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    Amazon Fires Senior Managers Tied to Unionized Staten Island Warehouse

    Company officials said the terminations were the result of an internal review, while the fired managers saw it as a response to the recent union victory.After Amazon employees at a massive warehouse on Staten Island scored an upset union victory last month, it turned the union’s leaders into celebrities, sent shock waves through the broader labor movement and prompted politicians around the country to rally behind Amazon workers. Now it also appears to have created fallout within Amazon’s management ranks.On Thursday, Amazon informed more than half a dozen senior managers involved with the Staten Island warehouse that they were being fired, said four current and former employees with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.The firings, which occurred outside the company’s typical employee review cycle, were seen by the managers and other people who work at the facility as a response to the victory by the Amazon Labor Union, three of the people said. Workers at the warehouse voted by a wide margin to form the first union at the company in the United States, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in at least a generation.Word of the shake-up spread through the warehouse on Thursday. Many of the managers had been responsible for carrying out the company’s response to the unionization effort. Several were veterans of the company, with more than six years of experience, according to their LinkedIn profiles.Workers who supported the union complained that the company’s health and safety protocols were too lax, particularly as they related to Covid-19 and repetitive strain injuries, and that the company pushed them too hard to meet performance targets, often at the expense of sufficient breaks. Many also said pay at the warehouse, which starts at over $18 per hour for full-time workers, was too low to live on in New York City.Understand the Unionization Efforts at AmazonBeating Amazon: A homegrown, low-budget push to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse led to a historic labor victory. (Workers at another nearby Amazon facility rejected joining a similar effort shortly after.)Retaliation: Weeks after the landmark win, Amazon fired several managers in Staten Island. Some see it as retaliation for their involvement in the unionization efforts.A New Playbook: The success of the Amazon union’s independent drive has organized labor asking whether it should take more of a back seat.Amazon’s Approach: The company has countered unionization efforts with mandatory “training” sessions that carry clear anti-union messages.An Amazon spokeswoman said the company had made the management changes after spending several weeks evaluating aspects of the “operations and leadership” at JFK8, which is the company’s name for the warehouse. “Part of our culture at Amazon is to continually improve, and we believe it’s important to take time to review whether or not we’re doing the best we could be for our team,” said Kelly Nantel, the spokeswoman.The managers were told they were being fired as part of an “organizational change,” two people said. One of the people said some of the managers were strong performers who recently received positive reviews.The Staten Island facility is Amazon’s only fulfillment center in New York City, and for a year current and former workers at the facility organized to form an upstart, independent union. The company is challenging the election, saying that the union’s unconventional tactics were coercive and that the National Labor Relations Board was biased in the union’s favor. And the union is working to maintain the pressure on Amazon so it will negotiate a contract.Christian Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union, testified on Thursday before a Senate committee that was exploring whether companies that violate labor laws should be denied federal contracts. Mr. Smalls later attended a White House meeting with other labor organizers in which he directly asked President Biden to press Amazon to recognize his union.A White House spokeswoman said it was up to the National Labor Relations Board to certify the results of the recent election but affirmed that Mr. Biden had long supported collective bargaining and workers’ rights to unionize.Amazon has said that it invested $300 million on safety projects in 2021 alone and that it provides pay above the minimum wage with solid benefits like health care to full-time workers as soon as they join the company.More than 8,000 workers at the warehouse were eligible to vote, and the union made a point of reaching out to employees from different ethnic groups, including African Americans, Latinos and immigrants from Africa and Asia, as well as those of different political persuasions, from conservatives to progressives.Company officials and consultants held more than 20 mandatory meetings per day with employees in the run-up to the election, in which they sought to persuade workers not to support the union. The officials highlighted the amount of money that the union would collect from them and emphasized the uncertainty of collective bargaining, which they said could leave workers worse off.Labor experts say such claims can be misleading because it is highly unusual for workers to see their compensation fall as a result of the bargaining process.Roughly one month after the union victory at JFK8, Amazon workers at a smaller facility nearby voted against unionizing by a decisive margin.The votes came during what could be an inflection point for organized labor. While the rate of union membership reached its lowest point in decades last year (about 10 percent of U.S. workers) petitions to hold union elections were up more than 50 percent over the previous year during the six months ending in March, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The number of petitions is on pace to reach its highest point in at least a decade.Since December, workers at Starbucks have won initial union votes at more than 50 stores nationwide, while workers have organized or sought to organize at other companies that did not previously have unions, such as Apple and the outdoor apparel retailer REI.Grace Ashford More

