The labor market could go lopsided


March 24, 2020

That run for the gold might have to wait. Yesterday, a veteran member of the International Olympic Committee said the 2020 summer games in Tokyo would definitely be postponed. The details aren’t final, but the news (and the IOC member who broke it) still turned heads…

Lopsided Labor

Amazon’s hiring laid-off small biz workers. What does that mean for the long-term labor market?

With millions of shoppers stuck in their houses, Amazon is becoming an even more important destination for consumers. 

Rising order volumes will test the company’s supply chain and delivery infrastructure — and give it a chance to bite off an even bigger chunk of the ecommerce market.

But Amazon could also reshape the LABOR landscape

Last week, Bezos’ behemoth — which already had ~400k employees in the US — announced plans to hire 100k more.

And it’s not just Amazon, either…

  • Walmart, which had 1.4m US employees, will hire 150k more
  • Instacart, which had ~130k US employees, will hire 300k more
  • Dollar General, which had 135k US employees, will hire 50k more
  • Domino’s, which had 120k US employees, will hire 10k more
  • CVS, which had 290k US employees, will hire 50k more
  • PepsiCo, which had 90k US employees, is hiring 6k more
  • Kroger, which had 453k US employees, is hiring 10k+ more

But the hiring binge is possible thanks to… big layoffs

Until recently, the labor market was historically tight: Just 2 months ago, the unemployment rate hovered around 3.5%, a 50-year low.

Then the pandemic erupted. Analysts now predict that 1m people — mostly restaurant workers and other service-industry employees — will lose their jobs this month alone.

Is the hiring frenzy a good thing? 

Opinions are mixed. In the short term, the boom could help workers who lack benefits like health insurance.

But in the long term, it’s harder to predict how such a rapid consolidation will impact the economy. Some critics are concerned it could kill off small businesses while bolstering the behemoths.

Big Bezos made it seem like he expects workers to go back to their “old jobs” when the coronavirus dust settles: 

  • “We hope people who’ve been laid off will come work for us until they can go back to the jobs they had,” he wrote 2 days ago on Instagram. 

That’s easy for Bezos to say: With billions of dollars in free cash flow, Amazon has enough money to weather a long storm. 

But research from JPMorgan Chase shows half of small businesses only have enough cash saved up to stay open for 27 days or fewer — which means that, for most small business workers, the “jobs they had” won’t exist anymore if the crisis goes on for more than a month.

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The Corona-Conomy

Grocery stockpilers are found to be full of beans — literally

Mask makers and TP titans aren’t the only businesses benefiting from the ongoing corona-crisis. As The New York Times reports, the beans are booming, baby.

The musical fruit hits a high note

For years, beans were associated with Depression-era eats and didn’t get much love. Bags of dried ones sat untouched on the bottom shelves in grocery stores. But legumes started to get a leg up when eco-motivated gourmets embraced them as a healthful meat alternative.

And now that freaked-out consumers are preparing for the possibility of extended lockdowns, some bean suppliers are having a hard time meeting demand:

  • Goya Foods saw sales of beans and other canned items spike 400% last week.
  • Specialty bean purveyor Rancho Gordo went from receiving 150 to 200 orders a day to 1.6k+ on March 14. It’s been telling customers to anticipate delivery delays as long as 4 weeks.

In addition to beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas are having a major moment. I guess hummus where the heart is.

What’s in your pandemic pantry?

As expected, products like hand sanitizer, milk, bread, and, of course, toilet paper have flown off the shelves the past couple weeks. Stress snackers seeking comfort snapped up treats like chocolate and potato chips.

Shelf-stable staples like rice, pasta, and canned meats also saw high demand. Some surprising big sellers? Oat milk, papayas, and tofu. 

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Coping With Coronavirus

A worker shortage puts a small cleaning business in a crunch

We asked readers to tell us about how their businesses are coping with the coronavirus. We’re featuring highlights of those conversations here.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a stream of new demand for cleaning companies — especially those that disinfect properties.

But Edward Rodriguez’s company, Hip Maids, is struggling to meet the demand. School closures have forced parents who can’t work from home to choose between caring for their kids and supporting their families financially.

That leaves Rodriguez facing a shortage of workers. He’s thinking about tapping into the SBA’s loan-assistance program to cover employee salaries, and trying to find a pipeline for new employees (college students are 1 possibility).

Hip Maids’ services are typically in high demand during the summer moving season, but the spread of the pandemic has made future revenue trends difficult to forecast. Across the company’s existing contracts, Rodriguez says 30% of the revenue is secure, but the remaining 70% could be gone in a worst-case scenario.

He’s ready for a range of outcomes. Ultimately, he says, “we have been through so many life-changing events before as a society and came out on top. This too shall pass.”

Trends subscribers get access to the whole story — and much more. Start your trial today.

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Surveillance State

Governments want to contain the pandemic — using data from your phone

It’s 1 of the most important 1st steps in containing the spread of the new coronavirus. Find out who’s been exposed. Then find out where they’ve been.

Widespread testing is 1 way to pinpoint the virus — but it’s not the only way. Governments across the globe are increasingly tracking the spread of COVID-19 by using location data from smartphones.

It’s like Big Brother turned into Big Doctor

Countries are using the data in a whole bunch of different ways:

  • In the Italian region of Lombardy, the government is checking to see who’s obeying a lockdown order… and who’s bein’ a selfish stronzino by moving around too much.
  • In South Korea, the authorities went even further, using surveillance-camera footage and records of credit-card transactions.
  • In Poland, the government released an app that requires coronavirus patients to take geolocated selfies… or face fines. Smile, or else!

Here in the US, The Washington Post reported last week that the biggest tech companies are in talks to use similar data to understand people’s movements. Those efforts are still in their early stages, but the news gave privacy experts the creeps.

Your boss might be watching, too

Some companies are using digital tools like Sneek to keep track of their workers. Sneek has a “wall of faces” feature that updates with photos of people taken every few minutes. Zoom can also track your attention during a video call and rat on you if you zone out.

The good news? Wily WFH’ers are always one step ahead. People are looping video clips to fake paying attention in Zoom meetings.

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Snippets

🏠 There are luxe accommodations for everything — even doomsday digs.

😷 The makers of Mask Match are uniting critical medical supplies with the workers who need them most.

🚀 Take advice from a person who knows something about living in isolation — an astronaut.

📷 These images of doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic are striking. They might also renew your faith in the human spirit.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

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