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Westlake Legal Group > Labor and Jobs

Immigration Bolsters the Economy. One Trump Official Acknowledged That.

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-immig1-facebookJumbo Immigration Bolsters the Economy. One Trump Official Acknowledged That. United States Economy Productivity Population Labor and Jobs Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration Gross Domestic Product Green Cards (US) Foreign Workers Border Barriers

WASHINGTON — At a private event last week, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, stated a reality that economists treat as conventional wisdom but that the Trump administration routinely ignores: The United States needs immigration to fuel future economic growth.

“We are desperate, desperate for more people,” Mr. Mulvaney told a crowd in England, according to an audio recording provided to The New York Times. “We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth.” He said the country needed “more immigrants” but wanted them in a “legal” fashion.

Mr. Mulvaney’s sentiments are at odds with the approach and language embraced by President Trump and White House officials including Stephen Miller, a senior aide who is a driving force behind the administration’s immigration policies.

The White House has been trying to crack down on undocumented entries and family-based immigration into the United States, and its measures are slowing the flow of refugees. While the administration has said that it wants to foster high-skilled immigration, Mr. Trump has described the country as “full.”

But growth in the native-born work force is rapidly slowing as the population ages and people have fewer children, so immigrants will probably be needed to drive the economy. They have already been a crucial source of new workers, accounting for about half of the labor force’s expansion over the past two decades.

The foreign-born population has been expanding only tepidly during Mr. Trump’s tenure. That slowdown could have long-lasting and profound repercussions, economists warn.

“Immigration, while a sensitive topic, has been a key part of work force growth in the United States,” Robert S. Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said in an interview. Immigrants “have been additive to the U.S. economy” and “they’ve helped us to grow faster.”

Gross domestic product growth comes from two basic ingredients: population and productivity gains. To produce more goods and services, businesses need either more workers or better efficiency.

Productivity improvement has been weak in America over the past decade. While some economists hope that will change as companies embrace nascent technologies in robotics and machine learning, others believe that most economy-altering innovations may be behind us — think cars, washing machines and refrigerators. Future gains could be consistently mediocre.

If that’s the case, the United States’ economic fate will hinge on population growth.

Work force expansion will almost certainly not come naturally. Fertility has dropped since the baby boom of the late 1940s to mid-1960s, and has plunged recently. The expected number of births per 100 women in America has dropped to just 173, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System. That is nowhere near the rate the population would need to replace itself — a little more than two births per woman.

But America’s immigrant population has been growing more slowly, a phenomenon exacerbated by Trump administration policies including strict enforcement and travel restrictions on many countries with substantial Muslim populations.

The United States added only 595,000 total immigrants last year, the fewest since the 1980s, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution demographer William H. Frey based on Census Bureau data. That contributed to the lowest year in overall population growth since 1918.

Undocumented immigration has been declining since about 2007. While conclusive data is sparse, estimates by the Pew Research Center suggest the trend has continued under the Trump administration.

Legal immigration has also been slowing, and that is poised to persist. A report released this week by the National Foundation for American Policy projected a 30 percent plunge in legal immigration by 2021 and a 35 percent dip in average annual growth of the U.S. labor force.

That “will take place without any change in the law by Congress but as a result of policies that include the broadened version of the public charge rule, the travel ban and lower admission of refugees,” according to the report. The so-called public charge rule can curb visa and green card eligibility for people who are deemed likely to tap public programs.

“The Trump administration’s reduction in legal immigration will mean slower growth in the labor force and a lower rate of economic growth,” the report stated.

Economists at Moody’s Analytics have estimated that if immigration consistently dropped to 500,000 a year and stayed there — down from previously normal levels of around one million a year — the nation’s total gross domestic product would be about $700 billion smaller by 2030.

Proponents of restraining immigration, particularly among low-skill workers, often argue that newcomers can supplant American workers or depress their wages, even if they help the economy as a whole. Companies have to compete less to hire when there are more workers around. But the evidence supporting that argument is limited.

In one study, the Harvard economist George Borjas examined how a group of Cubans who went to Miami in 1980 affected the local labor market. He found that native-born workers who had dropped out of high school took a wage hit when the newcomers arrived. But that research has been the subject of a fierce debate over data choices — several different economists have argued that with a different design, the pay effects disappear.

Other research, by Giovanni Peri at the University of California, Davis, suggests that lower-skill immigrants complement their American counterparts, actually lifting wages. Immigrants are more entrepreneurial, other studies have found, and at higher education levels, they contribute a big share of the United States’ science, technology and math work force.

Whatever competition immigrants do pose is probably even more limited now, when the unemployment rate is at its lowest in half a century and businesses have about 1.1 job openings for every available worker.

“It’s very hard to think that in this situation you would displace anyone,” Mr. Peri said. “A little bit more immigration would alleviate and help this problem, allowing the economy to grow a little faster and generating more consumption.”

In Chester County, Pa., which produces more than 60 percent of the country’s mushrooms, immigration is top of mind. Harvesting is difficult work: It requires laboring from early in the day in growing houses, bending and stretching to twist the produce from its trays. In recent years, there have been too few people to complete the task even at higher pay rates, so companies have planted less and have even allowed crops to go unpicked.

“As an industry, they are not able to produce at the levels they would like, and at the demand that’s being requested,” said Guy Ciarrocchi, the head of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry. The local unemployment rate comes in under 3 percent, so other opportunities are plentiful.

“You can make a very nice living in mushrooms, but it’s hard work,” said Lori Harrison, the communications director at the American Mushroom Institute, an industry group. Farms have avoided building new houses to expand amid labor shortages, she said. “If you put the capital into it, but don’t have anyone to harvest the mushrooms, then you’re out.”

Mr. Ciarrocchi and his chamber colleagues regularly talk to their legislators about the shortage in the local work force, which extends to other industries. They see immigration as one part of the answer.

“Build the wall, that’s fine,” he said. “But at the same time, we should be able to talk to — whether it’s mushroom farmers or engineers or doctors — whatever the economic needs may be.”

Near-term labor shortages like Chester County’s offer a hint of problems that could arise if the work force expands more slowly amid muted immigration. As the population ages, more people will depend on Social Security, Medicare and other public programs while a shrinking share of the population punches the clock and pays the taxes needed to fund them.

“The U.S. economy, I think, will undergo a transition in which growth will slow down, society will age, and the economic dynamism will slow,” Mr. Peri said, adding that the nation’s debt burden would increase. “That’s the direction that the U.S. is going to be headed toward if fertility doesn’t change and immigration is still constrained.”

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1,000 Workers, Go Home: Companies Act to Ward Off Coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group 26virus-continuity-1-facebookJumbo 1,000 Workers, Go Home: Companies Act to Ward Off Coronavirus Workplace Hazards and Violations Telecommuting Labor and Jobs Deutsche Lufthansa AG Dentsu Corporations Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Chevron Corporation

An oil company and a media group have told hundreds of employees in London to work from home. A television giant is stopping people who have visited certain countries from entering its offices in Europe. A German airline has asked workers to take unpaid leave.

For weeks, the coronavirus outbreak in China rattled global supply chains, exacting a toll on major businesses around the world, though often in indirect ways.

Now, as it spreads across Europe and Asia, the virus is becoming a more immediate threat to all types of businesses. From Milan to Berlin to London, companies in practically every industry are refining their emergency protocols or sending employees home to try to prevent an outbreak.

This week, Chevron instructed 300 workers at one of its London offices to work from home after an employee returning from Italy developed flulike symptoms. The media group OMG has taken the same step in the Fitzrovia district of London, sending home around 1,000 employees after a staff member who recently passed through Singapore began showing symptoms.

The British pay-television company Sky has begun screening visitors at several of its European offices, telling employees that guests who have recently traveled in “higher risk” countries like China and Japan would be barred. Germany’s flagship airline, Lufthansa, has frozen hiring and offered employees unpaid leave as it braces for the economic impact of the virus to grow. And on Tuesday, the advertising agency Dentsu instructed all the employees at its headquarters in Tokyo to work from home.

For the most part, these disruptions to daily work life have been confined to Europe and Asia. In China, most businesses ground to a halt in January as the government worked to contain the outbreak, which has sickened tens of thousands of people and killed over 3,000.

