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    Retail sales rise for the fourth straight month as prices keep climbing.

    Retail sales rose 0.9 percent in April, increasing for the fourth consecutive month, as consumer prices continue to escalate at their fastest pace in four decades.The increase in spending in the United States last month follows a revised 1.4 percent month-over-month gain in March, when prices for gasoline soared amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Gas prices cooled down slightly in April but were still at elevated levels, while oil prices remain volatile.Consumers pulled back on spending at gas stations, where sales fell 2.7 percent in April, the Commerce Department reported on Tuesday, and the report showed that shopping at grocery stores and building material stores dropped last month.Sales at restaurants and bars were up 2 percent in April, while spending at department stores was up 0.2 percent. Spending at car dealers, which has been hampered by supply chain disruptions and a global computer chip shortage, rose 2.2 percent last month.Economists are laser-focused on upcoming reports on spending because they serve as indicators of how consumers are grappling with inflation and higher interest rates.“Despite the surge in prices weighing on their purchasing power, the U.S. consumer now appears to be single-handedly keeping the global economy afloat,” Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.The Commerce Department’s new data, which isn’t adjusted for inflation, was an early estimate of spending during a month when prices rose 0.3 percent from the prior month. The rapid pace of inflation has led companies to raise prices for their goods to cover the higher costs of commodities, labor and transportation. Companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have introduced higher prices for their products, and airfares are also climbing.To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve started lifting interest rates from near zero in March. Economists are worried that if interest rates are raised too fast, the move could lead the economy into a recession by slowing down consumer demand too much.“To the extent that markets are worried about a growth slowdown, this is good news,” Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, wrote in a note, referring to Tuesday’s report. “But it is also a further catalyst for the Fed to raise rates even higher, in order to get inflation under control.” More

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    The Era of Cheap and Plenty May Be Ending

    Supplies of goods are coming up short in the pandemic, and prices have jumped. Some economists warn that the changes could linger.For the past three decades, companies and consumers benefited from cross-border connections that kept a steady supply of electronics, clothes, toys and other goods so abundant it helped prices stay low.But as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine continue to weigh on trade and business ties, that period of plenty appears to be undergoing a partial reversal. Companies are rethinking where to source their products and stocking up on inventory, even if that means lower efficiency and higher costs. If it lasts, such a shift away from fine-tuned globalization could have important implications for inflation and the world’s economy.Economists are debating whether recent supply chain turmoil and geopolitical conflicts will result in a reversal or reconfiguration of global production, in which factories that were sent offshore move back to the United States and other countries that pose less of a political risk.If that happens, a decades-long decline in the prices of many goods could come to an end or even begin to go in the other direction, potentially boosting overall inflation. Since around 1995, durable goods like cars and equipment have tamped down inflation, and prices for nondurable goods like clothing and toys have often grown only slowly.Those trends began to change in late 2020 after the onset of the pandemic, as shipping costs soared and shortages collided with strong demand to push car, furniture and equipment prices higher. While few economists expect the past year’s breakneck price increases to continue, the question is whether the trend toward at least slightly pricier goods will last.The answer could hinge on whether a shift away from globalization takes hold.“It would certainly be a different world — it might be a world of perhaps higher inflation, perhaps lower productivity, but more resilient, more robust supply chains,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said at an event last month when asked about a possible move away from globalization.Still, Mr. Powell said, it’s not obvious how drastically conditions will change. “It’s not clear that we’re seeing a reversal of globalization,” he said. “It’s clear that it’s slowed down.”Prices Have Shot UpPrices for durable goods had been falling for decades. Lately, though, they’ve been a major factor pushing inflation higher.

