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    The runway is getting clearer, but the U.S. economy still isn’t assured of a soft landing

    The U.S. economy can take another win with a small “W” as it looks to navigate through what had been the highest inflation level in more than 40 years.
    Despite a high level of anxiety heading into the Labor Department’s nonfarm payrolls report, the details were fairly benign.
    Still, the solid report couldn’t dispense the lingering feeling that the economy isn’t out of the woods yet.
    Key to whether the so-called landing is soft or hard will be the consumer, which collectively accounts for nearly 70% of all U.S. economic activity and has been pressured by inflation.

    A UPS seasonal worker delivers packages on Cyber Monday in New York on Nov. 27, 2023.
    Stephanie Keith | Bloomberg | Getty Images

    November’s solid jobs report did not assure that the economy will come in for a soft landing, but it did help to clear the runway a little more.
    After all, there’s nothing about a 3.7% unemployment rate and another 199,000 jobs that even whispers “recession,” let alone screams it.

    At least for now, then, the U.S. economy can take another win with a small “W” as it looks to navigate through what had been the highest inflation level in more than 40 years — and a still-uncertain path ahead.
    “Overall, the jobs market is doing its part to get us to a soft landing,” said Daniel Zhao, lead economist at jobs rating site Glassdoor. “It’s boring in all the right ways. That’s a welcome change after a few years of less-boring reports.”
    Indeed, despite a high level of anxiety heading into the Labor Department’s nonfarm payrolls report, the details were fairly benign.
    The level of job creation was just above the Wall Street estimate of 190,000. Average hourly earnings rose 4% from a year ago, exactly in line with expectations. The unemployment rate unexpectedly declined to 3.7%, easing worries that it could trigger a historically dead-on signal known as the Sahm Rule, which coordinates increases of the unemployment rate by half a percentage point to recessions.

    Still, the solid report couldn’t dispense the lingering feeling that the economy isn’t out of the woods yet. The fear primarily comes from worries that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate increases haven’t exacted their full toll and still could trigger a painful downturn.

    “The key uncertainty for the labor market in 2024 is whether job growth slows to a more sustainable pace, or whether the economy moves from monthly job gains to monthly job losses. The former would be consistent with the Fed’s soft-landing scenario, while the latter would mean recession,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. “PNC still thinks recession is the more likely outcome in 2024, but it is a close call.”

    All about consumers and inflation

    Key to whether the so-called landing is soft or hard will be the consumer, who collectively accounts for nearly 70% of all U.S. economic activity.
    On that front, there was another round of good news Friday: The University of Michigan’s closely watched consumer sentiment survey showed that inflation expectations, a key economic variable for prices, plummeted in December. Respondents put one-year inflation expectations at 3.1%, a stunning 1.4 percentage point drop.
    However, such gauges can be “fluky” and are not in line with some other signals coming from consumers, said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. Debates over soft landings and inflation expectations and interest rate outlooks tend to miss bigger points, Sonders added.

    Prior to 2023, Sanders and Schwab had been stressing the notion of “rolling recessions,” meaning that contractions could hit certain sectors individually while not dragging down the economy as a whole. The distinction may still apply heading into 2024.
    “The recession versus soft landing debate sort of misses the necessary nuances of this unique cycle,” Sonders said. “A best-case scenario is not so much a soft landing, because that ship has already sailed for [some] segments. It’s that we continue to roll through such that if and when services gets hit more than the brief ding so far and it takes the labor market with it, you’re already in stabilization or recovery mode in areas that already took their big hits.”
    Getting to the soft landing, then, likely will require navigating some of those peaks and valleys, none more so than establishing confidence that inflation really has been vanquished and the Fed can take its foot off the brake. Inflation, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge, is running at 3.5% annually, well above the central bank’s 2% goal, though is consistently falling.

    Still nervous about rates

    There was one other good piece of inflation news Friday: Rental costs nationally declined 0.57% in November and were down 2.1% year over year, the latter being the biggest slide in more than 3½ years, according to
    However, one interesting development from the latest economic data was a bit less market confidence that the Fed will be cutting interest rates quite as aggressively as traders previously believed.
    While the traders in the fed funds futures space still roundly expect that the Fed is done hiking, it now expects only about a 45% chance of a previously expected cut in March, according to CME Group data. Traders previously had been expecting 1.25 percentage points worth of cuts in 2024 but lowered that outlook as well to a toss-up with just a full point of decreases following the data releases.
    That may in itself seem like only a nuanced change, but the move in pricing reflects uncertainty over whether the Fed keeps talking tough on inflation, or concedes that policy no longer needs to be as tight. The fed funds rate is targeted in a range between 5.25% and 5.5%, its highest level in more than 22 years.