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    Job Openings in U.S. Rose to Record in March

    A government survey released Tuesday showed a record number of job openings, with 11.5 million positions listed as available in March, underscoring the continuing strength of the labor market.The number of “quits” — a measurement of the amount of workers voluntarily leaving jobs — also reached a high, an indicator that many workers are confident they can leave their jobs and find employment that better suits their desires or needs.The data released by the Labor Department as part of its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, is a fresh indicator of the anomalous nature of the economy as it recovers from the pandemic recession. A resurgence of household spending and business investment is colliding with a messy reordering of the supply of goods and labor.Labor force participation has quickly recovered, nearing prepandemic rates, but has failed to keep up with the surge in job opportunities over the past year as business owners expand to meet the demand for a variety of goods and services.After a sharp climb last year, job openings plateaued somewhat. The March reading suggests that the decline in acute coronavirus concerns among experts and the average consumer — paired with the rolling back of public health restrictions and the start of the summer hiring season — is increasing businesses’ appetites for more workers. Layoffs and discharges remained uncommon, and relatively flat compared to the previous month, at 1.4 million.The Federal Reserve is raising the cost of borrowing as part of an effort to cool consumer spending, business lending and demand for workers. Markets expect the Fed to announce a half-percentage point increase in its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday.The State of Jobs in the United StatesJob openings and the number of workers voluntarily leaving their positions in the United States remained near record levels in March.March Jobs Report: U.S. employers added 431,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent ​​in the third month of 2022.Job Market and Stocks: This year’s decline in stock prices follows a historical pattern: Hot labor markets and stocks often don’t mix well.New Career Paths: For some, the Covid-19 crisis presented an opportunity to change course. Here is how these six people pivoted professionally.Return to the Office: Many companies are loosening Covid safety rules, leaving people to navigate social distancing on their own. Some workers are concerned.Andrew Patterson, a senior international economist in Vanguard’s Investment Strategy Group, argued this strong report from the Labor Department on the eve of the central bank’s rate decision gives officials “more cover to continue to raise rates” and remove its longstanding financial support of the economy “expeditiously,” as the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, has said in recent weeks.Overall, even in an environment of higher borrowing costs, the remarkably robust desire among businesses to expand their work forces could help economic activity plow through the twin challenges presented by inflation, which is at a 40-year high, and the discombobulation of global supply chains compounded by coronavirus outbreaks in Asia and war in Eastern Europe.“If there’s something that’s going to cause a recession, it will be from some outside, exogenous shock,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, a group that analyzes world labor markets. “It won’t be household spending.”Anonymized credit card data collected by Bank of America shows that even households with an annual income below $50,000 have about twice the savings they did before the pandemic. Still, a Gallup survey released last week found 46 percent of Americans rated their personal finances positively, down from 57 percent last year, when families were freshly benefiting from rounds of federal aid and inflation remained tame.Employers have been rankled, too, complaining of labor shortages as millions of workers — energized by the discussion about “essential work” during the pandemic and buoyed by savings — experience a degree of bargaining power they haven’t had in decades.That has led to a tense, politically charged dynamic in which wage pressures are a broadening complaint among large and small businesses trying to maintain their profit margins, even though jumps in pay haven’t generally kept up with price increases.“We’re learning a lot about how structurally fragile our economy is,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist. She cited a dependence on “endless low-wage workers and just-in-time supplies of goods” for keeping consumer prices depressed for many years.The employment cost index, which tracks wages and benefits, jumped by the most on record in the first quarter of this year, according to Labor Department figures released last week. Still, a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, concluded that roughly 54 percent of the overall increase in prices in the nonfinancial corporate sector since the second quarter of 2020 could be attributed to an expansion of profit margins, while labor costs were responsible for less than 8 percent of price increases. The analysis indicates that 38 percent of the uptick stems from nonlabor input costs, such as overhead, fuel or raw materials.That data complicates the increasingly popular narrative that the spikes in worker pay are mostly to blame for the severity of price increases, rather than a wider mix of reasons.“Normally, you’d expect profits to decrease during a period of high inflation,” said Tony Roth, the chief investment officer of Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors, an arm of M&T Bank. The reason the opposite has happened for many companies over the last couple of years is, he said, straightforward: “Businesses are doing it because they can get away with it.”The economy, while strong, may be locked in a vexing, self-reinforcing cycle for a while: The continued wave of household spending has often signaled to businesses that they had room to raise prices without consequence — allowing executives to hire more workers while maintaining profitability.Until more consumers balk at heightened price levels, it’s unclear where prices and demand will find an equilibrium.Mr. Roth said his financial firm, like most others, was advising clients to invest in companies that still had a large amount of “pricing power” — meaning that they can raise prices without dampening demand for what they sell, either because the good or service is particularly desirable or because it is essential to the buyers’ life routines or business needs. More