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    Annual Change in the Personal Consumption Expenditure Index by Category
    Source: Commerce DepartmentBy The New York TimesThe period of global integration that prevailed before the pandemic made many of the things Americans buy cheaper. Computers and other technology made factories more efficient, and they chugged out sneakers, kitchen tables and electronics at a pace unmatched in history. Companies slashed their production cost by moving factories offshore, where wages were lower. The adoption of steel shipping containers, and ever larger cargo ships, allowed products to be whisked from Bangladesh and China to Seattle and Tupelo and everywhere in between for astonishingly low prices.But those changes also had consequences for American factory workers, who saw many jobs disappear. The political backlash to globalization helped carry former President Donald J. Trump into office, as he promised to bring factories back to the United States. His trade wars and rising tariffs encouraged some companies to move operations out of China, although typically to other low-cost countries like Vietnam and Mexico.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 pandemic also exposed the snowball effect of highly optimized supply chains: Factory shutdowns and transportation delays made it difficult to secure some goods and parts, including semiconductors that are crucial for electronics, appliances and cars. Shipping costs have soared by a factor of 10 in just two years, erasing the cost savings of making some products overseas.Starting late in 2020, prices for washing machines, couches and other big products jumped sharply as production limitations collided with high demand.Inflation has only accelerated since. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further snarled supply chains, raising the prices of gas and other commodities in recent months and helping to push the Fed’s closely watched inflation index up 6.6 percent over the year through March.That is the fastest pace of inflation since 1982, and price gains are touching the highest level in decades across many advanced economies, including the eurozone and Britain.Many economists expect price increases for durable goods to cool substantially in the months ahead, which should help calm overall price gains. Data from March suggested that they were beginning to moderate. Rising Fed interest rates could help temper buying, as borrowing to buy cars, machines or home improvement supplies becomes more expensive.But there are still questions about whether — in light of what companies and countries have learned — major products will return to the steady price declines that were the norm before the coronavirus.It’s not clear yet to what extent factories are moving closer to home. A “reshoring index” published by Kearney, a management consulting firm, was negative in 2020 and 2021, indicating that the United States was importing more manufactured goods from low-cost countries.But more firms reported moving their supply chains out of China to other countries, and American executives were more positive about bringing more manufacturing to the United States.Duke Realty, which rents warehouse and industrial facilities in the United States, expects the change to be a source of demand in years to come, though the reworking may take a while. Customers are “now future-proofing their supply chains,” Steve Schnur, the firm’s chief operating officer, said on an earnings call last week.“Some reshoring is occurring — let’s make no mistake about that,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the World Trade Organization, said in an interview. But the data show that most businesses are mitigating risk by building up their inventories and finding additional suppliers in low-cost countries, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said. That process could end up integrating poorer countries in Africa and other parts of the world more deeply into global value chains, she said.Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said last month that supply chains had proved too vulnerable given the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and urged a reorientation around “a large group of trusted partners,” an approach she called “friendshoring.”The approach might result in some higher costs, she said, but it would be more resilient, and a large enough group would allow countries to maintain efficiencies from the global division of labor.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 6What is inflation? More

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    The Fed’s favorite inflation index is still rising fast, but shows some hints of slowing.

    The price index that the Federal Reserve watches most closely climbed 6.6 percent in the year through March, the fastest pace of inflation since 1982 and the latest reminder of the painfully rapid price increases plaguing consumers and challenging policymakers.Much of the gain in the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index, released Friday, was driven by a pop in energy prices that came early in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine along with rising food costs. After stripping out volatile food and fuel prices, a core index climbed by a slightly more muted 5.2 percent in the year through March.On a monthly basis, that core measure picked up by 0.3 percent, slower than its pace the previous month.Central bank and White House officials spent much of 2021 hoping that a pandemic-era surge in used car prices and cost increases in other goods would fade as supply chains returned to normal, and strong demand cooled. But inflation has remained too high for the Fed’s comfort for a year, despite occasional hopeful signs like the latest monthly slowdown in the core measure, and its persistence is now drawing a firm response from the central bank.Policymakers lifted interest rates in March for the first time since 2018, and have set the stage for an even larger rate increase at their meeting next week. Many Fed officials now expect to raise rates back to a neutral setting — around 2 percent — by the end of the year as they try to slow down borrowing, temper demand and allow supply to catch up. The goal is to help cool off inflation so that it does not become locked into consumer and business expectations, which might make it a more permanent feature of America’s economy.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 task ahead is difficult. The Fed has in the past caused recessions while trying to weigh down high inflation. Officials are constraining demand just as the war in Ukraine ramps up uncertainty and threatens to keep prices for gas and other commodities elevated, potentially making the cental bank’s job even more challenging.White House officials have been emphasizing the role that the war is playing in elevating inflation, often blaming President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for higher prices. While Russia’s invasion did push gas prices sharply higher last month, inflation had been high for months before the conflict.Government spending helped fuel some of that increase. As households received stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits in 2020 and 2021, they built up cash buffers, which has helped to sustain fervid spending on couches, cars and grills even as costs have climbed higher. Strong demand for goods in particular collided with shutdowns of overseas factories and overburdened transit routes to spur shortages and push prices up.Now, though, inflation has become broader. As employers struggle to hire enough workers to meet strong consumer demand, they are paying higher wages. That could prompt some businesses to charge more to cover their rising costs. It could also help households to keep up their spending.A number of services — notably rents and restaurant meals — have grown more expensive in recent months.The Fed is trying to keep those widespread price pressures from becoming embedded. While officials still expect price increases to begin fading soon and to be running considerably slower by the end of the year, they are no longer betting on that outcome.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 6What is inflation? 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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    U.S. Tries New Tactic to Protect Workers’ Pay: Antitrust Law

