Factory Jobs Are Booming Like It’s the 1970s

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the New York Times: Ever since American manufacturing entered a long stretch of automation and outsourcing in the late 1970s, every recession has led to the loss of factory jobs that never returned. But the recovery from the pandemic recession has been different: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed — and then some. The resurgence has not been driven by companies bringing back factory jobs that had moved overseas, nor by the brawny industrial sectors and regions often evoked by President Biden, former President Donald J. Trump and other champions of manufacturing. Instead, the engines in this recovery include pharmaceutical plants, craft breweries and ice-cream makers. The newly created jobs are more likely to be located in the Mountain West and the Southeast than in the classic industrial strongholds of the Great Lakes.

American manufacturers cut roughly 1.36 million jobs from February to April of 2020, as Covid-19 shut down much of the economy. As of August this year, manufacturers had added back about 1.43 million jobs, a net gain of 67,000 workers above pre pandemic levels. Data suggest that the rebound is largely a product of the unique circumstances of the pandemic recession and recovery. Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, making domestic manufacturing more attractive to some companies. Federal stimulus spending helped to power a shift in Americans’ buying habits away from services like travel and restaurants and toward goods like cars and sofas, helping domestic factory production — and with it, job growth — to bounce back much faster than it did in the previous two recessions.

In recessions over the last half century, factories have typically laid off a greater share of workers than other employers in the economy, and they have been slower to add jobs back in recoveries. Often, companies have used those economic inflection points to accelerate their pace of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, where wages are significantly lower, and to invest in technology that replaces human workers. […] This time was different. Factory layoffs roughly matched those in the services sector in the depth of the pandemic recession. Economists attribute that break in the trend to many U.S. manufacturers being deemed “essential” during pandemic lockdowns, and the ensuing surge in demand for their products by Americans. Manufacturing jobs quickly rebounded in the spring of 2020, then began to climb at a much faster pace than has been typical for factory job creation in recent decades. Since June 2020, under both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, factories have added more than 30,000 jobs a month.
“Sectors that hemorrhaged employment in recent recessions have fared much better in this recovery,” reports the NYT. They include furniture makers, textile mills, paper products companies and computer equipment makers.

“Mr. Biden has pushed a variety of legislative initiatives to boost domestic manufacturing, including direct spending on infrastructure, tax credits and other subsidies for companies like battery makers and semiconductor factories, and new federal procurement requirements that benefit manufacturers located in the United States,” adds the report — all of which could help encourage factory job growth in the coming months and years.

Furthermore, the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology could encourage more companies to leave China for the United States, particularly cutting-edge industries like clean energy and advanced computing.

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A 20 Year Old Chipset Workaround Has Been Hurting Modern AMD Linux Systems

AMD engineer K Prateek Nayak recently uncovered that a 20 year old chipset workaround in the Linux kernel still being applied to modern AMD systems is responsible in some cases for hurting performance on modern Zen hardware. Fortunately, a fix is on the way for limiting that workaround to old systems and in turn helping with performance for modern systems. Phoronix reports: Last week was a patch posted for the ACPI processor idle code to avoid an old chipset workaround on modern AMD Zen systems. Since ACPI support was added to the Linux kernel in 2002, there has been a “dummy wait op” to deal with some chipsets where STPCLK# doesn’t get asserted in time. The dummy I/O read delays further instruction processing until the CPU is fully stopped. This was a problem with at least some AMD Athlon era systems with a VIA chipset… But not a problem with newer chipsets of roughly the past two decades.

With this workaround still being applied to even modern AMD systems, K Prateek Nayak discovered: “Sampling certain workloads with IBS on AMD Zen3 system shows that a significant amount of time is spent in the dummy op, which incorrectly gets accounted as C-State residency. A large C-State residency value can prime the cpuidle governor to recommend a deeper C-State during the subsequent idle instances, starting a vicious cycle, leading to performance degradation on workloads that rapidly switch between busy and idle phases. One such workload is tbench where a massive performance degradation can be observed during certain runs.”

At least for Tbench, this long-time, unconditional workaround in the Linux kernel has been hurting AMD Ryzen / Threadripper / EPYC performance in select workloads. This workaround hasn’t affected modern Intel systems since those newer Intel platforms use the alternative MWAIT-based intel_idle driver code path instead. The AMD patch evolved into this patch by Intel Linux engineer Dave Hansen. That patch to limit the “dummy wait” workaround to old systems is already queued into TIP’s x86/urgent branch. With it going the route of “x86/urgent” and for fixing a overzealous workaround that isn’t needed on modern hardware, it’s likely this patch will be submitted this week still for the Linux 6.0 kernel rather than needing to wait until the next (v6.1) merge window.

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Hackathon Finds Dozens of Ukrainian Refugees Trafficked Online

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, the International Organization for Migration reported that more than 3 million refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine were “at heightened risk of exploitation.” Human trafficking cases, they warned, involved refugees more likely to leave home suddenly without secure financial resources and “less likely to be identified in the immediate aftermath of mass displacement.” Since February, the European Union announced (PDF) that the number is even larger, counting more than 5.4 million people who “have arrived in the European Union since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.” “All relevant stakeholders have recognized that the threat of trafficking in human beings is high and imminent,” EU’s human trafficking plan states. Since women and children represent the majority of refugees fleeing, the plan says they are believed to be most at risk.

To respond, the EU began monitoring online and offline human trafficking risks, and experts called for countries across Europe to start working together to shield refugees during this uncertain time of conflict. This week, the EU’s law enforcement agency focused on cybercrimes, Europol, reported that it had done exactly that by coordinating the first online EU-wide hackathon. By bringing together law enforcement authorities from 20 countries to aid in their investigations, the hackathon targeted criminal networks using social platforms and websites to map out the online criminal landscape of human trafficking across Europe. In particular, Europol noted in its report, “investigators targeted human traffickers attempting to lure Ukrainian refugees.”

