.1 billion hit from costs related to the pandemic, this translates to a drain of about 37 cents per share in earnings, along with the one-time charges from Japan and the U.K..”

Walmart began wage increases at the end of last year to help them cope with the busy holiday season. The retailer is also projected to become one of the biggest distributors of the Covid-19 vaccine as the US begins to lean more heavily on pharmacies for vaccine administration. Walmart has over 5,000 pharmacies within their US locations.