Friday, March 4, 2022

Jobapalooza, Con't

The Biden Boom rocketed along with another two-thirds of a million jobs added last month, and another 100,000 jobs added in upwards revisions in January and December's numbers.

Job growth accelerated in February for a U.S. economy wrestling with swelling prices, the potential for higher interest rates and intensifying geopolitical problems.

Nonfarm payrolls for the month grew by 678,000 and the unemployment rate was 3.8%, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

That compared to estimates of 440,000 for payrolls and 3.9% for the jobless rate.

In a sign that inflation could be cooling, wages barely rose for the month, up just 1 cent an hour or 0.03%, compared to estimates for a 0.5% gain. The year-over-year increase was 5.13%, well below the 5.8% Dow Jones estimate.

For the labor market broadly, the report brought the level of employed Americans closer to pre-pandemic levels, though still short by 1.14 million. Labor shortages remain a major obstacle to fill the 10.9 million jobs that were open at the end of 2021, a historically high gap that had left about 1.7 vacancies per available workers.

As has been the case for much of the pandemic era, leisure and hospitality led job gains, adding 179,000 for the month. The job gap for that sector, which was hit most by government-imposed restrictions, is 1.5 million from pre-Covid levels.

Other sectors showing strong gains included professional and business services (95,000), Health care (64,000), construction (60,000), transportation and warehousing (48,000) and retail (37,000). Manufacturing contributed 36,000 and financial activities rose 35,000.

Previous months saw upward revisions. December moved up to 588,000, an increase of 78,000 from the previous estimate, while January’s rose to 481,000. Together, the revisions added 92,000 more than previously recorded and brought the three-month average to 582,000.

The trend for jobs is clearly upward after a wintertime surge of omicron cases, while exacting a large human toll, left little imprint on employment.

The economy also has been wrestling with pernicious inflation pressures running at their highest levels since the early 1980s stagflation days. The Labor Department’s main inflation gauge showed consumer prices rising at a 7.5% clip in January, a number that is expected to climb to close to 8% when February’s report is released next week.

Amid it all, companies continue to hire, filling broad gaps still left in the leisure and hospitality sector as well as multiple other pandemic-struck industries.
We still have several million jobs to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels, but we're 750,000 jobs closer than we were last month. 

The bad news is that here on out, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is now a major issue and will be for a very, very long time. How that will affect the U.S. economy is anyone's guess, but if the Fed starts tightening the screws to kill inflation as I expect they will later this month, you can kiss the Biden Boom goodbye.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

We've reached the "Russian military forces wouldn't shell Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine, would they?" phase of the invasion and I'm just exhausted.

Russian invasion forces seized Europe's biggest nuclear power on Friday in heavy fighting in southeastern Ukraine, triggering global alarm, but a huge blaze in a training building has been extinguished and officials said the facility was now safe.

Combat raged elsewhere in Ukraine as Russian forces surrounded several cities in the second week of the assault launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A presidential advisor said an advance had been halted on the southern city of Mykolayiv after local authorities said Russian troops had entered it. If captured, the city of 500,000 people would be the biggest yet to fall.

The capital Kyiv, in the path of a huge Russian armoured column that has been stalled on a road for days, came under renewed attack, with air raid sirens blaring in the morning and explosions audible from the city centre.

The fire at a training building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant sent global stock markets plunging.

Although the plant was now said to be safe and the fire out, officials remained worried about the precarious circumstances, with Ukrainian staff operating under Russian control in battlefield conditions beyond the reach of administrators.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Raphael Grossi described the situation as "normal operations, but in fact there is nothing normal about this".

He paid homage to the plant's Ukrainian staff: "to their bravery, to their courage, to their resilience because they are doing this in very difficult circumstances."

Grossi said the plant was undamaged from what he believed was a Russian projectile. Only one reactor was working, at around 60% of capacity. He was trying to contact Russian and Ukrainian officials to sort out political responsibility.

An official at Energoatom, the Ukrainian state nuclear plant operator, said there was no further fighting and radiation was normal, but his organisation no longer had contact with the plant's management or control over potentially dangerous nuclear material.

"Personnel are on their working places providing normal operation of the station," the official told Reuters
Needless to say, sentences like "Russian forces have captured Europe's largest nuclear plant" have put the world on a knife's edge.

The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will seek an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting after Russian troops in Ukraine attacked a nuclear power plant and sparked a fire.

Johnson’s office says he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the early hours of the morning. He says Britain will raise the issue immediately with Russia and close partners.

Johnson’s office says he and Zelenskyy agree Russia must immediately cease attacking and allow emergency services unfettered access to the plant. The two agree a ceasefire is essential.

“The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “He said (the United Kingdom) would do everything it could to ensure the situation did not deteriorate further.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he also spoke with Zelenskyy about the attacks on the power plant.
I understand that it's not, say, St. Louis that's going to be rendered into a nuclear wasteland if things go badly, but yeah, if this is the Russians provoking a NATO fight, it's going to work. 
In which case, it's not St. Louis yet

In all seriousness though, unless there's a major shift in force posture by NATO to defend Ukraine, the government will fall, be replaced by Russian stooges, and the country's military will shift into insurgency. Let's not sugar-coat this. NATO has already ruled out a no-fly zone, but honestly, what makes anyone think Putin won't go for NATO bases in a member country like Romania, Hungary, Slovaka, the Baltics, or even Poland?

What would NATO and President Biden do then?

That's the big question, isn't it?

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