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    Trump Officials Gave Pandemic Loan to Trucking Company Despite Objections

    WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday released a report alleging that top Trump administration officials had awarded a $700 million pandemic relief loan to a struggling trucking company in 2020 over the objections of career officials at the Defense Department.The report, released by the Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, describes the role of corporate lobbyists during the early months of the pandemic in helping to secure government funds as trillions of dollars of relief money were being pumped into the economy. It also suggests that senior officials such as Steven Mnuchin, the former Treasury secretary, and Mark T. Esper, the former defense secretary, intervened to ensure that the trucking company, Yellow Corporation, received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds.“Today’s select subcommittee staff report reveals yet another example of the Trump administration disregarding their obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement. “Political appointees risked hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds against the recommendations of career D.O.D. officials and in clear disregard of provisions of the CARES Act intended to protect national security and American taxpayers.”The $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package that Congress passed in 2020 included a $17 billion pot of money set up by Congress and controlled by the Treasury Department to assist companies that were considered critical to national security. In July 2020, the Treasury Department announced it was giving a $700 million loan to the trucking company YRC Worldwide, which has since changed its name to Yellow.Lobbyists for Yellow had been in close touch with White House officials throughout the loan process and had discussed how the company employs Teamsters as its drivers, according to the report.Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was a “key actor” coordinating with Yellow’s lobbyists, according to correspondences that the committee obtained. The report also noted that the White House’s political operation was “almost giddy” in its effort to assist with the application.The loan raised immediate questions from watchdog groups because of the company’s close ties to the Trump administration and because it had faced years of financial and legal turmoil. The firm had lost more than $100 million in 2019 and was being sued by the Justice Department over claims that it had defrauded the federal government for a seven-year period. It recently agreed to pay $6.85 million to resolve allegations “that they knowingly presented false claims to the U.S. Department of Defense by systematically overcharging for freight carrier services and making false statements to hide their misconduct.”To qualify for a national security loan, a company needed certification by the Defense Department.According to the report, defense officials had recommended against certification because of the accusations that the company had overcharged the government. They also noted that the work that the company had been doing for the federal government — which included shipping meal kits, protective equipment and other supplies to military bases — could be replaced by other trucking firms.But the day after a defense official notified a Treasury official that the company would not be certified, one of Mr. Mnuchin’s aides set up a telephone call between him and Mr. Esper.The report indicated that Mr. Esper was not initially familiar with the status of Yellow’s certification. Before the call, aides prepared a summary of the analysis and recommendations of the department’s career officials that concluded that the certification should be rejected. Before those reached Mr. Esper, Ellen M. Lord, the department’s under secretary for acquisition and sustainment who was appointed by Mr. Trump, intervened and requested a new set of talking points that argued that the company should receive the financial support “to both support force readiness and national economic security.” Ms. Lord could not immediately be reached for comment.After the call with Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Esper certified that the company was critical to national security, and a week later the approval of the loan was announced.Mr. Mnuchin then sent an email to Mr. Meadows that included news reports praising the loan. He highlighted positive comments from James P. Hoffa, the longtime president of the Teamsters union, who according to documents in the report made a direct plea to President Donald J. Trump about the loan.Mr. Esper and Mr. Mnuchin declined to comment. A former Treasury official familiar with the process said the loan saved 25,000 union jobs during an economic crisis and prevented disruption to the national supply chain that the Defense Department, businesses and consumers had depended on. The former official said that because of the terms of the loan, taxpayers were profiting from the agreement.A spokesman for Mr. Esper said that the company met the criteria to be eligible for the loan and emphasized that the report made clear that senior staff at the Defense Department recommended that he certify it. The Treasury Department made the final decision to issue the loan, the spokesman added.The Trump InvestigationsCard 1 of 6Numerous inquiries. More

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    The prospect of lockdowns in Beijing fuels more concerns about supply chain disruptions.