    “The key thing though, from a broader perspective, is that they can cut if the economy were to see more of a slowdown than we expect. Then the Fed could cut, could provide some support,” Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, said Friday on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “That means the risk of recession is in my view quite low.”
    Goldman Sachs thinks there’s about a 15% chance of a recession next year.
    If that forecast, which is about the standard probability given normal economic conditions, holds up, it will require continued strength in the labor market and for consumers.
    Periods of labor unrest this year indicate, though, that not all may be well on Main Street.
    “If things were going great, then people would not be marching in the cold and rain because they want more pay because the cost of living is going up,” said Giacomo Santangelo, an economist at job search site Monster.
    Workers won’t need economists to tell them when the economy has landed, he added.
    “The alleged definition of a soft landing is to bring inflation down to 2% to 2½% and have unemployment go up to that full employment level. That’s really what we’re looking for, and we’re not there yet,” Santangelo said. “When you’re on an airplane, you know what it feels like when a plane lands. You don’t need the person in the cockpit to come on and go, ‘Alright, we’re going to be landing now.”Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO: More

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    U.S. Job Growth Holds Up as Economy Gradually Cools

    Interest rate increases have taken the edge off labor demand, but unemployment dipped in November, and wages rose more than expected.The U.S. economy continued to pump out jobs in November, suggesting there is still juice left in a labor market that has been slowing almost imperceptibly since last year’s pandemic rebound.Employers added 199,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported Friday, while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent, from 3.9 percent. The increase in employment includes tens of thousands of autoworkers and actors who returned to their jobs after strikes, and others in related businesses that had been stalled by the walkouts, meaning underlying job growth is slightly weaker.Even so, the report signals that the economy remains far from recession territory despite a year and a half of interest rate increases that have weighed on consumer spending and business investment. Reinforcing the picture of energetic labor demand, wages jumped 0.4 percent over the month, more than expected, and the workweek lengthened slightly.Wage growth held steady in NovemberYear-over-year percentage change in earnings vs. inflation More

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    Retail Group Retracts Startling Claim About ‘Organized’ Shoplifting