  • Answers to your most common questions:

    Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.

In Italy, the center of the outbreak in Europe, a number of companies, including the insurance giant Generali and the fashion brand Armani, have adopted work-from-home policies to varying degrees.

Stefano Conforti, a digital marketing strategist who usually reports to a crowded co-working space in Milan, has worked from home all week, dressed in jeans and a sweater. He has even considered spending part of the workday at the local library.

“Working from home is surely comfortable, but personally speaking, I like to go to the office and share time with colleagues and live that type of atmosphere,” Mr. Conforti said. “My position doesn’t require a physical presence. My thoughts go to people who work as a waiter, for instance, and this type of emergency of course puts them in trouble.”

Soon companies in the United States may have to begin sending workers home or taking other precautions. On Tuesday, a top federal health official, Nancy Messonnier, called on cities and towns to plan “social distancing measures,” like dividing classes into smaller groups of students or even closing schools. She also said businesses should arrange for employees to work from home.

At some companies, like marketing firms or technology start-ups that already have generous work-from-home policies, such adjustments should be relatively straightforward. But a company Slack channel is not much help in the hospitality industry, where a long-running labor shortage has left many business owners scrambling to find workers.

“Anything that would reduce the work force would pose further challenges for local restaurants, some of which are already operating understaffed,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “We hope it doesn’t get to that situation.”

This is not the first time that companies in the United States have been forced to contemplate emergency options or devise work-from-home policies. The closest historical reference point for the spread of the coronavirus is the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 — a crisis that prompted many companies to devise emergency-response plans.

“Companies probably have these plans in the vault someplace, and they’re probably not all that different than they were 20 years ago,” said Peter Cappelli, a management professor and expert on human resources at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “Just trying to understand which jobs people actually have to be in the office for to keep things going is pretty useful.”

For some employees, working from home will be a relief — an escape from long commutes and noisy office mates. For others, it may pose problems, whether the distraction of young children or the difficulty of collaborating on certain projects from afar.

“There are people who want to get out of the home, particularly people who have organized their lives with child care,” Mr. Cappelli said. “There’ll be some people who find this unpleasant.”

Paul Vallee is not one of those people. He runs Tehama, a cloud-computing start-up that aims to make it easier for employees to work remotely.

“I am not in any way excited about the virus,” he said. “But I’ve spent my whole life excited about the culture change that could happen when people start permitting internet-based work and internet-based labor.”

Mr. Vallee said demand had surged for his remote-workplace service since January, with triple the number of companies adopting it compared with a year ago.

As more customers have expressed interest in the service, Mr. Vallee has been preparing to send his own employees home in case the coronavirus spreads to the company’s headquarters in Ottawa.

About 35 of the company’s 50 employees work in the office building. But the staff of this remote-workplace start-up are no strangers to working from home.

“Last year, we pretended that our headquarters had flooded and we had to work from home,” Mr. Vallee said. “So I’m not too concerned that we’re ready.”

Tiffany Hsu, Amie Tsang and Geneva Abdul contributed reporting.

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Should Robots Have a Face?

When Tina Sorg first saw the robot rolling through her Giant supermarket in Harrisburg, Pa., she said to herself, “That thing is a little weird.”

Programmed to detect spills and debris in the aisles, the robot looked like an inkjet printer with a long neck.

“It needed personality,” said Ms. Sorg, 55, who manages the store’s beer and wine department.

So, during one overnight shift, she went out to a nearby arts and craft store, brought back a large pair of googly eyes and, when no one was looking, affixed them on the top of the robot.

The eyes were a hit with executives at the global grocery company Ahold Delhaize, which owns the Giant and Stop & Shop supermarket chains. They are now a standard feature on the company’s nearly 500 robots across the United States.

How this supermarket robot got its goofy eyes touches on a serious question: Will robots with friendly faces and cute names help people feel good about devices that are taking over an increasing amount of human work?

Robots are now working everywhere from factories to living rooms. But the introduction of robots to public settings like the grocery store is fueling new fears that humans are being pushed out of jobs. McKinsey, the consulting firm, says the grocers could immediately reduce “the pool of labor hours” by as much as 65 percent if they adopted all the automation technology currently available.

“Margin pressure has made automation a requirement, not a choice,” McKinsey said in a report last year.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_166140252_dc8f9ecd-1bb3-4a05-af53-aef7e1d6797d-articleLarge Should Robots Have a Face? Walmart Stores Inc Supermarkets and Grocery Stores Stop&Shop Supermarket Co Shopping and Retail Robots and Robotics Labor and Jobs

Employees powering up Marty, a robot that detects supermarket spills, at the Badger factory in Memphis.Credit…Whitten Sabbatini for The New York Times

Retailers said their robot designs were not explicitly meant to assuage angst about job losses. Still, companies of all sizes — from Carrefour in Spain to Schnucks supermarket in St. Louis — are investing in tens of thousands of friendly-looking robots that are quickly upending human work.

Most of the retail robots have just enough human qualities to make them appear benign, but not too many to suggest they are replacing humans entirely.

“It’s like Mary Poppins,” said Peter Hancock, a professor at the University of Central Florida, who has studied the history of automation. “A spoonful of sugar makes the robots go down.”

Perhaps no other retailer is dealing as intensely with the sensitivities around automation as Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, with about 1.5 million workers. The company spent many months working with the firm Bossa Nova and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University to design a shelf-scanning robot that they hope both employees and customers will feel comfortable with.

This robot was designed without a face, because its developers did not want customers to think they could interact with the device. But many of the robots have names, given to them by store staff. Some also wear name badges.

“We want the associates to have an attachment to it and want to protect it,” said Sarjoun Skaff, a co-founder and the chief technology officer at Bossa Nova. Walmart said it planned to deploy the robots in 1,000 stores by the end of the year, up from about 350.

At the Walmart Supercenter in Phillipsburg, N.J., on the Pennsylvania border, employees named the robot Wall-E — a choice partly inspired by the Pixar film that depicts a trash-collecting robot on a deserted planet.

The robot can work 365 days a year, scanning shelves with high-resolution cameras tabulating out-of-stock items. It takes a short break between shifts to recharge its batteries in a docking station.

Wall-E completes its route with no assistance from humans, except when it becomes stuck on the rug in the pharmacy section. When this happens, the store manager, Tom McGowan, gets an alert on his phone, sometimes in the middle of the night. He then calls the store to tell someone to free the robot.

Mr. McGowan said that he referred to Wall-E as a he but that other employees thought of the robot as a she.

“I’ll say, ‘Where is he at?’” Mr. McGowan said. “But they say, ‘Where is she at?’”

Tally, a robot that cruises the aisles of Giant Eagle grocery stores in Pennsylvania and Ohio, has digital cartoonlike eyes that blink but perform no actual function. A blue computer screen flashes messages informing customers what the robot is doing: “Stock check!”

Jeff Gee, a co-founder of Simbe Robotics, the firm that developed Tally, said the eyes were meant to help customers feel comfortable with the device, particularly in areas of the country “where a lot of people have never experienced robots in the wild before.”

Simbe is short for Simulated Being. A spokeswoman said the company’s mission was to “foster a harmonious relationship between robots and humans.” One of Simbe’s biggest financial backers is Venrock, a firm which was founded as the venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family.

Some robots, the tech companies say, are blending seamlessly into the stores. Walmart and malls operated by the Simon Property Group are using self-driving floor scrubbers that have a steering wheel, a cushy seat and even a cup holder — features that give the impression that these scrubbers are meant for humans settling in for a long shift of floor washing with a coffee at their side. The scrubber can be driven manually to set the routes it will take through the store. Then, a worker needs only to touch a screen and the device takes off on its own. About 80 percent of the time, there is no human at the wheel.

Before deploying the device in stores, Brain Corp, the San Diego firm that developed the device, tested customer reactions to a driverless machine. The humans, the company learned, were not missed.

“The biggest reaction we got” to the driverless machine, said Phil Duffy, Brain Corp’s vice president of product management, “is no reaction at all.”

Retailers say the robots are good for their workers. They free up employees from mundane and sometimes injury-prone jobs like unloading delivery trucks to focus on more fulfilling tasks like helping customers.