    The prospect of further lockdowns in China prompted a fresh wave of economic anxiety on Monday as investors and companies whose supply chains run through China contemplated the impact of 70 new virus cases that the Beijing government said it had detected over the weekend.The city government ordered one of its districts to test all 3.5 million of its residents for coronavirus in the coming days, a move that may be a prelude to a larger lockdown in China’s capital city. Shanghai, a major port and business center, has been locked down for roughly a month, part of China’s “zero Covid” strategy. Other Chinese cities both large and small have announced their own restrictions on the movement of residents in a bid to keep the virus from spreading.The lockdowns present yet another challenge for global supply chains that have been stressed by pandemic shutdowns and the war in Ukraine, leading to greater competition for goods and higher prices that are fueling inflation worldwide.While the Chinese authorities have sought to keep factories and especially ports operating by keeping workers on the premises in so-called closed-loop systems, the lockdowns have interrupted shipments and lengthened delivery times for many of the global companies that depend on Chinese factories.Phil Levy, the chief economist at Flexport, a freight forwarder, said in an email that while Beijing is an important city, “it is not at the heart of factory production or supply chain operations.” He said lockdowns there would have a more limited impact than previous restrictions in Shanghai and Guangdong, where ports continued to mostly operate.But the effects would depend on where outbreaks occurred — for example whether they shut down a port — and how long lockdowns persisted, Mr. Levy added. “This is a relatively slow part of the year, but there is plenty of catch-up to be done, and things will soon be due to build. The costs will mount the longer this lasts.”The disruptions that are still unfolding in Shanghai and other Chinese cities are likely to reverberate along global supply chains in the coming months. Andrea Huang, a senior director at Overhaul, which monitors company supply chains, said with lockdowns not expected to ease until early or mid-May, the ripple effects for industries like auto and consumer electronics would extend into June or July.In Shanghai, the local authorities on Friday selected some companies in the automotive, semiconductor and other key industries to restart production, but the vast majority of enterprises remain shuttered.Activity at the port has also slowed. According to data from Project44, a logistics platform, the number of vessels that were berthing at the Shanghai port last week had dropped by about half since the lockdown began, while the number of vessels seeking to call at the nearby port of Ningbo jumped as shipping companies tried to get around restrictions. The time that imported containers were spending in the port had also risen sharply, from 4.6 days on March 28 to 14 days on April 23, the company said, as coronavirus testing requirements for truck drivers limited the ability to get containers in and out of the port.Fears of broader lockdowns weighed on global stocks on Monday, while oil and other commodities also fell in anticipation of lower demand.Elisabeth Waelbroeck-Rocha, chief international economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said that, in addition to disrupting global supply chains and fueling inflation, coronavirus outbreaks and accompanying lockdowns had undermined Chinese economic growth in March and April, making China unlikely to reach its target of 5.5 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2022.The epicenter of the outbreak shifted from Jilin Province in the northeast to Shanghai, a manufacturing base for high-end auto components, but smaller-scale outbreaks in other regions have largely been brought under control, she wrote in a note. More

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    Rapid Inflation, Lower Employment: How the U.S. Pandemic Response Measures Up

    The United States spent more on its policy response than other advanced economies. Now economists are revisiting how that worked.The United States spent more aggressively to protect its economy from the pandemic than many global peers, a strategy that has helped to foment more rapid inflation — but also a faster economic rebound and brisk job gains.Now, though, America is grappling with what many economists see as an unsustainable worker shortage that threatens to keep inflation high and may necessitate a firm response by the Federal Reserve. Yet U.S. employment has not recovered as fully as in Europe and some other advanced economies. That reality is prodding some economists to ask: Was America’s spending spree worth it?As the Fed raises interest rates and economists increasingly warn that it may take at least a mild recession to bring inflation to heel, risks are mounting that America’s ambitious spending will end up with a checkered legacy. Rapid growth and a strong labor market rebound have been big wins, and economists across the ideological spectrum agree that some amount of spending was necessary to avoid a repeat of the painfully slow recovery that followed the previous recession. But the benefits of that faster recovery could be diminished as rising prices eat away at paychecks — and even more so if high inflation prods central bank policymakers set policy in a way that pushes up unemployment down the road.“I’m worried that we traded a temporary growth gain for permanently higher inflation,” said Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University and a former economic official in the Obama administration. His concern, he said, is that “inflation could stay higher, or the Fed could control it by lowering output in the future.”The Biden administration has repeatedly argued that, to the extent the United States is seeing more inflation, the policy response to the pandemic also created a stronger economy.“We got a lot more growth, we got less child poverty, we got better household balance sheets, we have the strongest labor market by some metrics I’ve ever seen,” Jared Bernstein, an economic adviser to President Biden, said in an interview. “Were all of those accomplishments accompanied by heat on the price side? Yes, but some degree of that heat showed up in every advanced economy, and we wouldn’t trade that back for the historic recovery we helped to generate.”Inflation has picked up around the world, but price increases have been quicker in America than in many other wealthy nations.Consumer prices were up 9.8 percent in March from a year earlier, according to a measure of inflation that strips out owner-occupied housing to make it comparable across countries. That was faster than in Germany, where prices rose 7.6 percent in the same period; the United Kingdom, where they rose 7 percent; and other European countries. Other measures similarly show U.S. inflation outpacing that of its global peers.The Rise of InflationInflation has risen worldwide in the past year, but the increase has been fastest in the United States.