    The National Retail Federation had said that nearly half of the industry’s $94.5 billion in missing merchandise in 2021 was the result of organized theft. It was likely closer to 5 percent, experts say.A national lobbying group has retracted its startling estimate that “organized retail crime” was responsible for nearly half the $94.5 billion in store merchandise that disappeared in 2021, a figure that helped amplify claims that the United States was experiencing a nationwide wave of shoplifting.The group, the National Retail Federation, edited that claim last week from a widely cited report issued in April, after the trade publication Retail Dive revealed that faulty data had been used to arrive at the inaccurate figure.The retraction comes as retail chains like Target continue to claim that they are the victims of large shoplifting operations that have cut into profits, forcing them to close stores or inconvenience customers by locking products away.The claims have been fueled by widely shared videos of a few instances of brazen shoplifters, including images of masked groups smashing windows and grabbing high-end purses and cellphones. But the data show this impression of rampant criminality was a mirage.In fact, retail theft has been lower this year in most of the country than it was a few years ago, according to police data. Some exceptions, including New York City, exist. But in most major cities, shoplifting incidents have fallen 7 percent since 2019.Organized retail crime, in which multiple individuals steal products from several stores to later sell on the black market, is a real phenomenon, said Trevor Wagener, the chief economist at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, who has conducted research on retail data. But he said organized groups were likely responsible for just about 5 percent of the store merchandise that disappeared from 2016 to 2020.He emphasized that there’s “a lot of uncertainty and imprecision” in measuring losses, because it is difficult to parse out what is shoplifting and what is organized crime.Mr. Wagener testified in Congress in June about the discrepancy in the National Retail Federation’s report.Even as it retracted the figure and revised the report, the federation, which has more than 17,000 member companies, insisted in an emailed statement that its focus on the problem was appropriate.“We stand behind the widely understood fact that organized retail crime is a serious problem impacting retailers of all sizes and communities across our nation,” the statement said. “At the same time, we recognize the challenges the retail industry and law enforcement have with gathering and analyzing an accurate and agreed-upon set of data.”At issue is “total annual shrink” — the industry term for the value of merchandise that disappears from stores without being paid for, through theft, damage and inventory tracking mistakes.Mary McGinty, a spokeswoman for the federation, said the error was caused by an analyst from K2 Integrity, an advisory firm that helped produce the report.The analyst, who was not named, linked a 2021 National Retail Federation survey with a quote from Ben Dugan, the former president of the advocacy group Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, who said in Senate testimony in 2021 that organized retail crime “accounts for $45 billion in annual losses for retailers.”Mr. Dugan was citing the federation’s 2016 National Retail Security Survey, which was actually referring to the overall cost of shrink in 2015 — not the amount lost to just organized retail crime, Ms. McGinty said.Alec Karakatsanis, a civil rights lawyer who has studied and critiqued how the media has covered organized retail crime, said that the retraction underscored how some news organizations, which have extensively covered the issue of shoplifting, were “used as a tool by certain vested interests to gin up a lot of fear about this issue when, in fact, it was pretty clear all along that the facts didn’t add up.”One of the most prominent examples came in October 2021, when Walgreens said it would close five stores in San Francisco, citing repeated instances of organized shoplifting. The company’s decision had come months after a video seen millions of times showed a man, garbage bag in hand, openly stealing products from a Walgreens as others watched.But an October 2021 analysis by The San Francisco Chronicle showed that Police Department data on shoplifting did not support Walgreen’s explanation for the store closings.Eventually, Walgreens retreated from its claims. In January, an executive at the company said that Walgreens might have overstated the effects on its business, saying: “Maybe we cried too much last year.”Mr. Karakatsanis said the exaggerated narrative of widespread shoplifting was weaponized by the retail industry as it lobbied Congress to pass bills that would regulate online retailers, which they claim is where much of the stolen product ends up.Commentators and politicians have seized on the issue. Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Democrat of California, responded to reports of large-scale thefts in the state with a call for tough prosecution of shoplifters and a plan to invest millions of dollars to fight “organized retail theft.” Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, signed a bill last year aimed at retail theft, and former President Donald J. Trump called for violence, telling Republican activists in California this year that the police should shoot shoplifters as they are leaving a store.Mr. Wagener, the chief economist at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said that the National Retail Federation’s report in April immediately stuck out to him as wrong. The error was troubling, he said, because the federation has long been viewed as a trusted provider of data for the industry.What made the federation’s mistake even more surprising, Mr. Wagener said, was how starkly the figure contrasted to the group’s own previous findings.In 2020, the federation said in a report that organized retail crime cost retailers an average of $719,548 per $1 billion in sales — a number that would point nowhere near the roughly 50 percent claim made in the April report.Another National Retail Federation survey showed that all external theft — including thefts unrelated to organized retail crime — accounted for 37 percent of shrink, a figure that would still be billions of dollars less than the incorrect estimate of 50 percent made in April.“It would be a bit like the census claiming that nearly half of the U.S. population lives in the state of Rhode Island,” Mr. Wagener said. More

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    Lessons from an international school report

