Category Archives: Economy

Wave of Americans Hit the Unemployment Line

I am more and more convinced in my opinion that not only is this government-enforced recession a massive infringement on our rights, it is a massive overreaction. That is not to say that Coronavirus isn’t a serious issue that needs to be managed, but our collective response to it has been madness.

New York (CNN Business)Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, as businesses continue to lay off and furlough workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

6.6 million workers filed for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28 — a new historic high. Economists polled by Refinitiv had expected 3.5 million claims.
A week earlier, 3.3 million Americans filed for their first week of benefits, which was the largest number ever at the time.

Nobody’s Hiring

The economic wreckage of our government’s overreaction to coronavirus will be felt for years.

In addition to widespread layoffs, hiring has collapsed, which will also drag down the overall job numbers. A Moody’s survey of companies that typically finds 40% of firms hiring has fallen to a record low of just 6% of businesses adding jobs, Zandi said.

“Not only are we seeing big layoffs but obviously no one’s hiring at this point,” he said.

$1.6 Billion in School Referendums on Ballot

Given that most of these are for buildings and all of the kids are at home… no. Oh, AND, we are entering a government-forced recession and we shouldn’t raise our taxes when thousands of our neighbors are losing their jobs, savings, and businesses. Oh, AND, even if both of those things weren’t true, it would still be a waste of money.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has upended daily lives, bringing with it economic uncertainty, voters in 48 Wisconsin school districts — including in two of the state’s largest school systems — will decide next month on referendums totaling more than $1.6 billion.

[…]

But voters in the state’s largest district, Milwaukee, and fifth-largest, Racine, have big asks before them — permanently raising operating funds by up to $87 million and spending up to $1 billion on school projects over the next three decades, respectively.

The referendums in districts throughout the state come as thousands of people are out of work and businesses shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Whether the economic impact of the public health crisis will hamper the success of school referendums is uncertain.

 

Prominent Epidemiologist Revises Death Estimates Sharply Down

Hopefully he’s right this time. If so, this is positive news.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model, which has been cited by organizations like The New York Times and has been instrumental in governmental policy decision-making, offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.

Ferguson’s model projected 2.2 million dead people in the United States and 500,000 in the U.K. from COVID-19 if no action were taken to slow the virus and blunt its curve.

However, after just one day of ordered lockdowns in the U.K., Ferguson has changed his tune, revealing that far more people likely have the virus than his team figured. Now, the epidemiologist predicts, hospitals will be just fine taking on COVID-19 patients and estimates 20,000 or far fewer people will die from the virus itself or from its agitation of other ailments.

Ferguson thus dropped his prediction from 500,000 dead to 20,000.

Businesses React to Evers’ Economic Shutdown

It’s good to see some sensible voices rising above the fray.

The outdoor power equipment industry, including Ariens Co., Briggs & Stratton Corp., Kohler Co. and others employs tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin. Headed into spring, it normally would be cranking out products to be shipped around the world.

“With the number of jobs in this industry, from Milwaukee to Brillion to Kohler to Tomah, I would consider it essential,” Ariens said, adding that he was sending the governor a letter pleading to keep the plants open.

“I am telling him that we will take care of our employees as we care for our families by following the CDC best-safety practices and advice. We don’t need to have the government teach us responsibility,” Ariens said.

Wisconsinites Head to the Bread Lines Thanks to Government-Forced Economic Downturn

This is just the beginning. After this comes the bankruptcies, foreclosures, increases in crime, suicides, and general crap show of a steep recession. The surest path to societal peace and prosperity is a thriving economy and work for everyone.

The social distancing measures and bans on large gatherings put in place by Gov. Tony Evers to combat the spread of coronavirus has created challenges for a number of industries. Many restaurants, including Punch Bowl Social and The Bartolotta Restaurants have had to close for the foreseeable future. Some retailers, including Kohl’s Corp., have shut down stores and some manufacturers, including Harley-Davidson, have suspended production.

The 69,342 initial claims filed last week marks a sharp uptick in unemployment in Wisconsin. For weeks ending in 2020, the state averaged 6,250 initial claims per week for a total of 56,252.

According to non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the highest one-week total for Wisconsin was 49,267 at the end of 2001.

Even during the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath, only one two-week period at the end of 2009 saw more than 70,000 initial claims. Most two-week stretches during that downturn saw fewer than 60,000 initial claims.

GOP Leaders Ask Governor to Not Close More Businesses

It’s about time we started having a public discussion about how far we should go in killing our economy, our livelihoods, and our financial and societal stability.