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    Change in consumer prices from a year earlier
    Note: Euro area and U.K. data are Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices. U.S. data is the Consumer Price Index excluding owners’ equivalent rent.Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O.E.C.D., EurostatBy The New York TimesThe comparatively large jump in prices in America owes at least partly to the nation’s ambitious spending. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco attributed about half of the nation’s 2021 annual price increase to the government’s spending response. The researchers estimated the number, which is imprecise, by measuring America’s inflation outcome compared with what happened in countries that spent less.“The size of the package was very large compared to any other country,” said Òscar Jordà, a co-author on the study.Understand Inflation in the U.S.Inflation 101: What is inflation, why is it up and whom does it hurt? Our guide explains it all.Your Questions, Answered: Times readers sent us their questions about rising prices. Top experts and economists weighed in.Interest Rates: As it seeks to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve announced that it was raising interest rates for the first time since 2018.How Americans Feel: We asked 2,200 people where they’ve noticed inflation. Many mentioned basic necessities, like food and gas.Supply Chain’s Role: A key factor in rising inflation is the continuing turmoil in the global supply chain. Here’s how the crisis unfolded.The Trump and then Biden administrations spent about $5 trillion on pandemic relief in 2020 and 2021 — far more as a share of the nation’s economy than what other advanced economies spent, based on a database compiled by the International Monetary Fund. Much of that money went directly to households in the form of stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance and tax credits for parents.Payments to households helped to fuel rapid consumer demand and quick economic growth — progress that has continued into 2022. A global economic outlook released by the International Monetary Fund last week showed that America’s economy is expected to expand by 3.7 percent this year, faster than the roughly 2 percent trend that prevailed before the pandemic and the 3.3 percent average expected across advanced economies this year.That comes on the heels of even more rapid 2021 growth. And as the U.S. economy has expanded so quickly, unemployment has plummeted. After spiking to 14.7 percent in early 2020, joblessness is now roughly back to the 50-year lows that prevailed prior the pandemic.That’s a victory that politicians have celebrated. “Our economy roared back faster than most predicted,” Mr. Biden said in his State of the Union address last month. A major report from the White House on April 14 noted that the United States has experienced a faster recovery than other advanced economies, as measured by gross domestic product, consumer spending and other indicators.The Rebound in SpendingConsumer spending has recovered more quickly in the United States, even after accounting for faster inflation.

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    Change in per capita household spending since fourth quarter of 2019
    Notes: Quarterly data, adjusted for inflationSource: O.E.C.D.By The New York TimesBut increasingly, at least when it comes to the job market, America’s achievement looks less unique.Unemployment in the United States jumped much higher at the outset of the pandemic in part because America’s policies did less to discourage layoffs than those in Europe. While many European governments paid companies to keep workers on their payrolls, the U.S. focused more on providing money directly to those who lost their jobs.Joblessness fell fast in the United States, too, but that was also true elsewhere. Many European countries, Canada and Australia are now back to or below their prepandemic unemployment rates, data reported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showed.And when it comes to the share of people who are actually working, the United States is lagging some of its global peers. The nation’s employment rate is hovering around 71.4 percent, still down slightly from nearly 71.8 percent before the pandemic began.By comparison, the eurozone countries, Canada and Australia have a higher employment rates than before the pandemic, and Japan’s employment rate has fully recovered.The Rebound in JobsEmployment rates fell further in the U.S. than in many peer countries, and have not yet returned to their prepandemic level.