    Unlock the Editor’s Digest for freeRoula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.Benjamin Franklin was not known for his financial advice. But America’s founding father is widely quoted as having proclaimed: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” More than 200 years later, this wisdom still holds true. One extra year of schooling amounts to an annual rate of return of 9 per cent for the individual, according to a recent World Bank study. For measure, that is greater than the annualised price return of the S&P 500 over the past half century. Education additionally drives untold gains for society and the economy too.That makes it all the more unfortunate that the “interest” earned by today’s youth in many countries could be accreting upon a lower and poorer level of education. The latest data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment shows a troubling drop in the attainment standards of the average 15-year-old across the developed world. They are suffering from a double blow.As nations locked down over Covid-19, many students fell behind on their schooling. Between 2018 and 2022, mean performance in reading and mathematics fell by a record. Students lost three-quarters of a year in arithmetic learning on average. But the long-run Pisa data shows standards were already declining before the pandemic. Trajectories for reading and science scores had been falling for a decade before, while attainment in numeracy stagnated. The grim aggregate trends, however, belie positive national-level lessons that may serve as a guide for how governments everywhere can move forward.During the pandemic, education systems in east Asia, including in Japan and South Korea, were particularly resilient. They tended to impose shorter school closures and children were also more adept at learning via digital means. Others should invest in the resilience of their education systems for future disruptions, and in the meantime they need to ensure students catch up. That requires additional resources for schools. But funding has, so far, been patchy. Money for schools is an easy squeeze for governments, but gains from short-term cuts are far outweighed by the long-term economic cost of lost productivity.The long-term drop in attainment, however, is not all about funding. The Pisa data suggests that above $75,000 total spending per student, the link between investment and performance weakens. The falling availability and quality of teachers is a core factor. A UN study suggests 4.8mn teachers are needed across Europe and North America to secure quality primary and secondary education. Low salaries are part of the problem. But so is the broader status, wellbeing and training of teachers, which support retention and attraction to the profession. In Singapore, which tops the Pisa tables, teachers are more likely to report feeling valued by society.Student mindsets, which can be shaped from an early age, matter too. Low expectations, weak social relationships with teachers, and social media-sapped attention spans hold back performance. This can be assuaged through teacher training and standard setting. As for distractions, one in four countries has already placed restrictions on smartphones in the classroom, according to UN estimates.Balanced approaches are also important. Finland has been a poster child for its “phenomenon-based learning”, which places less emphasis on curricular-based learning, but it dropped significantly in the rankings. In the UK too, Scotland’s “curriculum for excellence” — which focuses on wellbeing — was blamed by some for its poor performance in core skills relative to England.The global report card was alarming, but governments are not helpless. Differences between nations show that policy, both good and bad, impacts outcomes. With failure comes wisdom. Just like all good students, policymakers must now learn from their mistakes. More

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    EU states to get powers over Russian gas imports

