Monday, July 10, 2023

Last Call For Jobapalooza, Con't

With more than 200,000 jobs created in June in the US economy, Heather Long at the Washington Post takes a look at who's getting those new jobs, and for the most part it's Black, Asian, Hispanic, and immigrant workers taking advantage.
The U.S. labor market is on a gravity-defying streak. The June jobs report was a tad softer than expected, but the overall trend is so strong that recession fears are fading. Hiring remains solid across many industries, including construction, and companies are largely holding on to their workers.

There’s growing optimism that the country can avoid a downturn. One key reason this is possible is the surge of new workers. Nearly 4 million more people are employed now than just before the pandemic hit. That’s more families with steady incomes to spend, which helps explain the vigorous sales of everything from cars to gardening supplies. There has also been a big upshift in the labor force since the pandemic: Low-paying hospitality employment still hasn’t recovered, as workers have traded up to higher-paying business, health-care and warehouse work. This has brought another boost to incomes and an important mental shift as more workers who used to hop from job to job now see themselves on a steady career path.

The mistaken notion that Americans don’t want to work can now be put to rest. Nearly 81 percent of Americans ages 25 to 54 are working, the highest share since 2001. What has been particularly jaw-dropping is how resilient job gains have been since March 2022, when the Federal Reserve started aggressively hiking interest rates. Back then, Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell argued the labor market was “unhealthy.” There was a misguided belief that it would take a recession to get supply and demand for goods — and workers — back to more normal levels. But what many experts missed was how many workers of color and immigrants wanted to work and were still looking for opportunities.

Fewer White people are employed now than pre-pandemic. In contrast, over 2 million more Hispanics are employed now, over 800,000 more Asian Americans and over 750,000 more African Americans. This same trend played out just before the pandemic. Companies were also complaining then that they could not find workers, and experts were saying the nation was at “full employment.” Yet month after month, Black and Hispanic people (largely women) kept entering the labor force and getting jobs. It’s also notable that over 2 million more foreign-born people are employed now than before the pandemic. This means that more than half of the new workers have been immigrants.

If the U.S. economy ends up having a soft landing, it will largely be because immigrants and people of color have kept entering the labor force — helping to keep production going, consumption solid and wage growth (and inflation) cooling to a more sustainable level.

What’s going on is partly a result of low unemployment, what economists often dub a “tight” labor market. Black and Hispanic people often do not get hired until late in a recovery. In the past year, there has also been a strong uptick in jobs in government and health care, sectors in which women of color have historically found employment opportunities. Employers have also expanded their hiring searches, improved pay and benefits, and removed requirements for college degrees for many positions. All of this has helped expand opportunities. This past spring, for the first time, Black Americans were as likely to be employed as White Americans.

"There is sufficient demand that employers aren’t discriminating. They need workers,” economist William Spriggs told me in a conversation shortly before his death last month.
The other big shift is the increase in remote work. Working from home definitely helps single parents take better jobs than flipping burgers or ringing up checkout orders and it greatly helps to eliminate childcare costs. That means more money for working moms to help their families. It's a win-win situation and employers, now having remote work infrastructure in place because of the pandemic, are able to hire more folks and do it quickly.
It's another big reason why remote work isn't going anywhere. Yes, employers want workers back in the office, but not everyone has to be, and employers are taking advantage of that to hire good people who'd otherwise be barred by structural issues like child care, and commuting time and money costs. Take those away and suddenly you have a much larger pool of available employees to choose from. It especially helps Black women enter the workforce as a result.

It's smart all the way around, and it's a bit weird that Long doesn't mention this.

Ridin' With Biden, Eurotrip Edition, Con't

Well, we know what Turkey's price is for dropping opposition to Sweden joining NATO: Turkey wants full EU membership.
Turkey's path to membership of the European Union should be cleared before Sweden's NATO membership, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"First, let's clear Turkey's way in the European Union, then let's clear the way for Sweden, just as we paved the way for Finland," Erdogan said during a press conference Monday ahead of a NATO summit in Lithuania.

"Turkey has been waiting at the gate of the European Union for over 50 years now," said Erdogan. "Almost all NATO member countries are European member countries."

Some context: Sweden and Finland both formally requested NATO membership shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While Finland was granted accession in April 2023, Turkey continues to veto Sweden's bid, accusing the country of housing Kurdish “terrorist organizations.”

Erdogan has previously said Turkey would not approve Sweden’s NATO membership unless the country extradites “terrorists” upon Turkish request.

Sweden has made clear this won’t happen and for now, the process is stuck.
I mean with Britain gone, there's a spot at the EU table, I guess.  But that definitely means Sweden's NATO bid isn't going anywhere this week. The European Union isn't exactly known for doing things quickly. We'll see where this does go, but for now, Turkey has named its price, and as to whether or not the EU will let Erdogan in is anyone's guess.

The Swedes may have to budge on extradition of Kurds to Ankara before this may go anywhere, too.

NATO has decided to drop a requirement for Ukraine to follow a Membership Action Plan (MAP) setting out targets to be met before joining the military alliance, Ukraine's foreign minister said on Monday.

In comments on the eve of a NATO summit, he said such a move would shorten Ukraine's path to joining the alliance.