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    Change in employment rate since fourth quarter of 2019
    Note: Quarterly data, ages 15 to 64Source: O.E.C.D.By The New York TimesEurope’s more complete employment recovery may partly reflect its different regulations and different approach to supporting workers during the pandemic, said Nick Bennenbroek, international economist at Wells Fargo. European aid programs effectively paid companies to keep people on the payroll even when they couldn’t go to work, while the United States supported workers directly through the unemployment insurance system.That relatively subtle difference had a major consequence: Because fewer Europeans were separated from employers, many flowed right back into their old jobs as the economy reopened. Meanwhile, pandemic layoffs touched off an era of soul-searching and job shuffling in the United States.“You didn’t have as much motivation to reconsider your assessment of your work-life situation,” Mr. Bennenbroek said. “What we initially saw in the U.S. was much more disruptive.”Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 6What is inflation? More

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    World Economic Outlook Dims as War and Pandemic Cast a Pall

    The International Monetary Fund’s new World Economic Outlook expects growth to slow to 3.6 percent this year. The group is one of many to slash their forecasts recently.WASHINGTON — The world economy has entered a period of intense uncertainty as a capricious pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine combine to fuel rapid inflation and weigh on an already fragile global recovery.These colliding challenges are confronting policymakers and central bankers in the United States and Europe as they seek to bring down inflation without slowing growth so much that their economies tip into recession.In the last week, international organizations and think tanks have begun slashing their forecasts for growth and trade as they assess the war’s disruptions to global energy, food and commodity supplies, as well as China’s sweeping lockdowns to contain a renewed coronavirus outbreak.The pall over the world economy was underscored on Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund, which said in its World Economic Outlook that global output was expected to slow this year to 3.6 percent, from 6.1 percent in 2021. That is a downgrade from a January forecast of 4.4 percent growth this year.“Global economic prospects have been severely set back, largely because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the I.M.F.’s chief economist, said at a news briefing on Tuesday. “This crisis unfolds as the global economy has not yet fully recovered from the pandemic.”The impact of Russia’s war on the global economy will be a central topic for policymakers convening in Washington this week for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.As the meetings got underway, policymakers grappled with how to maintain pressure on Russia while keeping the economic recovery on track and protecting the world’s poor from rising prices. While some countries that export commodities will benefit from a period of higher fuel and food prices, for most economies the disruptions weigh heavily.“The war has made an already dire situation worse,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a speech about rising food insecurity on Tuesday. “Price and supply shocks are already materializing, adding to global inflationary pressures, creating risks to external balances, and undermining the recovery from the pandemic.”On Wednesday, Ms. Yellen plans to attend an opening session that will include Ukraine’s finance minister as the United States looks to stand with allies in opposition to Russia’s invasion, a Treasury official said. However, Ms. Yellen will not attend some Group of 20 sessions, such as those on international financial architecture and sustainable finance, if Russians are participating.Against that backdrop, the I.M.F.’s new data revealed a daunting set of economic headwinds. Mr. Gourinchas said the war was slowing growth and spurring inflation, which he described as a “clear and present danger” for many countries. He added that disruptions to Russian supplies of oil, gas and metals, along with Ukrainian exports of wheat and corn, will ripple through commodities markets and across the global economy “like seismic waves.”He acknowledged that the trajectory of the global economy would depend on how the war proceeded and the ultimate breadth of the sanctions that the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia imposed on Russia.“Uncertainty around these projections is considerable, well beyond the usual range,” Mr. Gourinchas said. “Growth could slow down further while inflation could exceed our projections if, for instance, sanctions extend to Russian energy exports.”Ukraine and Russia are facing the most dire economic consequences from the war. The I.M.F. expects the Ukrainian economy to contract by 35 percent this year, while Russia’s economy is projected to shrink 8.5 percent. Mr. Gourinchas noted that the Russian authorities had so far managed to prevent a collapse of their financial system and avoided bank failures but said further sanctions targeting Russia’s energy industry could have a significant impact on its economy.The sweeping sanctions that America and its allies have already imposed on Russia are the main factor contributing to the downward revision of the I.M.F.’s global growth outlook, Mr. Gourinchas said. He added that a tightening of restrictions on Russian energy exports would be an “adverse scenario” that would further slow output around the world.Rising prices around the world show no signs of abating, the I.M.F. said, even if supply chain problems ease. It expects inflation to remain elevated throughout the year, projecting it at 5.7 percent in advanced economies and 8.7 percent in emerging markets. Inflation hit 8.5 percent in the United States last month, the fastest 12-month pace since 1981.An empty street in Shanghai this week. The World Bank warned that the lingering pandemic and Covid-19 lockdowns in China could amplify income inequality and poverty rates.Aly Song/ReutersOther international organizations and research groups have also pared back their global growth forecasts. Economists at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, expect global growth to decline from a rapid 5.8 percent in 2021 to 3.3 percent annually in 2022 and 2023.The World Bank also expressed alarm this week about the state of the global economy, warning that the lingering pandemic, Covid-19 lockdowns in China and higher inflation could amplify income inequality and poverty rates. It lowered its 2022 growth forecast to 3.2 percent from 4.1 percent.“I’m deeply concerned about developing countries,” David Malpass, the World Bank president, said on Monday. “They’re facing sudden price increases for energy, fertilizer and food, and the likelihood of interest rate increases. Each one hits them hard.”According to the Bank of International Settlements, more than half of emerging economies have inflation rates above 7 percent. And 60 percent of “advanced economies,” including the United States and the euro area, have inflation over 5 percent, the largest share since the 1980s, the bank said.In Britain, inflation climbed to 7 percent in March, the highest level in 30 years.An April 12 survey of global investors by BofA Securities found that more than two-thirds were pessimistic about global growth prospects in the months ahead.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