At the Walmart Supercenter in Phillipsburg, some workers have put their personal touches on automation that’s changing their jobs.

The store’s newly installed FAST unloader automatically sorts boxes arriving at the store, and reduced the number of workers needed to empty a delivery truck from eight to four. The task now takes employees about two-thirds the time it used to, springing them from the often sweltering confines of the back room to spend time ferrying inventory out to the aisles and dealing with customers. Walmart says the new unloader has reduced turnover in the back room.

The employees named the unloader Grover and placed a plush blue puppy on top of it as a kind of mascot.

“It’s the way of the world,” said Lori Vogelin, who works in the back room in Phillipsburg.

Automation has not yet reduced Walmart’s overall work force, but executives acknowledge that the number of positions in the stores will eventually decline through attrition. The company says it was retraining many of its employees to work in its e-commerce and health care businesses or even helping them prepare for jobs outside Walmart.

“There is never going to be this great cataclysm of job loss,” Mr. Hancock, the University of Central Florida professor, said. “It is going to be death by a thousand cuts, or death by a thousand robots.”

Throughout history, Mr. Hancock said, workers have attacked technologies when they feel threatened, like the 19th-century Luddites, who destroyed machinery in textile mills.

“If you push too hard, too far, people transfer their anger to the technology and they revolt,” he said.

The FAST unloader sorting boxes arriving at the Walmart Supercenter in Phillipsburg.Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times Workers named the unloader Grover and decorated it with a puppy doll.Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times

Ms. Sorg, who has worked at Giant for 14 years, isn’t worried.

At first, she was unsure how her bosses would react to the googly eyes. But the robot’s developers at Badger Technologies loved them..

A spokeswoman for Badger said one of the supermarket’s executives remarked that robot reminded him of an employee named Marty, who was “tall, thin, reserved and not very emotional.” Since then, the robot has been known as Marty.

While others might worry about robots taking jobs, Ms. Sorg said: “I haven’t put much thought into it. I am just fascinated by the whole thing.” For Halloween, she dressed up as Marty to go trick or treating with her grandchildren.

Last month, Stop & Shop celebrated Marty’s first anniversary with a series of parties at its stores around the Northeast.

The company said the parties were partly a chance for Stop & Shop to explain to customers how robots are improving the cleanliness of its aisles.

A self-driving floor scrubber at the Walmart Supercenter in Phillipsburg.Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times The seat, steering wheel and cup holder have a human driver to go with them only about 20 percent of the time.Credit…Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times

Marty is equipped with sensors that detect spills and then trigger an automated announcement over the store’s loudspeaker beckoning employees to clean up the mess.

At the many “Marty Parties,” there were sheet cakes decorated with the robot’s signature eyes and goody bags containing robots fashioned from juice boxes and applesauce containers.

An older customer in Newburgh, N.Y., brought the robot a can of WD-40 lubricant as a gift. In Queens and on Long Island, children made cards, drew pictures and composed poems for Marty.

“Wishing you a Happy First Birthday,” one young customer wrote to the robot. “May you have many more.”

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As the Start-Up Boom Deflates, Tech Is Humbled

Westlake Legal Group 00deflate2-facebookJumbo As the Start-Up Boom Deflates, Tech Is Humbled Venture Capital Unemployment Start-ups Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor and Jobs E-Commerce Delivery Services Computers and the Internet Casper Sleep Inc

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the past decade, technology start-ups grew so quickly that they couldn’t hire people fast enough.

Now the layoffs have started coming in droves. Last month, the robot pizza start-up Zume and the car-sharing company Getaround slashed more than 500 jobs. Then the DNA testing company 23andMe, the logistics start-up Flexport, the Firefox maker Mozilla and the question-and-answer website Quora did their own cuts.

“It feels like a reckoning is here,” said Josh Wolfe, a venture capitalist at Lux Capital in New York.

It’s a humbling shift for an industry that long saw itself as an engine of job creation and innovation, producing the ride-hailing giant Uber, the hospitality company Airbnb and other now well-known brands that often disrupted entrenched industries.

Their rise was propelled by a wave of investor money — about $763 billion washed into start-ups in the United States over the last decade — that also fueled the growth of young companies in delivery, cannabis, real estate and direct-to-consumer goods. Unlike low-cost software start-ups, these private companies frequently took on old-line competitors by spending heavily on physical assets and workers while losing money.

Now a pullback is unfolding in precisely the areas that drew the most hype.

Around the world, more than 30 start-ups have slashed more than 8,000 jobs over the last four months, according to a tally by The New York Times. Investments in young companies have fallen, with 2,215 start-ups raising money in the United States in the last three months of 2019, the fewest since late 2016, according to the National Venture Capital Association and PitchBook, which track start-ups.

And those are not the only signs of change. Casper Sleep, which billed itself as the “Nike of sleep” by selling mattresses online, flopped when it went public this month. Once-hot companies like Lime, the electric scooter provider, have pulled out of some cities. Others, like the e-commerce start-up Brandless, the game app HQ Trivia and the electronics maker Essential Products, are on the verge of shutting down.

There are now “frantic mini-moments of panic, as one thing after another happens,” said Roy Bahat, an investor at Bloomberg’s venture arm in San Francisco. “At some point, one rock after another will fall away from the cliff and we’ll realize we’re not standing on anything in many, many companies.”

The retreats are being led by companies that were backed by SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate with a $100 billion Vision Fund for investing in start-ups. SoftBank bet big on companies like Uber and WeWork, as well as the Colombian delivery start-up Rappi and the Indian hospitality start-up Oyo. All have undergone layoffs in recent months.

“You can’t build on top of something that’s not strong,” said Seth Besmertnik, chief executive of Conductor, a marketing business that WeWork acquired in 2018, which he and others recently bought back.

This month, SoftBank reported that its Vision Fund and other investments led to a $2 billion operating loss in the last quarter of 2019. In a statement, it said some of its start-ups had acted “quickly and responsibly to make some difficult decisions to better position themselves for long-term success.”

The pullback will probably not be as severe as the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, when dozens of unprofitable internet firms failed. Today, venture capitalists and other investors still have large pools of money to invest. And certain types of start-ups — like those that make tech for businesses and that typically have steady sales — continue raising large sums of money.

But in an industry known for irrational optimism, skepticism now abounds. In San Francisco, entrepreneurs are quietly sharing tales of skittish investors and a struggle to adapt to a new reality. Spreadsheets of freshly unemployed workers are circulating on social media.

Start-ups that once touted fast growth are changing their tune. Brad Bao, chief executive of Lime, wrote in a blog post last month that his scooter company was withdrawing from 12 cities and had shifted its “primary focus” to making a profit.

“Firms that were spending money in an un-economic way can’t do it any longer,” said Steven N. Kaplan, a professor of finance and entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago.

More workers are questioning the promises from start-ups, Kate Bratskeir said. She knows — she lost her job at a start-up twice in 12 months. A year ago, Ms. Bratskeir, 30, was laid off from her job as a writer at Mic, a digital media start-up in New York that failed to turn a profit. In November, she was again let go, this time from a marketing job at WeWork.

“People are becoming more critical and skeptical before just joining the party,” said Ms. Bratskeir, who received severance from both companies and is now working on a book about sustainable food shopping.

Some start-ups are even laying off the robots. Last month, Café X, which operates robot coffee shops and raised $14.5 million in venture funding, closed three stores in San Francisco. Henry Hu, its chief executive, said in an email that the company had “learned everything we could” from the shops and now planned to “laser focus” on airports, where it has two stores.

A bounce back does not appear likely soon. When Casper — which raised more than $300 million in venture capital — went public this month, its stock promptly plummeted. That served as a warning to other high-profile start-ups that are expected to go public this year, including Airbnb and DoorDash, the food delivery company. Both companies are losing money.

Airbnb and DoorDash declined to comment.

Perhaps the most drastic turn has happened among cannabis start-ups, which rode a wave of exuberance in recent years as countries like Canada and Uruguay and several U.S. states loosened laws that criminalized the drug. Last year, more than 300 cannabis companies raised $2.6 billion in venture capital, according to PitchBook.