    This article is an onsite version of our Disrupted Times newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox three times a weekToday’s top storiesThe Palestinian Authority is working with US officials on a plan to run Gaza once the war between Israel and Hamas is over, the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.US employers added 199,000 jobs in November, compared to 150,000 in the previous month, in another sign that supports the Federal Reserve view that interest rates need to remain high for some time.The UK’s competition regulator has taken its first steps to investigate Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar partnership with OpenAI. The Competition and Markets Authority said it had begun an “information gathering process”, a necessary precursor to an investigation that is likely to begin next year.For up-to-the-minute news updates, visit our live blogGood evening.EU member states will be granted powers to end gas imports from Russia and Belarus nearly two years after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to a draft legal text proposed by Brussels and seen by the Financial Times.The proposal would allow any member state to ban companies from Russia and Belarus from buying capacity in its gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals.EU member states would be allowed to “partially or, where justified, completely limit” access to infrastructure to gas operators from Russia and Belarus “where necessary to protect their essential security interests”, according to the draft legislation.As western companies continue to grapple with the consequences of cutting ties with Russia, a senior bloc official said it could make it possible for EU energy companies to get out of contracts with Russian gas providers without having to pay hefty compensation.It comes after the FT reported in August that the EU was set to import record volumes of liquefied natural gas from Russia this year, despite aiming for the bloc to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels by 2027.You are seeing a snapshot of an interactive graphic. This is most likely due to being offline or JavaScript being disabled in your browser.Other western industries have felt the pain of attempting to distance themselves from Russia in recent months.French dairy group Danone had been close to finalising a Rothschild-brokered deal to leave Russia when the Kremlin declared its local operations, along with those of Danish brewer Carlsberg, had been placed under “temporary external management”. Two of Carlsberg’s top former executives now sit in prison and a group of Chechens with links to warlord Ramzan Kadyrov are running much of Danone’s Russian dairy operations.Meanwhile, co-ordinated western trade restrictions on Russia are yet to succeed in crippling their target, with the effectiveness of G7 and EU attempts to throttle Moscow’s oil export revenues by imposing a $60 price cap diminishing over time due to Russia’s “dark fleet” of traders.The EU’s move to tighten its grip on Russian oil and gas exports comes as the Kremlin is fostering greater ties with the Gulf states. In a trip to the region this week, Russian president Vladimir Putin met Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh after visiting the UAE. After meeting Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi he thanked the ruler for the “UAE’s stance”, saying this had allowed relations between the two countries to reach “an unprecedentedly high level”.Putin used his trip to the Gulf to discuss a range of issues, from energy and trade co-operation to the war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict.Need to know: UK and Europe economyThe UK Labour party’s shadow City minister Tulip Siddiq said that the party is no longer ‘sneering at business’ and unveiled 10 City advisers. She told the FT that Labour had worked hard over the past two years to eradicate memories of Jeremy Corbyn’s leftwing leadership and to embrace the City.EU finance ministers meeting in France failed to reach an agreement on reforming EU rules on government debt and deficits. Their failure highlights deep divisions between EU countries on fiscal policy, as rules suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic are set to restart in January.The UK public’s inflation expectations have fallen to a two-year low, supporting the view that the Bank of England will not need to raise interest rates at its meeting next week. The average expectations of the rate of inflation over the next 12 months dropped to 3.3 per cent in November, from 3.6 per cent in August, according to the BoE.The UK Treasury has come under fire for a lack of progress on post-Brexit financial reforms and for exaggerating the effects of its plan to reinvigorate the City. Harriett Baldwin, head of the Treasury select committee, told the FT that reforms had not proved as “major as had been presented” and that headway had been slow.Spain’s deputy prime minister Nadia Calviño is set to become president of the European Investment Bank early next year after she won the backing of EU finance ministers on Friday.Need to know: Global economyStock futures dipped and Treasury bond yields rose today after the US economy added more jobs than estimated in November and unemployment came in lower than expected. The US unemployment rate fell to 3.7 per cent from 3.9 per cent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. China’s economic recovery is “still at a critical stage” said President Xi Jinping, as Communist party leaders pledged to support growth with further “proactive” fiscal and “effective” monetary policy in the new year. In a speech to a political gathering in Beijing he said that China faced an adverse international political and economic environment and overlapping domestic cyclical and structural challenges.However, China’s exports rose for the first time in six months in November, giving a boost to policymakers looking to revive a flagging recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.You are seeing a snapshot of an interactive graphic. This is most likely due to being offline or JavaScript being disabled in your browser.Leading Gulf AI company G24 said it is cutting ties with Chinese hardware suppliers in favour of US counterparts, in a sign of the growing geopolitical struggle over the new technology. “We are in a position where we have to make a choice,” said chief executive Peng Xiao, adding that the company is making the move to ensure its access to US-made semiconductors.Need to know: businessCommodity trader Trafigura will pay out a record dividend of $5.9bn to the company’s 1,200 shareholders after reporting its highest net profit. The payout to executives and traders was more than triple last year’s $1.7bn figure and takes total payments since 2020 to more than $9bn.Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari owners have agreed to sell a minority stake to US investment group Arctos Partners, in a deal that values the French football club at more than €4bn. Arctos will buy up to 12.5 per cent of the French champions, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.UK commodities broker and clearer Marex has filed confidential paperwork to list in the US, snubbing London after planning two years ago to list on its home stock market. The targeted valuation is set to be between $2.2bn and $2.8bn, approximately three to four times more than its previous goal for the London Stock Exchange in 2021.KPMG is planning to merge its UK and Swiss businesses in a tie-up as executives hope to boost growth and profits at the smallest of accounting’s Big Four. Partners in KPMG’s operations in the two countries were told last Friday that discussions over a possible combination were taking place, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times. Science round-upQuantum computing is starting to fulfil its promise as a crucial scientific research tool, IBM researchers claim. The company is due to unveil 10 projects on Monday, said Dario Gil, its head of research. “For the first time now we have large enough systems, capable enough systems, that you can do useful technical and scientific work with it,” Gil said in an interview.Britain’s science secretary is to launch a PR and marketing blitz to plug the UK’s scientists back into the EU’s €95.5bn Horizon scheme, after several years in the cold. Michelle Donelan was in Brussels this week to oversee the formal signing of the post-Brexit deal that will see Britain return to the pre-Brexit situation as an associate member of Horizon.New research shows that global carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil and gas have reached a record and are set to rise at a faster rate in 2023 than the 10-year average. The research highlights how the goals of the Paris agreement to limit global warming are increasingly in jeopardy.AstraZeneca has signed a deal with Absci of the US to design an antibody to fight cancer, the latest tie-up in efforts to use artificial intelligence for drug discovery.The Tech Tonic podcast series on AI unearths the futuristic objectives that are at the centre of the AI industry’s quest for superintelligence.Some good newsThis year’s only multicoloured meteor shower, the Geminids, is set to peak next week from December 13 to 14.© Belish/DreamstimeSomething for the weekendTry your hand at the range of FT Weekend and daily cryptic crosswords.Interactive crosswords on the FT appSubscribers can now solve the FT’s Daily Cryptic, Polymath and FT Weekend crosswords on the iOS and Android appsRecommended newslettersWorking it — Discover the big ideas shaping today’s workplaces with a weekly newsletter from work & careers editor Isabel Berwick. Sign up hereThe Climate Graphic: Explained — Understanding the most important climate data of the week. Sign up hereThanks for reading Disrupted Times. If this newsletter has been forwarded to you, please sign up here to receive future issues. And please share your feedback with us at Thank you More