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    Fuel Prices Send Airfares Higher, but Travelers Seem Ready to Pay

    Supplies are not keeping up with demand, and costs may go higher, experts say.A stunning rise in the cost of jet fuel has sent airfares soaring, and industry experts say they are likely to go higher. For now, though, travel-starved consumers seem more than willing to pay up.Jet fuel prices have settled somewhat since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent them skyrocketing last month, but the market remains extremely volatile. The problem is particularly severe in New York, where the cost of the fuel rose about fourfold to just over $7.50 a gallon before dipping back to $5.30 in recent days.Supply is broadly constrained and prices have spiked across the country. The Energy Department this week said that the inventory level for East Coast jet fuel stood at 6.5 million barrels, the lowest since the agency began keeping track in 1990.“Jet fuel has made the most parabolic move I’ve ever seen for any transportation fuel,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service. “It’s just insane.”The surge in prices has implications not only for airfares but also for the already high costs of global shipping. On Wednesday, for example, Amazon announced plans to impose its first “fuel and inflation surcharge” for sellers whose goods it stores and delivers.Airlines have been able to pass on some of their added fuel expense to consumers, many of whom are more than eager to travel after being denied the opportunity for two years.At the start of this year, the average cost of a round-trip domestic flight was $235, according to Hopper, an airfare-tracking app. Since then, ticket prices have risen 40 percent, to $330. Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper, which tracks prices for flights and hotels, said the company expects another 10 percent rise, to $360, by the end of May, before prices drop again in the summer.“Not only are the current prices that travelers are paying extremely high compared to historic price data, but the rate of increase has also been particularly steep since January,” he said.In addition to the rising cost of jet fuel, Mr. Damodaran said, the surge in airfares can also be attributed to typical seasonal patterns and the fact that demand was suppressed at the start of the year as the Omicron coronavirus variant spread.Some airlines have also cut flights in response to persistent staff shortages, creating greater competition and driving up fares for the flights that remain.Carriers typically pass on to consumers as much as 60 percent of a volatile rise in the price of fuel, experts said, a process that usually takes months. This time, however, the industry has been able to pass along costs more quickly, in large part because of high demand and a shift in consumer behavior during the pandemic toward buying tickets closer to the date of travel.“We are successfully recapturing a significant portion of the run-up in fuel,” Ed Bastian, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines, told investment analysts and reporters on a call on Wednesday. “This is occurring almost in real time, given the strong demand environment.”Mr. Bastian said that Delta, the first major carrier to report financial results for the first three months of this year, had seen a strong rebound so far and that it was preparing for a robust spring and summer.Delta paid an average price of $2.79 per gallon of jet fuel in the quarter, up 33 percent from the last quarter of last year. The price included a saving of 7 cents per gallon from the airline’s oil refinery outside Philadelphia. Delta said it expected the price of fuel to rise another 15 to 20 percent over the next three months, to between $3.20 and $3.35 per gallon, a range that includes an approximately 20-cent savings attributable to the refinery.Prices for jet fuel, like gasoline and diesel, generally go up and down with crude oil.In February, American Airlines reported that the price it paid per gallon of jet fuel had risen more than a third over the past year, from $1.48 in 2020 to $2.04 in 2021. At the time, it said that each sustained one-cent rise in the per-gallon price would increase its fuel expense for 2022 by about $40 million. This week, American estimated that it had paid $2.80 to $2.85 per gallon in the first quarter of the year.Rising fuel costs and fares seem to be doing little to dissuade consumers. Mr. Bastian said Wednesday that March was Delta’s best sales month ever, beating a record set in 2019, despite having 10 percent fewer seats available. That comes as fares for domestic flights were up about 20 percent across the board between March 2019 and March 2022, according to an analysis by the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which draws on online sales from six of the top 10 U.S. airlines.Refueling at San Francisco International Airport. Some jet fuel shipments were diverted from the East Coast to the West as California prices began to climb.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images“We’ve all been stuck at home for two years, and I think now that we have the opportunity to get out, there’s going to be a lot of willingness to pay,” said Joe Rohlena, lead airline analyst for Fitch Ratings. “If it remains expensive to travel further out, then you may see that kind of willingness to pay higher ticket prices back off.”The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