Then in mid-2019, investors started doubting whether the industry could deliver on its lofty promises when some publicly traded cannabis companies were tarred by illegal growing scandals and regulatory crackdowns. Start-ups like Caliva, a cannabis producer; Eaze, a delivery service; and NorCal Cannabis Company, another producer, have together cut hundreds of members of their staffs in recent months.

“A lot of companies are not going to make it through this year,” said Brendan Kenney, chief executive of Tilray, a cannabis producer that went public in 2018. Mr. Kenney said he was stopping spending on new projects to survive the shakeout.

Even a start-up named Unicorn hasn’t been spared. The company, which sold personal electric scooters, raised just over $150,000 last year from investors. But it quickly spent the cash on online ads and got just 350 orders, said Nick Evans, its founder.

In December, Unicorn said it could not afford to deliver any scooters and shut down. Mr. Evans ended up giving some customers refunds with his own money, he said.

He added that he was building a new company. While he declined to specify what it would focus on, he allowed that there would be a major difference this time: The start-up, he said, had to be profitable from the beginning.

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Coronavirus Lockdowns Torment an Army of Poor Migrant Workers in China

Westlake Legal Group 00china-migrants-1-facebookJumbo Coronavirus Lockdowns Torment an Army of Poor Migrant Workers in China Viruses Politics and Government Migrant Labor (Non-Agriculture) Labor and Jobs Hubei Province (China) Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China

Clutching a gray plastic suitcase filled with most of his belongings — a blanket, a toothbrush, a pair of white sneakers and a comb — Wang Sheng goes from factory to factory in southern China begging for a job. The answer is always no.

Mr. Wang, 49, used to be able to find work in Shenzhen, a sprawling industrial megacity. But factories are turning him away because he is from Hubei Province, the center of China’s coronavirus epidemic, even though he hasn’t lived there in years.

“There’s nothing I can do,” said Mr. Wang, who has only a few dollars left in savings, lives off plain noodles and rents a small room for about $60 a month. “I’m just by myself, isolated and helpless.”

China’s roughly 300 million rural migrants have long lived on the margins of society, taking on grueling work for meager wages and limited access to public health care and education. But now they are among the hardest hit as China’s leader, Xi Jinping, calls for a “people’s war” to contain the virus and the authorities impose controls across broad swaths of the country.

As outsiders, rural migrants, no matter where they are from, are an easy target. Many factories are afraid to restart operations in case their workers are carrying the virus, raising concerns that the government’s controls could smother the economy. Local officials have barred many migrants from crossing city lines. Landlords have kicked them out of their apartments. Some are crammed into hotels or sleeping under bridges or on sidewalks.

“We have struggled so much already,” Liu Wen, 42, a factory worker in Zhengzhou, a city in central China, who was evicted from her apartment because she had returned from her husband’s hometown in the southern province of Guangdong and her landlord worried she might be carrying the virus. She now is living with her husband and two children in a hotel. “Now we’ve lost hope.”

On Sunday, Mr. Xi acknowledged that the situation in China remained “grim and complex,” but urged party officials to not only continue their efforts to contain the virus but also to focus on restarting production.

“We must turn pressure into motivation, be good at turning crisis into opportunity, orderly restore production and living order,” he said.

But the strict lockdowns imposed across the country make it difficult for rural workers to return to cities; only about a third have done so, according to official statistics. Many workers are stuck in the countryside after traveling there last month to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday.

Mr. Xi, already under scrutiny for the Chinese government’s slow and erratic response to the coronavirus outbreak, now faces pressure to quell anger among low-income families and dispel broader fears of an economic downturn. The party has long staked its legitimacy on the idea that it can deliver prosperity and protect the working class.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

“The Chinese Communist Party leadership does not like to be criticized for neglecting or abandoning workers,” said Jane Duckett, the director of the Scottish Center for China Research at the University of Glasgow. “Their ideological underpinnings — Marxism-Leninism, socialism — lie in being a party of the ‘workers and peasants.’”

Ms. Duckett said the party was probably wary of discontent among workers. Mr. Xi has said that the government should watch employment closely and that companies should avoid large-scale layoffs.

The virus, which has killed at least 2,400 people and sickened nearly 77,000 in China alone, has brought parts of the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, to a near standstill. While some factories have started up again in recent days, many are still closed or operating well below capacity, with parts in short supply and workers stranded hundreds of miles away.

Businesses across a variety of sectors — manufacturing, construction and transportation — have ordered their employees to stay home, usually without pay. That has created strains for many migrants, who earn barely enough to keep up with the rising cost of living in Chinese cities and often hold little in savings.

While wages are low, migrants can still earn more in the cities than they would in the countryside, where jobs are scarce. They are willing to go to cities for a shot at a better life, even if they must live in crowded workers’ dormitories or run-down apartments.

Yang Chengjun, 58, who lives in northeast China and sometimes works as a carpenter, says he and his son are living off the land now, relying on rice and vegetables they grow and struggling “just to stay alive.” Mr. Yang worries the family will run out of money within a month.

“The pressure on migrant workers was always great,” Mr. Yang said. “The epidemic adds insult to injury.”

Their struggles have been made worse by local officials who have helped fuel a perception that rural migrants pose a threat to public health and should be treated as potential carriers of the virus.

In some cities, migrants have been forced into quarantine in facilities run by the government, according to reports on social media. In others, like Wuxi in the east, workers from afar have been barred from entering and warned that they would be “seriously dealt with” if they resisted.

China’s strict population controls have worsened the plight of many migrant families.

The Mao-era household registration system, known as hukou, makes it difficult for people from the countryside to change their legal residence to cities. As a result, they are considered outsiders — even if they have lived in cities for decades — and have limited access to health care, schools, pensions and other social benefits.

As the coronavirus has spread, some workers who have come down with pneumonia and other symptoms say they have been unable to find affordable care in major cities.

While the government now provides free care to those found to have the coronavirus, many hospitals are overwhelmed and lack the resources to officially diagnose the virus. As a result, some migrant workers living in cities say they have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in medical expenses to treat sick relatives.

In Hubei, where the outbreak began in December, many workers worry that the economic pain will continue for months or longer. The province, which is home to more than 10 million migrant workers, remains shut off from the rest of China, and business has ground to a halt.

Huang Chuanyuan, a 46-year-old construction worker in Hubei, has stopped buying meat to save money. His employer, a Chinese construction company, told him that he had no choice but to wait at home.

“I don’t want to think about the future now,” said Mr. Huang, who has a wife and three children. “The more I think about it, the more stressed I get.”

As their struggles have mounted, some workers have pushed local officials to do more to help reopen businesses. But their pleas are often met with silence, as local governments work to contain the virus.

Mr. Wang, the migrant worker who has been going from factory to factory in Shenzhen, worries it may be months before he can find a job. He spends his days scouring online job ads and watching news about the virus.

Frustrated about his job prospects, Mr. Wang recently posted a poem on social media about the sense of isolation and distress he felt. He criticized the local government for not doing more to help workers.

“You suffer loneliness by yourself, but you are still discriminated against,” he wrote. “The Labor Department, now silent. And me: alone in Shenzhen.”

Albee Zhang contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What ‘Medicare for All’ Means After a Six-Year Strike for Health Benefits

Westlake Legal Group merlin_169254225_9ad92306-5adf-4eea-997b-2b8ffe902a3b-facebookJumbo What ‘Medicare for All’ Means After a Six-Year Strike for Health Benefits Strikes Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Organized Labor Nevada Las Vegas (Nev) Labor and Jobs Health Insurance and Managed Care Culinary Workers Union

LAS VEGAS — They each remember that moment, just after dawn on a September day in 1991, when they walked out of the Frontier Hotel and Casino. There was music and singing — “Solidarity forever,” went the song. That first day, the atmosphere was more like a celebration than a work protest. But the strike would go on to last six years, four months and 10 days — one of the longest labor disputes in American history.

There were fights along the picket line, with tourists throwing water and food at the strikers, who were more than willing to fight back. There were dozens of arrests. So much time went by that 107 babies were born to pickets and 17 people died during the strike.

They were fighting for wages, job security, pensions — and health care. In many ways those are the same key issues in the presidential campaign that comes on Saturday to Nevada, where health care has taken center stage in the contest, with Bernie Sanders forcefully pushing for a “Medicare for All” plan that would effectively eliminate private health care insurance. And in Las Vegas, talking about health care means talking about the Culinary Workers Union, the largest and most powerful union in the state.