"Following intensive talks, NATO allies have reached consensus on removing MAP from Ukraine's path to membership. I welcome this long-awaited decision that shortens our path to NATO," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

NATO did not immediately comment on Kuleba's remarks.

NATO leaders meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius are aiming to overcome divisions over Ukraine's drive for membership.

Kyiv wants to receive a clear invitation to join the alliance after Russia's war on Ukraine ends, and hopes to receive security guarantees until that time.
So there's that, but again, don't expect any miracles this week.

As I said, it's complicated, man.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that Turkey has agreed to back Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance – a major development on the eve of the NATO summit.

The announcement epresents a stunning about-face from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had earlier on Monday suggested Sweden could only join the alliance after his country is accepted into the European Union. Erdoğan has stood in the path of Sweden joining NATO for more than a year over a multitude of concerns.

Speaking at a news conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, following a meeting with Erdoğan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Stoltenberg said that the Turkish president “has agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly as soon as possible, and work closely with the Assembly to ensure ratification.”

Erdoğan dropping his opposition marks a major step forward, but does not mean that Sweden will immediately become the next member of the alliance. Stoltenberg did not offer a specific timeline for when Erdoğan would move the document forward to the Turkish Parliament, which must then vote to approve it. Hungary also has not voted to approve Sweden’s membership, though Stoltenberg said Monday that Hungary had made clear that it would not be the last to ratify Sweden’s bid.

The movement on NATO’s accession comes after months of opposition and demands from Ankara. Turkey claimed that Sweden allows members of recognized Kurdish terror groups to operate, most notably the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey had also accused Swedish officials of complicity in Islamophobic demonstrations, such as the burning of the Quran.

At his news conference Monday, Stoltenberg noted that Sweden and Turkey had “worked closely together to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns.”

Don't expect miracles, but hell, I guess they happen. I was right about Sweden having to budge, and that's apparently what happened.

Insane With The Methane

Arctic climate researchers are at this point warning us that 2023 may be the tipping point in the methane climate feedback loop, with up to a million of tons of methane trapped under glaciers now free to enter the atmosphere and rapidly making things warmer and warmer in the years ahead.
Scientists working in one of the world’s fastest-warming places found that rapidly retreating glaciers are triggering the release into the atmosphere of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes global temperatures to rise.

The releases are triggered as glaciers across the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, rapidly retreat and leave behind newly exposed land, scientists said. If the phenomenon is found to be more widespread across the Arctic — where temperatures are quickly rising and glaciers melting — the emissions could have global implications.

As the Svalbard glaciers move and land is left behind, groundwater beneath the Earth seeps upward and forms springs. In 122 out of 123 of them, the scientists found, the water is filled with apparently ancient methane gas at very high concentrations that bubble upward under pressure. The amount of emissions these springs are emitting are not well-quantified.

“This is a feedback loop that’s caused by climate change,” said Gabrielle Kleber, the study’s lead author and a scientist based at the University of Cambridge and the University Center in Svalbard. “Glaciers are retreating due to climate warming, and they are leaving these exposed forefields behind, which are encouraging methane gas to be released.”

Most concerning is the apparent age of the methane — the fact that it appears to be ancient suggests it could be coming from very large underground reservoirs with the potential to unleash a lot of gas. The researchers found that the most intense gas flows occurred in regions with underground shale layers that are millions of years old.

“It’s not methane being produced contemporarily by microbes, it’s methane that was created when the rocks were formed,” said Kleber.

This implies that the gas has been sequestered for long periods in ancient deposits of fossil fuels, principally natural gas and coal — but that something has recently removed what scientists call a “cryospheric cap,” once provided by glaciers or permafrost. It kept a lid on the methane, and its removal allowed the once stable gas to escape upward. Svalbard is widely known to be rich in fossil fuels — the largest settlement, Longyearbyen, was originally established as a coal-mining town.

Scientists said the current phenomenon could certainly be happening in many places other than Svalbard, potentially adding another accelerator of warming in the Arctic.

“Shale is Earth’s most abundant sedimentary rock, and there’s plenty of it in the Arctic (or rocks like it),” Andy Hodson, a co-author of the study and also a scientist at Norway’s University Centre in Svalbard, said in an email.

The study was published on Thursday in Nature Geoscience by Kleber, Hodson and colleagues based at universities in Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom. The scientists studied 78 Svalbard glaciers that are based on land and several additional glaciers that stretch all the way into the ocean.

If the methane releases represent a new phenomenon tied to the warming of the planet, Svalbard is an appropriate place for it. The string of islands has seen extraordinary warming, causing the strong retreat of glaciers. Svalbard has warmed dramatically since 1976, based on temperature measurements taken at the Svalbard airport near Longyearbyen.

There’s no official quantification of how large methane emissions from retreating glaciers around the world could be. The phenomenon would add an additional source of methane emissions in the Arctic. Scientists have found that thawing permafrost also releases the gas into the atmosphere, but the phenomenon is not well understood. An official scientific assessment puts those at between zero and 1 million tons of methane per year, underscoring the uncertainty about the scope of the problem.

The emissions from retreating glaciers would count as a different source — there is usually no permafrost beneath the glaciers, Kleber said. Rather, the glacier ice itself, which crushes the ground downward, is serving as the apparent cap holding the methane in. 

And there's no putting the cap back on this genie's bottle. We're on the roller coaster to hell, and we're all going to roast soon.
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