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    Supply Chain Hurdles Will Outlast Covid Pandemic, White House Says

    The administration’s economic advisers see climate change and other factors complicating global trade patterns for years to come.The coronavirus pandemic and its ripple effects have snarled supply chains around the world, contributing to shipping backlogs, product shortages and the fastest inflation in decades.But in a report released Thursday, White House economists argue that while the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain, it didn’t create them — and they warned that the problems won’t go away when the pandemic ends.“Though modern supply chains have driven down consumer prices for many goods, they can also easily break,” the Council of Economic Advisers wrote. Climate change, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters that comes with it, will make future disruptions inevitable, the group said.White House economists analyzed the supply chain as part of the Economic Report of the President. The annual document, which this year runs more than 400 pages, typically offers few new policy proposals, but it outlines the administration’s thinking on key economic issues facing the country, and on how the president hopes to address them.This year’s report focuses on the role of government in the economy, and calls for the government to do more to combat slowing productivity growth, declining labor force participation, rising inequality and other trends that long predated the pandemic.Understand Inflation in the U.S.Inflation 101: What is inflation, why is it up and whom does it hurt? Our guide explains it all.Your Questions, Answered: Times readers sent us their questions about rising prices. Top experts and economists weighed in.Interest Rates: As it seeks to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve announced that it was raising interest rates for the first time since 2018.How Americans Feel: We asked 2,200 people where they’ve noticed inflation. Many mentioned basic necessities, like food and gas.Supply Chain’s Role: A key factor in rising inflation is the continuing turmoil in the global supply chain. Here’s how the crisis unfolded.“The U.S. is among and remains one of the strongest economies in the world, but if we look at trends over the last several decades, some of those trends threaten to undermine that standing,” Cecilia Rouse, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. The problem is in part that “the public sector has retreated from its role.”The report dedicates one of its seven chapters to supply chains, noting that the once-esoteric subject “entered dinner-table conversations” in 2021. In recent decades, Ms. Rouse and the report’s other authors write, U.S. manufacturers have increasingly relied on parts produced in low-cost countries, especially China, a practice known as offshoring. At the same time, companies have adopted just-in-time production strategies that minimize the parts and materials they keep in inventory.The result, the authors argue, are supply chains that are efficient but brittle — vulnerable to breaking down in the face of a pandemic, a war or a natural disaster.“Because of outsourcing, offshoring and insufficient investment in resilience, many supply chains have become complex and fragile,” they write, adding: “This evolution has also been driven by shortsighted assumptions about cost reduction that have ignored important costs that are hard to turn into financial measures, or that spilled over to affect others.”But some economists noted that making supply chains more resilient could carry its own costs, making products more expensive when inflation is already a major concern.Adam S. Posen, the president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine might lead companies to locate at least some of their supply chains in places that were more politically stable and less strategically vulnerable. But pushing companies to duplicate production could waste taxpayer dollars and introduce inefficiencies, raising prices for consumers and lowering growth.“At best you’re paying an insurance premium,” he said. “At worst you’re doing something for completely political reasons that’s very economically inefficient.”Other economists have emphasized that global supply chains are not always a source of fragility — sometimes they can be a source of resilience, too.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 6What is inflation? More