The roughly 60,000 members of the union’s Local 226 rarely pay out of pocket for routine medical care. They can undergo surgery without receiving a hefty surprise bill months later. They can visit the same one-stop medical clinic for urgent care, vision, dental and the pharmacy. The clinic was a regular stop for many of the 2020 candidates.

So one way to understand why the leadership of the Culinary Union is fighting so hard against Medicare-for-all proposals is to look back to the 1990s.

The Frontier, one of the first casinos on what is now simply known as the Strip, had recently been sold to new owners. The Western-themed casino was popular for made-from-scratch baked goods and food.

Gloria Hernandez knew it best for something else: Working there meant she could become a member of the Culinary Union, which would give her medical benefits that were far better than what her husband had through his job.

“You knew immediately that when you started working there that you would get health insurance because this was a union hotel,” Ms. Hernandez said. She knew what it was like to be a member of a union in Mexico, where she was part of the government workers’ union.

Today, Frontier strikers have an almost mythic presence within the Culinary Union here — seen as exemplars of people who know how to fight effectively. Ms. Hernandez is now an organizer for the union. But while she comes down enthusiastically on the side of keeping their current health insurance plan, some of her fellow pickets have reached the opposite conclusion.

Terry Lemley, 59, has not one but two Sanders lawn signs in front of her house. During the strike, Ms. Lemley’s job was taking attendance on the line, helping to track that there were enough people to keep it going around the clock. Any Frontier employee who showed up at the picket line for 30 hours a week received $200 in strike pay. That was not enough to make ends meet, so most people found second jobs.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Ms. Lemley said, sitting at her kitchen table one afternoon this past week. “But what we fought for, everybody should have. I don’t know why I would not want to give it to everybody.”

Once the strike ended in 1998, Ms. Lemley returned to her job as a cocktail waitress, a position she kept until the hotel shut down a decade later. She briefly had health insurance through Obamacare, she said, but has been uninsured for the past several years.

“I’ve seen both. I know what it is to do without,” she said. “Why would anyone in the union wish that on anyone else?”

Sonja Washington, 58, marched alongside Ms. Lemley for years, initially bringing her own children to the picket line. After getting arrested on the line, however, Ms. Washington said she decided to leave her children at home. Those children, who are now adults, spent their childhood with health care provided by the culinary health insurance program, Ms. Washington said. And Ms. Washington treasures her care.

“It’s terrific, but why I am going to stop there?” she said, sitting in Ms. Lemley’s kitchen. “The union taught me how to fight. So I want to be out there fighting for everybody.”

As a union organizer on the Strip, Elodia Muniz also views her work as fighting for more than just herself. “We are still over there and when we’re fighting, we’re not fighting for just us,” Ms. Muniz said in an interview at the Culinary Union headquarters this past week.

But Ms. Muniz is loath to view health insurance the same way as Ms. Lemley and Ms. Washington. When Mr. Sanders came to speak to the union late last year, Ms. Muniz stood up and forcefully asked how he would protect their insurance. Mr. Sanders replied by suggesting that members would have more money in their paychecks if they were not negotiating with employers over health care. Ms. Muniz was unimpressed.

“We like to keep what we have, what is real, what is true,” she said. “Not what we don’t know what it will be — it’s like a wish.”

Ms. Muniz and Ms. Hernandez raised children together on the picket line; Ms. Hernandez’s youngest son was born just days after the strike began. As the children grew, they would frequently visit the picket line, learning the union songs and crossing the street to ride in an elevator for entertainment.

“It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what the weather was,” Ms. Hernandez recalled. “We have to be over there.”

The choices they gave the owners were sign, sell or shut down, Ms. Hernandez recalled.

“We wanted to have respect,” she said. “We knew we can have power together. We want to understand that.”

Though she feels lucky to have stayed healthy, Ms. Hernandez has watched other members of her family struggle with their health care needs. Her mother had Medicaid, and Ms. Hernandez watched with alarm as she struggled to find doctors and visit specialists.

“I don’t want that, no,” she said. “I want to have a choice. It’s like someone gives you a choice of the car — you want a Lexus or you want something less than that? Of course you want the nicer thing. It’s a big difference. You bet I will do anything I can to keep this because it’s a big difference.”

Ms. Lemley links her passion over the Sanders campaign directly to her time on the picket line. It was the union, she said, that taught her how to collectively fight for others. Having already cast her ballot in the early caucus, Ms. Lemley was planning to enjoy this weekend as a kind of honeymoon. On Friday, she married the man she met on the picket line decades ago.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What ‘Medicare for All’ Means After a Six-Year Strike for Health Benefits

Westlake Legal Group merlin_169254225_9ad92306-5adf-4eea-997b-2b8ffe902a3b-facebookJumbo What ‘Medicare for All’ Means After a Six-Year Strike for Health Benefits Strikes Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Organized Labor Nevada Las Vegas (Nev) Labor and Jobs Health Insurance and Managed Care Culinary Workers Union

LAS VEGAS — They each remember that moment, just after dawn on a September day in 1991, when they walked out of the Frontier Hotel and Casino. There was music and singing — “Solidarity forever,” went the song. That first day, the atmosphere was more like a celebration than a work protest. But the strike would go on to last six years, four months and 10 days — one of the longest labor disputes in American history.

There were fights along the picket line, with tourists throwing water and food at the strikers, who were more than willing to fight back. There were dozens of arrests. So much time went by that 107 babies were born to pickets and 17 people died during the strike.

They were fighting for wages, job security, pensions — and health care. In many ways those are the same key issues in the presidential campaign that comes on Saturday to Nevada, where health care has taken center stage in the contest, with Bernie Sanders forcefully pushing for a “Medicare for All” plan that would effectively eliminate private health care insurance. And in Las Vegas, talking about health care means talking about the Culinary Workers Union, the largest and most powerful union in the state.

The roughly 60,000 members of the union’s Local 226 rarely pay out of pocket for routine medical care. They can undergo surgery without receiving a hefty surprise bill months later. They can visit the same one-stop medical clinic for urgent care, vision, dental and the pharmacy. The clinic was a regular stop for many of the 2020 candidates.

So one way to understand why the leadership of the Culinary Union is fighting so hard against Medicare-for-all proposals is to look back to the 1990s.

The Frontier, one of the first casinos on what is now simply known as the Strip, had recently been sold to new owners. The Western-themed casino was popular for made-from-scratch baked goods and food.

Gloria Hernandez knew it best for something else: Working there meant she could become a member of the Culinary Union, which would give her medical benefits that were far better than what her husband had through his job.

“You knew immediately that when you started working there that you would get health insurance because this was a union hotel,” Ms. Hernandez said. She knew what it was like to be a member of a union in Mexico, where she was part of the government workers’ union.

Today, Frontier strikers have an almost mythic presence within the Culinary Union here — seen as exemplars of people who know how to fight effectively. Ms. Hernandez is now an organizer for the union. But while she comes down enthusiastically on the side of keeping their current health insurance plan, some of her fellow pickets have reached the opposite conclusion.

Terry Lemley, 59, has not one but two Sanders lawn signs in front of her house. During the strike, Ms. Lemley’s job was taking attendance on the line, helping to track that there were enough people to keep it going around the clock. Any Frontier employee who showed up at the picket line for 30 hours a week received $200 in strike pay. That was not enough to make ends meet, so most people found second jobs.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Ms. Lemley said, sitting at her kitchen table one afternoon this past week. “But what we fought for, everybody should have. I don’t know why I would not want to give it to everybody.”

Once the strike ended in 1998, Ms. Lemley returned to her job as a cocktail waitress, a position she kept until the hotel shut down a decade later. She briefly had health insurance through Obamacare, she said, but has been uninsured for the past several years.

“I’ve seen both. I know what it is to do without,” she said. “Why would anyone in the union wish that on anyone else?”

Sonja Washington, 58, marched alongside Ms. Lemley for years, initially bringing her own children to the picket line. After getting arrested on the line, however, Ms. Washington said she decided to leave her children at home. Those children, who are now adults, spent their childhood with health care provided by the culinary health insurance program, Ms. Washington said. And Ms. Washington treasures her care.