MADISON – Republican leaders of the state Legislature are asking Gov. Tony Evers not to place any further restrictions on Wisconsin residents’ ability to spend money, warning of an economic collapse.

Evers has ordered the closure of schools, bars, restaurants, hair salons and limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer to lessen the chance that the coronavirus spreads like wildfire throughout the state, endangering thousands of lives.

Other states, including Illinois and California, have gone further and codified advice by ordering all of their residents to stay in their homes — a measure Evers has said, for now, he isn’t taking.

Senate leaders Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and Roger Roth of Appleton and Assembly leaders Robin Vos of Rochester and Jim Steineke of Kaukauna said Saturday they agree with the governor’s position, saying more restrictions are unnecessary in Wisconsin.

“The consequences felt by citizens and small businesses around the state has already been tremendous,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “As we move forward together in this fight to defeat the virus, we must keep in mind that the people we serve need the jobs they have today to help weather this storm. Continued economic activity will not only help us in our fight against this virus today, it will also ensure that we don’t have to fight to recover from economic collapse tomorrow.”

Emphasis mine.

Guide to Local Restaurant Services

Conley Media has put together a nice list of restaurants in the W.O.W. counties and the services they are offering. You can check out the whole list here.

The Kingdom Sets Sights on U.S. Oil

This is a strategic threat to the United States. Saudi Arabia is trying to force the U.S. to be dependent on their oil again because they have lost the sway they once had.

When Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader and most influential member, decided at its latest meeting in Vienna to break its recent strategic oil partnership with Russia and adopt a new policy to maximize production levels, oil prices crashed — posting their biggest slide since the Gulf war in 1991.

But even more importantly, this new policy recalibrated global oil markets, giving Saudi Arabia the long-term advantage. This move marks a big change for the world’s largest oil exporter, which has in recent years attempted to manage the global oil markets by altering production levels, while garnering the difficult cooperation of Russia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has finally decided to pursue a long-term policy that not only preserves and ultimately increases the kingdom’s market share, but also may signal the end of OPEC as a united functioning organization.
This decision is very unpopular with most oil exporting countries, international energy companies and American shale producers because collapsing prices will drastically decrease their revenues and, in some cases, force them into bankruptcy.
[…]
On April 1 or shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia will most likely surpass Russia to become the world’s second largest producer. But this oil price war won’t end until Saudi Arabia takes back the global production crown from the United States, which should happen within the next two years.

Supporting Local Businesses

It’s Fish Fry Day in Wisconsin! For many Wisconsinites, heading out to their local restaurant on Fridays for some fried cod, Perch, or Walleye is a venerated tradition. Unfortunately, many restaurants have been forced to close by the government or are only able to offer carry out and delivery. Please, please, PLEASE make a point to patronize these local businesses that are hardest hit by the Corono-freakout. And when you do, leave a big tip.

While you’re at it, go out of your way to patronize other local businesses as you are able. Buy some gift cards for later. Go through the drive-through. Pop into Kwik Trip for a sammich and a soda. Just try to spend what you used to spend at these local businesses. They need it to survive. Many of these businesses are the same ones that sponsor your kid’s Little League team or help raise funds for your church. Now is the time that we need to go out of our way to return the favor and show how much we appreciate small businesses in our community.

It’s not asking that much… go buy something. You community and your country are depending on you.

Washington Politicians Try to Outbid Each Other With Our Money

Insanity. All we are doing to perpetuating an economic collapse and burdening our children with yet another TRILLION dollars of debt to pay back. And for what? So that McConnell, Trump, and Pelosi can say that they “did something?”

There are a few notable gaps in the Republican proposal. Those who paid less than $1,200 in taxes in 2018 would receive a smaller rebate, at a minimum of $600. Some of the nation’s poorest families fall into that category.

Those who earn more than $75,000 would also receive a smaller rebate, and people who earn more than $99,000 won’t receive any benefit.

The package bases relief rebates on peoples’ 2018 tax returns. If someone made more than $99,000 in 2018, but much less in 2019, they would not get the benefit. The GOP plan also only calls for a one-time check, while a counterpoint from the Democrats offered recurring checks for the duration of the crisis.

The Democrats’ proposed plan, which Chuck Schumer presented on the Senate floor, includes a “Marshall Plan” – which borrows its name from the stimulus plan the US developed in the aftermath of the second world war – for hospitals and the healthcare system. It includes broader paid sick leave mandates, help for small businesses, bailouts for workers and full pay for those out of work.

Essential Businesses

I guess we’re learning what people really thinking are “essential” businesses.