“The Internet and human trafficking are interlinked,” Europol stated in its report, which identified 30 online platforms “related to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees,” 10 specifically targeting refugees for human trafficking. Europol identified 80 persons/usernames (with 30 possibly exploiting Ukrainian refugees), 11 suspected human traffickers (five believed to be targeting Ukrainian refugees), and 45 possible victims, 25 of which were Ukrainian. Countries involved in the hackathon were Austria, Albania, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. Online platforms probed during the hackathon included “a wide range of websites” and “social media, dating platforms, advertising and aid platforms, forums and messaging applications.”

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Almost Half of Industrial Robots Are In China

According to a new report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), China now has almost half of all the world’s robot installations and that it is increasing its lead rapidly. Engineering.com reports: The IFR, which exists to “promote research, development, use and international co-operation in the entire field of robotics,” has been reporting that China has been the world leader in implementing industrial robots for the last 8 years. We have not been paying attention. In 3 years, China has almost doubled the number of industrial robot installations. With its 243,000 robot installations in 2020, China has almost half of all the industrial robots in the world, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A majority of new industrial robots are used in electronics manufacture (for circuit boards, consumer electronics, etc.) and in automobile assembly, particularly in the surging production of electric vehicles (EVs).One must wonder why China, a country with so much cheap manual labor available, would opt for expensive robots with their special demands for tech support. China may have a giant population (1.4 billion people), but its workforce is actually decreasing, says the IFR, due to an increasing segment of its population aging and a growing competition for service jobs. China also expects a leveling off of its rural-to-urban migration. China’s government is determined not to let a declining workforce cause a drop in manufacturing, and as only a centralized, authoritarian government can, it has made robotizing a national priority and has mobilized its forces.

China’s latest five-year plan for the robotics industry, released in December 2021 by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), aims for nothing less than making China a world leader in robot technology and industrial automation. And it appears to be working. China went from 10 robots per ten thousand employees 10 years ago to 246 robots per ten thousand employees in 2020, the ninth best ranking in the world. To keep the robots state of the art and operational, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security introduced 18 new occupational titles in June, including “robotics engineering technician.”

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DOT To Map Out Nation’s Time Zones After Report Shows No Official Map Exists

A person may take knowing the local time for granted, but an official review revealed that there is no single, accurate map showing the nation’s time zones and local observance of Daylight Saving Time. CNN reports: Federal transportation officials are now at work creating an accurate map of the nation’s time zones, according to a report by the inspector general for the Department of Transportation. The issue came up, the inspector general’s office said, after the US Senate passed legislation this year to end the biannual time turn by making Daylight Saving Time permanent.

Investigators found no single map accurately showing the boundaries nationwide and said several sources of time information on the DOT website contained errors, such as inaccurately noting the time practices in some localities. For example, one map incorrectly identifies a deviation in Nevada: “Elko County, NV is shown as the location that changed time zones rather than the correct location, the city of West Wendover.”

“The official boundaries are narratively described [in federal regulations] with various types of coordinates and geographic features such as lines of longitude, State or county lines, and rivers,” the report stated. The inspector general report said the Transportation Department is responsible for keeping the clock because of the importance of time to travel. It said the original five time zones have expanded to nine.

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Is Plant-Based Meat Fizzling In the US?

Citing McDonald’s shelved meat-free burger trial and a 70% dip in Beyond Meat’s stock, The Guardian suggests plant-based meats may not interest Americans as much as investors thought. From the report: Getting meat eaters in the US to adopt plant-based alternatives has proven a challenge. Beyond Meat, which produces a variety of plant-based products, including imitations of ground beef, burgers, sausages, meatballs and jerky, has had a rough 12 months, with its stock dipping nearly 70%. Multiple chains that partnered with the company, including McDonald’s, have quietly ended trial launches. In August, the company laid off 4% of its workforce after a slowdown in sales growth. Last week, its chief operating officer was reportedly arrested for biting another man on the nose during a road rage confrontation. It’s a dramatic reversal of fortune. Just two years ago, Beyond Meat, its competitor Impossible Foods and the plant-based meat industry at large seemed poised to start a food revolution.

For a time, Wall Street went vegetarian. In 2019 Beyond Meat was valued at over $10 billion, more than Macy’s or Xerox. The most bullish investors believed that plant-based meat would make up 15% of all meat sales by 2030. But the reality of Americans’ interest in plant-based meat has proven more complicated than investors thought, and the adoption of meat alternatives has been slower than what was once hoped. Today Beyond Meat is valued at just over $900 million. The sobering story is similar to those experienced by many new ventures that see exhilarating hype after a flood of Silicon Valley venture capital cash, fueled by excitement about innovation. Bill Gates backed Beyond Meat, and a number of venture capital firms that typically invest in tech startups funneled money to startups making plant-based meat. Even the meat industry’s biggest players have, ironically, invested in companies coming up with plant-based meat. While eating plant-based meat (or no meat at all) has been shown to be the most effective thing individual consumers can do to fight climate change, “consumers seem hesitant to adapt their behavior when the environment — not their health or wallets — is the sole beneficiary,” reports The Guardian. “Despite the increasing alarm over climate change, the number of Americans who are vegetarian or vegan has remained relatively stable over the last 20 years.”

“Even when participants in a study conducted at Purdue University in Indiana were given information about the carbon footprint of meat production, participants were more likely to go with regular meat over a plant-based alternative.”

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