“It’s terrific, but why I am going to stop there?” she said, sitting in Ms. Lemley’s kitchen. “The union taught me how to fight. So I want to be out there fighting for everybody.”

As a union organizer on the Strip, Elodia Muniz also views her work as fighting for more than just herself. “We are still over there and when we’re fighting, we’re not fighting for just us,” Ms. Muniz said in an interview at the Culinary Union headquarters this past week.

But Ms. Muniz is loath to view health insurance the same way as Ms. Lemley and Ms. Washington. When Mr. Sanders came to speak to the union late last year, Ms. Muniz stood up and forcefully asked how he would protect their insurance. Mr. Sanders replied by suggesting that members would have more money in their paychecks if they were not negotiating with employers over health care. Ms. Muniz was unimpressed.

“We like to keep what we have, what is real, what is true,” she said. “Not what we don’t know what it will be — it’s like a wish.”

Ms. Muniz and Ms. Hernandez raised children together on the picket line; Ms. Hernandez’s youngest son was born just days after the strike began. As the children grew, they would frequently visit the picket line, learning the union songs and crossing the street to ride in an elevator for entertainment.

“It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what the weather was,” Ms. Hernandez recalled. “We have to be over there.”

The choices they gave the owners were sign, sell or shut down, Ms. Hernandez recalled.

“We wanted to have respect,” she said. “We knew we can have power together. We want to understand that.”

Though she feels lucky to have stayed healthy, Ms. Hernandez has watched other members of her family struggle with their health care needs. Her mother had Medicaid, and Ms. Hernandez watched with alarm as she struggled to find doctors and visit specialists.

“I don’t want that, no,” she said. “I want to have a choice. It’s like someone gives you a choice of the car — you want a Lexus or you want something less than that? Of course you want the nicer thing. It’s a big difference. You bet I will do anything I can to keep this because it’s a big difference.”

Ms. Lemley links her passion over the Sanders campaign directly to her time on the picket line. It was the union, she said, that taught her how to collectively fight for others. Having already cast her ballot in the early caucus, Ms. Lemley was planning to enjoy this weekend as a kind of honeymoon. On Friday, she married the man she met on the picket line decades ago.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Millennials Could Make the Fed’s Job Harder

Westlake Legal Group 23millennial-econ-facebookJumbo How Millennials Could Make the Fed’s Job Harder United States Economy United States Savings Pensions and Retirement Plans Millennial Generation Labor and Jobs Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System Banking and Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON — “They say millennials are lazy,” billboards plastered across 15 major cities declared last summer. “Retire early and prove them right.”

That sentiment, reflected in ads for the investment manager Prudential, is the stuff of a 30-year-old’s fantasy — and the Federal Reserve’s nightmare.

A young generation of aggressive savers could leave central bankers with less room to cut interest rates, which they have long done to boost growth in times of economic trouble.

To leave the work force early, millennials would need to build up massive retirement funds and consume less in the process. That hit to demand could slow growth and force rates to drop ever lower to entice spending. And if today’s workers actually managed to retire young, it would exacerbate the situation by shrinking the labor force, further weighing on the economy’s potential.

Millennials, who are roughly between the ages of 24 and 39 and have not lived through pronounced price spikes, already have the lowest inflation expectations of any adult generation. Their belief that costs will not increase could eventually slow actual price gains by making it hard for businesses to charge more. The Fed’s main interest rate includes inflation, so that would leave it with even less room to cut.

It may not come to this. Millennials could become more worried about inflation as they age, giving companies more room to lift prices. Their difficult post-recession entry into the labor market means many are laden with student debt, so it’s unclear if they will be able to retire young. But many indicate that they want to leave the work force early — an ambition that economists say could spell macroeconomic trouble if realized.

“It would lower interest rates — that’s certainly true,” said Joseph Gagnon, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It would be a double whammy: It directly raises savings” and “it would further reduce the need to invest in factories and offices for these people.”

Interest rates have been falling for decades, and demographics are a major factor in that decline, economists say. Once people are past middle age, they are living longer without working correspondingly later in life, so they have been saving heavily to fund extended retirements.

Millennials, already accused of killing everything from paper napkins to mayonnaise, would happily exacerbate the drop in interest rates, which baby boomers have driven to date.

Of millennial workers with an active 401(k), 43 percent expect to retire before the age of 65, based on data from T. Rowe Price. For Generation X — often defined as those aged 40 to 55 — that figure is 35 percent. While the T. Rowe Price survey targeted a privileged group, broader polls have turned up similar findings.

Members of Gen X are short on savings, so they may need to work further into old age. But younger people have time to turn things around: While they got a slow start, they are still under the age of 40. Millennials have begun saving more as they work in greater numbers and benefit from a record-long economic expansion.

There’s even a movement — Financial Independence, Retire Early, or “FIRE” — dedicated to frugality in pursuit of quitting the work force as soon as possible.

Scott Rieckens, 36, and his wife Taylor, 35, began following a FIRE plan in 2017. The couple, who have one child, ditched their leased cars and $3,000-a-month apartment in San Diego to move to Bend, Ore. They save more than 50 percent of their income and aim to have the $1.7 million they think they’d need to retire by their early 40s, though Mr. Rieckens doesn’t plan to completely stop working then.

He recently produced a documentary on the FIRE movement, released last year, which drew more than 10,000 people to screenings in over 200 cities. The audience skewed younger, Mr. Rieckens said, explaining that FIRE appeals to millennials partly because they have faced precarious jobs without pensions.

“You start to get this sense of lack of control, and fear,” he said. “You can take control of your life.”

The Rieckens may be extreme savers, but many millennials with means are prioritizing saving. According to a recent Bank of America survey, 25 percent of millennial savers had amassed more than $100,000, up from 16 percent in 2018.

They have good reason. Millennials have grown up with dire warnings that Social Security will be exhausted by the time it is their turn to use it. They came of age in the worst downturn since the Great Depression, so they are no strangers to economic insecurity.

But there’s a paradox to thrift: Saving, even if virtuous on an individual level, can cause economic trouble en masse. If ambitious cash stockpiling were to catch on, it could exacerbate secular stagnation, a term that the Harvard University economist Lawrence H. Summers repopularized to describe the low-growth, low-inflation state of many advanced economies.

When consumers save a big portion of their income, they are not spending as much on dinners out, movie nights and cars. Businesses respond by investing less in equipment and technology, and productivity stalls. Bosses are unwilling to pay their workers more for the same output, and weak pay gains further restrain spending.

Retirement saving behavior is not the only driver causing economic torpor and lower rates. Inequality has left a small number of people with more money than they can realistically spend. Slower labor force growth and more iterative technological improvements could also have an impact.

The lower interest rates that result from high and unequal saving might sound great — think cheaper mortgages — but they leave economies vulnerable to shocks. In the United States, for example, rates are now in a range of just 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, leaving the Fed room for about six quarter-point rate cuts in a downturn. Headed into the last recession, rates topped 5 percent.

Fed officials think mass bond-buying and promises to keep rates low for longer can give them power to fight a slump. But the jury is out on whether such alternatives will add enough ammunition to make up for lost room on interest rates.

Even Ben S. Bernanke, a former Fed chair with an optimistic take on the central bank’s ability to prop up the economy in a downturn, says officials could end up in a tight spot if rates drop substantially lower.

It is anyone’s guess whether they will stabilize at low levels, rise or resume their descent.

“A continued downtrend is as likely as reversion to normal,” Mr. Summers said. “Lots of the structural forces that are driving this seem likely to continue.”

That’s what makes millennial retirement behavior so interesting: It is a wild card still, one that could slightly lift or substantially lower rates going forward.

Policy could influence how things play out. The government could nudge workers toward later retirement or ramp up deficit spending on old-age benefits. Mr. Summers’s research shows that fiscal spending is already propping rates up. Alternately, uncertainty about the fiscal future — like whether the present complacency over large deficits continues — could spur millennials to save more now.

What is clear is that rates are unlikely to head higher soon. That makes maintaining slow but stable inflation more important than ever.

