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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Snap’s Master Plan To Turn Its Business Around

After getting “punched in the face hard” by a cratering stock price and brutal layoffs, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel told employees this week how the company plans to still grow its revenue and user base next year. The Verge reports: In an internal memo sent to employees on September 6th and obtained by The Verge, Spiegel said the company aims to grow Snapchat’s user base by 30 percent to 450 million by the end of next year, and that it aims to increase revenue to $6 billion in 2023. He said the plan is for $350 million of that revenue to come from the paid subscription Snapchat recently introduced to unlock additional features, which is already on track to hit 4 million subscribers by the end of this year. […] To achieve its user growth goal, Spiegel said Snap will focus on “increasing our penetration in at least one new large country or demographic” and onboarding more 30- to 40-year-olds. Funneling more users into the Map and Spotlight sections of Snapchat “helps to make our service more compelling for our community, harder to copy, and more resilient to competition, and increases our monetization opportunity over the longer term.”

Snap recently laid off 20 percent of its workforce, cutting whole teams and projects like its recently introduced camera drone. Even still, Spiegel said the company remains committed to augmented reality, which he thinks “represents the next major evolution in computing,” and that the next generation of its Spectacles AR glasses is in development. “Leadership in augmented reality is important to Snap because it helps us build a durable competitive advantage that comes from investing over the long term, building things that are technically difficult, and growing a platform that is increasingly hard to replicate,” Spiegel said. “It also positions us to benefit from the next major platform shift: mobile to wearables. Leading this shift will be one of our most meaningful contributions to human progress; empowering people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.”

Here are some other highlights from the memo:
– Snap aims to grow time spent on content by 10 percent per user in 2023.
– It wants 35 percent of users interacting daily with the Map tab of Snapchat and 30 percent of users on Spotlight, its TikTok competitor, every day next year.
– The plan is to make $6 billion in revenue and at least $1 billion in free cash flow in 2023.
– Snap wants AR-based advertising to make up 10 percent of its total ad revenue next year.
– The company wants to grow the number of people who use its AR effects, called Lenses, in other apps to 1 billion monthly users next year.
– It is setting up an AR enterprise division to sell its technology to other companies.
– “We will help developers confidentially explore the possibilities that are enabled with our next-generation” of Spectacles, according to Spiegel, which suggests the next version won’t be commercially available for sale.

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California Passes Law Requiring Companies to Post Salary Ranges on Job Listings

Earlier this week, California passed a law requiring all employers based or hiring in the state to post salary ranges on all job listings. The law will also require California-based companies with more than 100 employees to show their median gender and racial pay gaps — a first for a US state. Bloomberg reports: The bill will head to Governor Gavin Newsom, who has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto. He hasn’t yet expressed a position and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. If he signs it, the law would affect some of the biggest US companies, including Meta, Alphabet and Disney […] California joins Colorado, New York City, and Washington state in adopting the job-posting tactic. Only Colorado’s law is currently in effect; New York City-based employers will have to start listing pay ranges starting on Nov. 1. The New York state legislature also passed a similar bill that’s awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature.

If the California and New York governors, who are both Democrats, sign the pending laws, almost a quarter of the US population will live in states with such salary disclosure requirements. The California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, even after lawmakers stripped a requirement that would make all pay data public. New York City’s rule also faced business pushback, which delayed enforcement by six months. “I think this becomes a tipping point, frankly,” said Christine Hendrickson, the vice president of strategic initiatives at Syndio, which provides software that helps employers identify pay disparities. “It’s at this point that employers are going to stop going jurisdiction by jurisdiction and start looking for a nationwide strategy.”

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Employers are Tracking Employees ‘Productivity’ – Sometimes Badly

Here’s an interesting statistic spotted by Fortune. “Eight out of the 10 largest private employers in the U.S. are tracking productivity metrics for their employees, according to an examination from The New York Times.”
“Some of this software measures active time, watches for keyboard pauses, and even silently counts keystrokes.”

J.P. Morgan, Barclays Bank, and UnitedHealth Group all track employees, The Times reported, seeing everything from how long it takes to write an email to keyboard activity. There are repercussions if workers aren’t meeting expectations: a prodding note, a skipped bonus, or a work-from-home day taken away, to name a few. For employers surrendering in the fight to return to the office, such surveillance is a way to maintain a sense of control. As Paul Wartenberg, who installs monitor systems, told The Times, “If we’re going to give up on bringing people back to the office, we’re not going to give up on managing productivity….

But tracking these remote workers’ every move doesn’t seem to be telling employers much. “We’re in this era of measurement but we don’t know what we should be measuring,” Ryan Fuller, former vice president for workplace intelligence at Microsoft, told the Times.

From the New York Times’ article. (Alternate URLs here, here, and here.)
In lower-paying jobs, the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at Amazon, where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers, UPS drivers and millions of others…. Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees. Many employees, whether working remotely or in person, are subject to trackers, scores, “idle” buttons, or just quiet, constantly accumulating records. Pauses can lead to penalties, from lost pay to lost jobs.

Some radiologists see scoreboards showing their “inactivity” time and how their productivity stacks up against their colleagues’…. Public servants are tracked, too: In June, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority told engineers and other employees they could work remotely one day a week if they agreed to full-time productivity monitoring. Architects, academic administrators, doctors, nursing home workers and lawyers described growing electronic surveillance over every minute of their workday.

They echoed complaints that employees in many lower-paid positions have voiced for years: that their jobs are relentless, that they don’t have control — and in some cases, that they don’t even have enough time to use the bathroom. In interviews and in hundreds of written submissions to The Times, white-collar workers described being tracked as “demoralizing,” “humiliating” and “toxic.” Micromanagement is becoming standard, they said. But the most urgent complaint, spanning industries and incomes, is that the working world’s new clocks are just wrong: inept at capturing offline activity, unreliable at assessing hard-to-quantify tasks and prone to undermining the work itself….