As hundreds of businesses in cities such as San Francisco and New York close due to the coronavirus outbreak, medical marijuana stores remain open as officials revise public health orders to include cannabis as an essential medicine.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) this week announced changes to the city’s public health order that allowed only essential businesses such as grocery stores, banks and pharmacies to remain open while residents are required to stay at home, according to NPR.

Dispensaries and marijuana delivery services are now also deemed as critical businesses, according to city officials.

In the macro-sense, consider how we are letting our government decide which ones of us are allowed to work and which ones are not. Sell pot? You get to remain employed and work. Sell food? Nope. Get thyself to the unemployment line!

Strong Jobs Report

Awesome. I just love that “drinking places” is a category.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 3.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and
technical services, and financial activities.

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.

Workplace Weapon Bans Put People In Danger

Mark Belling nails it with his column.

Molson Coors bans weapons in the workplace. Most employers do the same, including my radio company. They generally announce these bans by plastering a silly sign on the door. I guess Ferrill wasn’t deterred by the sign.

The workplace weapons bans are counterproductive. They make all of us easy targets. The only way to have minimized Ferrill’s carnage was for somebody else with a gun to shoot him before he shot anybody else. Occasionally, armed security guards at a few workplaces may be around to do that. But the rest of us are reduced to begging for mercy.

[…]

Almost every mass shooting in America occurs at a “soft target” where the gunman knows nobody will be able to defend themselves or stop the slaughter while it’s still in progress. (Schools are a perfect example of this.) Until somebody figures how to stop people like Ferrill from going off the rails and slaughtering people he’s mad at, allowing a level playing field is the best approach.

We are allowed to carry weapons legally in Wisconsin in our cars, our homes, on the sidewalk and in a lot of parks. But most of us can’t carry them into work. Or the mall. Or a school. It’s not a coincidence that’s where the mass killings usually occur.

Companies Pull Back on Travel

Buy stock in teleconferencing and data infrastructure companies.

Amazon and other big companies are trying to keep their employees healthy by banning business trips, but they’ve dealt a gut punch to a travel industry already reeling from the virus outbreak.

The Seattle-based online retail giant has told its nearly 800,000 workers to postpone any non-essential travel within the United States or around the globe. Swiss food giant Nestle told its 291,000 employees worldwide to limit domestic business travel and halt international travel until March 15. French cosmetics maker L’Oréal, which employs 86,000 people, issued a similar ban until March 31.

Other companies, like Twitter, are telling their employees worldwide to work from home. Google gave that directive to its staff of 8,000 at its European headquarters in Dublin on Tuesday.

Major business gatherings, like the Geneva International Motor Show and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, have also been canceled.

On Tuesday, Facebook confirmed it will no longer attend the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, which is scheduled to begin March 13. And the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending organization, the World Bank, announced they will replace their regular spring meetings in Washington — scheduled for mid-April — with a “virtual format.”

I travel for work all the time. There are so many things you can catch that suck and are not the coronovirus that it doesn’t even make my top 10 worries about travel. But the positions of these companies are understandable. None of them wants to be sued when an employee dies from a virus outbreak because he/she “had to travel for work.”

Wage Growth in Wisconsin Surges in Q4

Still lagging, but positive.

A slow start to the year held down Wisconsin’s average wage growth in 2019, but the state finished the year by averaging more than 3% growth during the fourth quarter in most industries.

In December, the average hourly wage for private sector employees in the state was $27.10, up from $26.19 in December 2018, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wisconsin averaged year-over-year wage growth of 1.9% for all of 2019, a figure that ranks 43rd in the country.

 In the fourth quarter, however, Wisconsin averaged 3.6% wage growth, good enough to rank 14th in the country.

The wage gains come amidst sluggish job growth for the state. Private sector employment increased just 0.33% from December 2018 to December 2019, according to BLS data. The state also had a strong year of wage growth in 2018, averaging 4.9% growth for the year.

Will Brexit Benefit Wisconsin Exporters?

Hope so.

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, which became official on Jan. 31, may prove opportunistic for Wisconsin’s trade industry, according to a Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) official.

Mark Rhoda-Reis, director of the International Agribusiness Center at DATCP, said Wisconsin hasn’t been as focused on the U.K. in the past because of the size of its market, but that could be shifting as the country breaks away from the EU.

[…]

In agriculture and food products alone, the U.K. imports about $55 million worth of goods from Wisconsin. Rhoda-Reis said there’s room for growth, because the U.K. imports several billion dollars worth of agriculture and food products — about 73 percent of which comes from the EU, he said.