Doing so is proving difficult. The Fed’s preferred inflation index accelerated just 1.6 percent over the past year. It has never sustainably topped 2 percent since the Fed formally adopted that goal in 2012.

That shortfall is threatening to derail inflation expectations. Americans who lived through the great inflation of the 1970s remember an era when services and goods were rapidly increasing in price, and they tend to have a higher outlook for future prices.

Millennials and Generation Z are a different story. Rents and tuition have gotten pricier, but computing power worth millions of dollars a generation ago now fits into a $600 phone. Free entertainment abounds. As America’s collective memories of breakneck price gains fade, the nation’s younger people have become an anchor that threatens to drag down overall expectations.

John C. Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a speech last month that “there is still time to avert this fate.” Moving inflation up and keeping it there could convince millennials, he said.

“In this case, it’s fortunate that the young are impressionable.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Slowed by the Coronavirus, China Inc. Struggles to Reopen

Westlake Legal Group 16china-work-1-facebookJumbo Slowed by the Coronavirus, China Inc. Struggles to Reopen Volkswagen AG Toyota Motor Corp Shortages Production Labor and Jobs International Trade and World Market Hyundai Motor Co Honda Motor Co Ltd General Motors Foxconn Technology Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Caterpillar Inc Automobiles Apple Inc Airbus Industrie

Airbus is slowly restarting its assembly line in China. General Motors began limited production on Saturday. Toyota followed on Monday morning.

Fitfully and painfully — and with some worried prodding from Beijing — China is trying to reopen for business.

The world’s second-largest economy practically shut down three weeks ago as a viral outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people, unexpectedly lengthening a Chinese holiday. The freeze set off warnings that the global economy could be in jeopardy if the world’s pre-eminent manufacturing powerhouse stayed shut for long.

Now, as some factories rumble back into action, the monumental task of restarting China is becoming clear. China’s efforts to contain the virus are clashing with its push to get the country back to work, requiring the country’s leaders to strike a balance between keeping people safe and getting vital industries back on track.

Chinese leaders called this past week for more emphasis on reviving the economy. But many of the factories that have reopened are operating well below capacity, say companies and experts. Quarantines, blocked roads and checkpoints are stopping millions of workers from returning to their jobs. Supply lines have been severed.

Even to start up again, Chinese officials are requiring businesses to provide masks to workers, record their temperatures and track their movements to make sure they haven’t come into contact with the coronavirus, named COVID-19.

“The kind of fear and freeze that has taken hold in terms of economic activity is likely to persist,” said George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Center. “I don’t really see a good outcome.”

By Monday, more than 70,000 people had been infected by the coronavirus and over 1,700 had died worldwide, according to officials. New infections continue to be confirmed around the world, including an American who was identified with the disease in Malaysia on Sunday who had been on a cruise ship, raising concerns about another potential cluster outside mainland China.

Also on Sunday, Taiwan said that a 61-year-old man who had a history of poor health but not known for travel to China had died of the coronavirus, making him the fifth fatality outside the mainland.

Still, the pace of new cases officially confirmed in mainland China, the center of the outbreak, has slowed over the past three days.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The ripples have continued to spread around the world. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore warned on Friday that the city-state could fall into recession as a result of the outbreak. Germany, Europe’s business powerhouse, on Friday reported slowing economic growth at the end of 2019, prompting fears the virus could delay a recovery.

As the new week begins, China’s mighty manufacturing machine — which accounts for a quarter of the world’s manufacturing output — showed glimmers of revving up again.

Airbus, the European aircraft maker, said that it began to reopen its narrow-body jet assembly operations last week in Tianjin but that it would only “gradually increase production, whilst implementing all required health and safety measures.” Airbus needs the production: It acknowledged on Thursday that it could not meet global demand for narrow-body jets, which airlines are clamoring for after the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jet. The Tianjin plant has a targeted production rate of six jets per month.

Volkswagen said that it partially restarted one of its 15 assembly plants in China on Thursday and that it planned to reopen the rest gradually. G.M. said that it had begun a gradual process on Saturday to reopen its more than a dozen assembly plants in China. Hyundai said it restarted most Chinese production on Monday.

Others were more circumspect. Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company, said it reopened most plants in China last Monday at the request of the government authorities, but did not offer details, like whether production had resumed. Honda said it was trying to restart production on Feb. 24.

With the exception of factories producing medical protective equipment, which the Chinese government has asked to run around the clock, few businesses seem to be returning yet to their previous pace.

Toyota said that its four assembly plants had operated on two work shifts a day before the virus spread. But it planned to reopen three of them on Monday and Tuesday with just one shift and leave closed for now the fourth and smallest, in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.

Foxconn, the Taiwan company that makes iPhones and other gadgets on behalf of Apple and global electronics companies, declined to detail which plants have reopened since the Chinese holiday ended but denied a media report that it was aiming to reach 50 percent production levels by the end of this month. It did not respond to requests for additional comment. Apple also declined to comment, but its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said last month, without offering specifics, that some of its suppliers could be disrupted.

China’s consumer electronics components factories slowly reopened through last week, and by Monday practically all had reopened except those in Wuhan, at the center of the epidemic, said Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, the chief executive of Instrumental, a remote quality monitoring system used by global brands to track and manage electronics manufacturing. She added, however, that many of these factories were not at full production.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, which has members across much of the industrial heartland in east-central China, said that the majority of its members had restarted at least some operations. But the bulk of these members are not at full production, mainly for lack of workers, said Ker Gibbs, the chamber’s president.

The reopening of businesses means trying to bring together again much of China’s 700 million-strong labor force after what had become a nearly three-week national holiday. China’s containment efforts have effectively carved up the country. At least 760 million people — slightly over half the country’s population — are under various kinds of lockdown.

The authorities have begun trying to reconnect the country. China’s agriculture ministry demanded over the weekend the removal of road and highway blockages in rural areas that have prevented the movement of livestock and animal feed. The southern province of Jiangxi announced last Thursday that it would dismantle checkpoints at highway entrances and exits.

But many obstacles remain.

“I know the virus is serious. I can understand that this is a disaster for the country,” said Ma Hongkui, a truck driver from northwestern China who has been stranded for weeks with dozens of other truckers in a small town in the southwestern province of Yunnan for lack of cargo. “I don’t know whom to ask for help.”

In the city of Yiwu, a hub for small manufacturers in Zhejiang province and home to a sprawling wholesale merchandise market, migrant workers returning to jobs have to submit to a two-week quarantine. When they arrive at a train station in Yiwu, they are examined by dozens of officials in makeshift hazmat suits with thermal cameras. The local government has arranged 40,000 beds to accommodate them.

Only those registered with an official list of companies and work units will be allowed to enter the city, according to a statement from the government last week. Lying would be punished with arrest.

Shanghai is gathering data from employers on each worker’s date of return and travel history, said Zhu Zongyao, the director of the city’s Big Data Center. The city’s computers will automatically assess and rate the riskiness of each worker’s recent travels in terms of possible exposure to the virus.

China is “maintaining the balance of safety for the population while at the same time getting people back to work as soon as possible,” said Michael D. Crotty, the co-owner of a curtain factory in Jiangsu Province that is preparing to reopen on Monday.

The local authorities required Mr. Crotty’s factory to obtain a 10-day supply of face masks for every worker. But suppliers in China have been giving priority to health workers and others with urgent needs. Mr. Crotty quickly arranged to import masks from all over the world.

Requiring masks is more than onerous, said Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It could also aggravate a global shortage of masks.

“At a time when there is such a shortage of face masks, you’ve got to have a rational way of using them,” he said.

The slow and partial reopening of factories could have a knock-on effect on businesses around the world. China Weaving Materials in Jiangxi Province said that its yarn factories would not open until Feb. 20. Other companies in China need the yarn to make fabric.

In neighboring Vietnam, handbag factories are running short on fabric, zippers and various metal components that come mostly from China, said Tatiana Olchanetzky, a handbag manufacturing consultant in that country.

“Some vendors might have to make workers take unpaid leave in March if materials are not arriving,” she said.

Restarting China’s factories is only part of the challenge. The country has a huge services and consumer sector, including shops and restaurants enjoyed by an increasingly affluent middle class. Those businesses have also been devastated by the outbreak, which has kept many Chinese families confined to their homes.