But many employers, along with makers of the tracking technology, say that even if the details need refining, the practice has become valuable — and perhaps inevitable. Tracking, they say, allows them to manage with newfound clarity, fairness and insight. Derelict workers can be rooted out. Industrious ones can be rewarded. “It’s a way to really just focus on the results,” rather than impressions, said Marisa Goldenberg, [who] said she used the tools in moderation…
[I]n-person workplaces have embraced the tools as well. Tommy Weir, whose company, Enaible, provides group productivity scores to Fortune 500 companies, aims to eventually use individual scores to calibrate pay.

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WeWork’s Former CEO Has a New Startup, Reportedly Valued At More Than $1 Billion

Nearly three years after Adam Neumann stepped down as CEO of WeWork following a failed attempt to take the company public, he is said to once again be in charge of a billion-dollar real estate startup. CNN Business reports: Andreessen Horowitz, the prominent venture capital firm known for its early investments in Twitter and Airbnb, has pumped about $350 million into Neumann’s newest venture, called Flow, according to The New York Times, citing unnamed sources briefed on the deal. The investment valued the startup at more than $1 billion, according to the report. In a blog post Monday, Marc Andreessen, cofounder and general partner at the VC firm, announced the investment, without disclosing financial details. He also explained his thinking for backing Flow, a residential real estate company, and Neumann despite the founder’s high-profile fall from grace at WeWork.

“Adam is a visionary leader who revolutionized the second largest asset class in the world — commercial real estate — by bringing community and brand to an industry in which neither existed before,” Andreessen wrote in his post Monday. “Adam, and the story of WeWork, have been exhaustively chronicled, analyzed, and fictionalized — sometimes accurately. For all the energy put into covering the story, it’s often under appreciated that only one person has fundamentally redesigned the office experience and led a paradigm-changing global company in the process: Adam Neumann.” It’s not immediately clear how Flow seeks to revolutionize the residential housing industry. Flow currently has a bare bones website, with the slogan “Live life in flow” and two words stating it will launch in 2023.

Andreessen positioned the new company as a long-awaited solution to the nation’s “housing crisis.” He used a mix of jargon-filled terms — “community-driven, experience-centric service” — to explain how the new startup would “create a system where renters receive the benefits of owners.” “We think it is natural that for his first venture since WeWork, Adam returns to the theme of connecting people through transforming their physical spaces and building communities where people spend the most time: their homes,” Andreessen wrote. “Residential real estate — the world’s largest asset class — is ready for exactly this change.”

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Groupon Cuts Over 500 Staff, Plans To Focus ‘Only On Mission-Critical Activities’

Groupon confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s laid off more than 500 of its employees — 15% of its 3,416-person headcount. It’s also re-organizing the company to focus “only on mission-critical activities and leaning on more external support.” From the report: “Our overall business performance is not at the levels we anticipated and we are taking decisive actions to improve our trajectory,” CEO Kedar Deshpande said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. The chief executive says that the layoffs, as well as a reinvestment in marketing and initiatives that drive customer purchase frequency, will set the company up to generate positive cash flow by the end of 2022.

In a letter to staff, Deshpande said that Groupon is reducing its North America sales teams to focus on “self-service merchant acquisition capabilities.” It is also re-organizing the company to focus “only on mission-critical activities and leaning on more external support.” “In addition, we are proposing to reduce cloud infrastructure and support functions as we wrap up cloud migrations.” Groupon is also closing its Australia Goods business, more than a decade after launching there in the first place. Finally, Groupon said that it will “rationalize” its real estate footprint to be more in line with hybrid work. “Over the past few years, the number of Groupon shoppers has fallen sharply,” adds TechCrunch. “According to Statista, 22.2 million visitors to the company’s site purchased at least one offer in Q1 2022, down from nearly 54 million in Q4 2014.”

The report notes that these cuts aren’t as large as the ones made in 2020 when Groupon said it would lay off or furlough 2,800 employees following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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TSMC Warns Taiwan-China War Would Make Everybody Losers

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: If China were to invade Taiwan, the most-advanced chip factory in the world would be rendered “not operable,” TSMC Chair Mark Liu said in an English-language interview with CNN this week. In the undated interview, Liu said that if Taiwan were invaded by China, the chipmaker’s plant would not be able to operate because it relies on global supply chains. “Nobody can control TSMC by force. If you take a military force or invasion, you will render TSMC factory not operable,” Liu said. “Because this is such a sophisticated manufacturing facility, it depends on real-time connection with the outside world, with Europe, with Japan, with U.S., from materials to chemicals to spare parts to engineering software and diagnosis.” The remarks were aired as tensions between China and Taiwan have escalated in recent days as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits the island. “The war brings no winners, everybody’s losers,” Liu said.

Liu compared a potential conflict in Taiwan to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that while the two conflicts are very different, the economic impact to other countries would be similar. He encouraged political leaders to try to avoid war. “Ukraine war is not good for any of the sides, it’s lose-lose-lose scenarios,” Liu said. Liu said an invasion of the territory would cause economic turmoil for China, Taiwan and Western countries. He said that TSMC sells chips to consumer-facing Chinese companies that need the company’s services and the supply of advanced computer chips. “How can we avoid war? How can we ensure that the engine of the world economy continues humming, and let’s have a fair competition,” Liu said. Further reading: US To Stop TSMC, Intel From Adding Advanced Chip Fabs In China

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