“Wisconsin has a lot of room to grow in that, considering that we’re only $55 million of that several billion dollar import,” he said, noting there’s especially room to grow in soy sauce and yeast exports, as well as bull semen, wood, animal feed, meat and packaged vegetables.

Hemp Prices Collapse

This is an immature market that is still looking for its equilibrium. I feel bad for farmers who went all in on the promises of massive profits.

NEW YORK (TNS) — It may not be apparent when you’re spending $70 on CBD foot cream, but hemp prices are plunging amid a “grossly oversupplied” market, according to the head of the industry’s first price provider.

Hemp biomass prices reached a high of over $40 a pound in July, just before the 2019 harvest came in, according to PanXchange Chief Executive Officer Julie Lerner. Today, it’s trading under $10 a pound

phenq results sportzfuel

following a quadrupling of supply from 2018 to 2019.

Meanwhile, the CBD consumer market remains limited as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to prohibit the extract in food or dietary supplements, although many sellers ignore that mandate. CBD is legal in other uses, such as topicals, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC, the cannabis compound that gets you high.

“Every way you slice it, the physical demand

for the CBD market is much, much smaller” then the supply, Lerner said in an interview. “I’m a little surprised that retail prices have not started to come down yet.”

Today, the hemp market is “rife with desperate sellers and opportunist buyers,” Lerner said in her December analysis of the industry.

Milwaukee Tool Announces Major New Site in West Bend

Excellent news in the Washington County Insider!

January 27, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Neighbors in West Bend are abuzz about the news Milwaukee Tool will be building a manufacturing plant in West Bend.“It’s huge for West Bend,” said District 5 alderman Rich Kasten. “It shows we can play with the big boys and start to build back some of that manufacturing we lost over the decades.”

The location for the new $26 million plant that will manufacture hand tools is the new TIF 14 located to the south of Rusco Road along the east side of River Road. According to City Administrator Jay Shambeau, Milwaukee Tool will be in the 62 acres of Area A with the road extended off Rail Way.

[…]

-The proposed $26 million plant will manufacture hand tools for professional electricians and utility linemen.

-Ground breaking is expected to be in April 2020 with the plant opening in early 2021.

-The deal to build in West Bend happened quickly and West Bend won out over a competing location in Indiana.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau said West Bend was able to secure a deal with Milwaukee Tool because the “City is within close proximity to to their corporate headquarters in Brookfield and its proposed additional corporate presence in Menomonee Falls. Plus the sheer size of our industrial park with ample room for expansion helped set us apart.”

Access to Electronic Medical Records

Here’s an interesting debate:

Epic Systems, one of the largest medical records companies, emailed the chief executives of some of the largest hospitals in the U.S. on Wednesday, urging them to oppose proposed regulation designed to make it easier to share medical information.

The email, which was written by Epic CEO Judy Faulkner and addressed to CEOs and presidents of hospital systems, urges recipients to sign a letter alongside Epic that voices disapproval for rules the Department of Health and Human Services proposed in 2019. These rules aim to make it easy for patients to access their health information at no cost, and make it more challenging for companies to block access to that information.

The proposed rules have pit patient advocates against some doctor groups and companies, like Epic. Critics say they don’t have enough provisions to protect patients’ privacy. Epic’s Faulkner has been vocal in her criticism of the rule, which she believes will result in app makers having access to patient data without consent.

On the other side, patient advocates have spoken out in favor of the rules, which aim to make medical records accessible through application programming interfaces (APIs). The rules are also designed to make it easier for hospitals to share patient records with other medical offices or hospitals. That’s been a big challenge for years, and studies have shown that it has a negative impact on patient’s health.

Patient groups have criticized medical record vendors, like Epic and its chief rival Cerner, for failing to do enough to support health data interoperability. Both companies have stressed that they’re doing more to fix the problem, although progress has been slow.

As always… follow the money. Epic and some other EMR companies are notoriously closed systems. The reason is simple. If Epic controls access to the data and the integrations, they can charge for it. This is a revenue stream for them. Of course they do not want to be required to provide APIs unless it is on their terms.

That being said, their concerns about data privacy are valid. The more you expose the underlying data through APIs, the more potential data breaches are possible. This has been a concern with EMR in general. While electronic medical records are convenient and helpful to share complete patient data across multiple medical specialties, they are also subject to hacking and manipulation. But that ship has sailed. We have culturally decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Everything depends on the implementation of a law like this. It could be beneficial by offering patients greater visibility and control of their records. It could also be a security nightmare with millions of people’s medical records being leaked for the purposes of extortion, predatory violence, discrimination, and, worst of all, targeted robocalls.