Amy Li, the owner of a Shanghai restaurant that specializes in northeastern Chinese cuisine, said that her eatery had little hope of reopening soon, like dozens of others nearby, and may not survive.

“We don’t know when we can reopen,” Ms. Li said. “The future is a matter of fate.”

Paul Mozur and Raymond Zhong contributed reporting. Hisako Ueno and Cao Li contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Slowed by the Coronavirus, China Inc. Struggles to Reopen

Westlake Legal Group 16china-work-1-facebookJumbo Slowed by the Coronavirus, China Inc. Struggles to Reopen Volkswagen AG Toyota Motor Corp Shortages Production Labor and Jobs International Trade and World Market Hyundai Motor Co Honda Motor Co Ltd General Motors Foxconn Technology Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Caterpillar Inc Automobiles Apple Inc Airbus Industrie

Airbus is slowly restarting its assembly line in China. General Motors began limited production on Saturday. Toyota followed on Monday morning.

Fitfully and painfully — and with some worried prodding from Beijing — China is trying to reopen for business.

The world’s second-largest economy practically shut down three weeks ago as a viral outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people, unexpectedly lengthening a Chinese holiday. The freeze set off warnings that the global economy could be in jeopardy if the world’s pre-eminent manufacturing powerhouse stayed shut for long.

Now, as some factories rumble back into action, the monumental task of restarting China is becoming clear. China’s efforts to contain the virus are clashing with its push to get the country back to work, requiring the country’s leaders to strike a balance between keeping people safe and getting vital industries back on track.

Chinese leaders called this past week for more emphasis on reviving the economy. But many of the factories that have reopened are operating well below capacity, say companies and experts. Quarantines, blocked roads and checkpoints are stopping millions of workers from returning to their jobs. Supply lines have been severed.

Even to start up again, Chinese officials are requiring businesses to provide masks to workers, record their temperatures and track their movements to make sure they haven’t come into contact with the coronavirus, named COVID-19.

“The kind of fear and freeze that has taken hold in terms of economic activity is likely to persist,” said George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Center. “I don’t really see a good outcome.”

By Monday, more than 70,000 people had been infected by the coronavirus and over 1,700 had died worldwide, according to officials. New infections continue to be confirmed around the world, including an American who was identified with the disease in Malaysia on Sunday who had been on a cruise ship, raising concerns about another potential cluster outside mainland China.

Also on Sunday, Taiwan said that a 61-year-old man who had a history of poor health but not known for travel to China had died of the coronavirus, making him the fifth fatality outside the mainland.

Still, the pace of new cases officially confirmed in mainland China, the center of the outbreak, has slowed over the past three days.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The ripples have continued to spread around the world. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore warned on Friday that the city-state could fall into recession as a result of the outbreak. Germany, Europe’s business powerhouse, on Friday reported slowing economic growth at the end of 2019, prompting fears the virus could delay a recovery.

As the new week begins, China’s mighty manufacturing machine — which accounts for a quarter of the world’s manufacturing output — showed glimmers of revving up again.

Airbus, the European aircraft maker, said that it began to reopen its narrow-body jet assembly operations last week in Tianjin but that it would only “gradually increase production, whilst implementing all required health and safety measures.” Airbus needs the production: It acknowledged on Thursday that it could not meet global demand for narrow-body jets, which airlines are clamoring for after the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jet. The Tianjin plant has a targeted production rate of six jets per month.

Volkswagen said that it partially restarted one of its 15 assembly plants in China on Thursday and that it planned to reopen the rest gradually. G.M. said that it had begun a gradual process on Saturday to reopen its more than a dozen assembly plants in China. Hyundai said it restarted most Chinese production on Monday.

Others were more circumspect. Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company, said it reopened most plants in China last Monday at the request of the government authorities, but did not offer details, like whether production had resumed. Honda said it was trying to restart production on Feb. 24.

With the exception of factories producing medical protective equipment, which the Chinese government has asked to run around the clock, few businesses seem to be returning yet to their previous pace.

Toyota said that its four assembly plants had operated on two work shifts a day before the virus spread. But it planned to reopen three of them on Monday and Tuesday with just one shift and leave closed for now the fourth and smallest, in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.

Foxconn, the Taiwan company that makes iPhones and other gadgets on behalf of Apple and global electronics companies, declined to detail which plants have reopened since the Chinese holiday ended but denied a media report that it was aiming to reach 50 percent production levels by the end of this month. It did not respond to requests for additional comment. Apple also declined to comment, but its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said last month, without offering specifics, that some of its suppliers could be disrupted.

China’s consumer electronics components factories slowly reopened through last week, and by Monday practically all had reopened except those in Wuhan, at the center of the epidemic, said Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, the chief executive of Instrumental, a remote quality monitoring system used by global brands to track and manage electronics manufacturing. She added, however, that many of these factories were not at full production.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, which has members across much of the industrial heartland in east-central China, said that the majority of its members had restarted at least some operations. But the bulk of these members are not at full production, mainly for lack of workers, said Ker Gibbs, the chamber’s president.

The reopening of businesses means trying to bring together again much of China’s 700 million-strong labor force after what had become a nearly three-week national holiday. China’s containment efforts have effectively carved up the country. At least 760 million people — slightly over half the country’s population — are under various kinds of lockdown.

The authorities have begun trying to reconnect the country. China’s agriculture ministry demanded over the weekend the removal of road and highway blockages in rural areas that have prevented the movement of livestock and animal feed. The southern province of Jiangxi announced last Thursday that it would dismantle checkpoints at highway entrances and exits.

But many obstacles remain.

“I know the virus is serious. I can understand that this is a disaster for the country,” said Ma Hongkui, a truck driver from northwestern China who has been stranded for weeks with dozens of other truckers in a small town in the southwestern province of Yunnan for lack of cargo. “I don’t know whom to ask for help.”

In the city of Yiwu, a hub for small manufacturers in Zhejiang province and home to a sprawling wholesale merchandise market, migrant workers returning to jobs have to submit to a two-week quarantine. When they arrive at a train station in Yiwu, they are examined by dozens of officials in makeshift hazmat suits with thermal cameras. The local government has arranged 40,000 beds to accommodate them.

Only those registered with an official list of companies and work units will be allowed to enter the city, according to a statement from the government last week. Lying would be punished with arrest.

Shanghai is gathering data from employers on each worker’s date of return and travel history, said Zhu Zongyao, the director of the city’s Big Data Center. The city’s computers will automatically assess and rate the riskiness of each worker’s recent travels in terms of possible exposure to the virus.

China is “maintaining the balance of safety for the population while at the same time getting people back to work as soon as possible,” said Michael D. Crotty, the co-owner of a curtain factory in Jiangsu Province that is preparing to reopen on Monday.

The local authorities required Mr. Crotty’s factory to obtain a 10-day supply of face masks for every worker. But suppliers in China have been giving priority to health workers and others with urgent needs. Mr. Crotty quickly arranged to import masks from all over the world.

Requiring masks is more than onerous, said Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It could also aggravate a global shortage of masks.

“At a time when there is such a shortage of face masks, you’ve got to have a rational way of using them,” he said.

The slow and partial reopening of factories could have a knock-on effect on businesses around the world. China Weaving Materials in Jiangxi Province said that its yarn factories would not open until Feb. 20. Other companies in China need the yarn to make fabric.

In neighboring Vietnam, handbag factories are running short on fabric, zippers and various metal components that come mostly from China, said Tatiana Olchanetzky, a handbag manufacturing consultant in that country.

“Some vendors might have to make workers take unpaid leave in March if materials are not arriving,” she said.

Restarting China’s factories is only part of the challenge. The country has a huge services and consumer sector, including shops and restaurants enjoyed by an increasingly affluent middle class. Those businesses have also been devastated by the outbreak, which has kept many Chinese families confined to their homes.

Amy Li, the owner of a Shanghai restaurant that specializes in northeastern Chinese cuisine, said that her eatery had little hope of reopening soon, like dozens of others nearby, and may not survive.

“We don’t know when we can reopen,” Ms. Li said. “The future is a matter of fate.”

Paul Mozur and Raymond Zhong contributed reporting. Hisako Ueno and Cao Li contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com