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    Unemployment among Asian workers and Black men rises in November while the overall rate declines

    The overall unemployment rate declined 0.2% to 3.7% last month, against a forecast that it would hold steady at 3.9%.
    On the other hand, Asian Americans saw a 0.4 percentage-point jump in the unemployment rate to 3.5%.
    The unemployment rate for Black Americans — the demographic with the highest jobless percentage in the U.S. — held steady last month at 5.8%.

    Commuters arrive at the Oculus Center in Manhattan, New York City, on Nov. 17, 2022.
    Spencer Platt | Getty Images

    The labor market deteriorated for both Asian and Black workers in November, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
    The overall unemployment rate declined 0.2% to 3.7% last month, against a forecast that it would hold steady at 3.9%. Overall, the labor force participation rate ticked up to 62.8% alongside a surge of 532,000 workers into the labor force.

    For white Americans, the jobless rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 3.3%. Hispanic Americans also saw their unemployment rate slip 0.2 percentage points to 4.6%.

    On the other hand, Asian Americans saw a 0.4 percentage-point jump in the unemployment rate to 3.5%. This was accompanied by a decline in the participation rate for Asian workers to 65% from 65.3% in October.
    “That uptick in unemployment is not because more Asian workers are flooding into the labor market, feeling optimistic about getting jobs. It’s actually accompanied by a fall in participation as well as a fall in employment,” Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told CNBC.

    The unemployment rate for Black Americans — the demographic with the highest jobless percentage in the U.S. — held steady last month at 5.8%. The jobless rate for Black men age 20 or older spiked more than 1 percentage point to 6.4% from October’s 5.3%. That said, those gains came as the participation rate for this cohort increased to 69.2% from 67.5%.
    “The rise in unemployment is because more workers are optimistic, coming back in or entering the labor market for the first time, and many of them are finding jobs. And many of them are not, which is why the unemployment rate went up,” Gould added.

    Black Americans were hit harder by business shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic. The unemployment rate for Black workers peaked at 16.8% in 2020, versus the overall unemployment rate’s April 2020 high of 14.7%.
    Gould added the caveat that the Asian workers in the survey made up a relatively smaller demographic group, and that both of these series are incredibly volatile from month to month.Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO: More

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    Amazon Is Cracking Down on Union Organizing, Workers Say

    More than a year and a half after Amazon workers on Staten Island voted to form the company’s first union in the United States, the company appears to be taking a harder line toward labor organizing, disciplining workers and even firing one who had been heavily involved in the union campaign.The disciplinary actions come at a time when union organizers appear to be gaining ground at a major air hub operated by Amazon in Kentucky, where they say they have collected union authorization cards from at least one-quarter of hourly employees. Workers must typically demonstrate at least 30 percent support to prompt a union election.In disciplining the employees, Amazon has raised questions about the extent to which they are free to approach co-workers to persuade them to join a union, a federally protected right. The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has said Amazon is breaking the law through a policy governing the access that off-duty workers have to its facilities, which Amazon invoked in the recent firing. The board is seeking to overturn the policy at an upcoming trial.Lisa Levandowski, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the recent disciplinary actions were strictly a response to rule violations, not to union organizing. “Employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union,” she said.The company’s off-duty access rule is “a lawful, common-sense policy,” she said, “and we look forward to defending our position.”The fired worker, Connor Spence, was a founder of the Amazon Labor Union, which won last year’s election on Staten Island. After a split within the union leadership, Mr. Spence helped start a separate group that sought to pressure the company to negotiate a contract at the warehouse, known as JFK8.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More