    The Justice Department is using antitrust law to charge employers with colluding to hold down wages. The move adds to a barrage of civil challenges.Antitrust suits have long been part of the federal government’s arsenal to keep corporations from colluding or combining in ways that raise prices and hurt the consumer. Now the government is deploying the same weapon in another cause: protecting workers’ pay.In a first, the Justice Department has brought a series of criminal cases against employers for colluding to suppress wages. The push started in December 2020, under the Trump administration, with an indictment accusing a staffing agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of agreeing with rivals to suppress the pay of physical therapists. The department has now filed six criminal cases under the pillar of antitrust law, the Sherman Act, including prosecutions of employers of home health aides, nurses and aerospace engineers.“Labor market collusion dots the entirety of the U.S. economy,” said Doha Mekki, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the department’s antitrust division. “We’ve seen it in sectors across the board.”If the courts are swayed by the government’s arguments, they could drastically alter the relationship between workers and their employers across large swaths of the economy.“The expansion of Sherman Act criminal violations changes the ballgame when it comes to how companies engage with their workers,” noted an analysis by lawyers at White & Case, including J. Mark Gidley, chair of the firm’s global antitrust and competition practice. “Executives and managers could face jail time for proven horizontal wage-fixing conspiracies.” In addition to fines for corporations or individuals, the Sherman Act provides for prison terms of up to 10 years.The Biden administration is also deploying antitrust law in civil cases to shore up workers’ pay. And in another first, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in November to stop Penguin Random House’s attempt to buy Simon & Schuster on the grounds that the resulting publishing Goliath would have the power to depress advances and royalty payments to authors.The move to block the publishers’ merger “declines to even allege the historically key antitrust harm — increased prices,” the White & Case lawyers argued. It is “emblematic of the Biden administration’s and the new populist antitrust movement’s push to direct the purpose of antitrust away from consumer welfare price effects and towards other social harms.”And yet the Justice Department’s push builds on a rationale for criminal antitrust enforcement articulated since the Obama administration. “Colluding to fix wages is no different than colluding to suppress the prices of auto parts or homes sold at auction,” said Renata Hesse, acting assistant attorney general for antitrust, in November 2016. “Naked wage-fixing or no-poach agreements eliminate competition in the same irredeemable way as per se unlawful price-fixing and customer-allocation agreements do.”The Biden administration has picked up the argument with a vengeance. Last summer, President Biden issued an executive order mandating a “whole of government” effort to promote competition across the economy. Last month, the Treasury Department issued a report on just how anticompetitive labor markets have become.Corporate America is alarmed. “In their minds, everything is an antitrust issue,” said Sean Heather, senior vice president for antitrust at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “There is a role for antitrust in labor markets,” he added. “But it is a limited one.”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.A Strong Job Market: Data from the Labor Department showed that job openings remained near record levels in February.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.The latest criminal indictment, brought in January against owners and managers of four home health care agencies in Portland, Maine, is emblematic of the new approach.According to the indictment, the agencies agreed to keep the wage of health aides at $16 to $17 an hour. They encouraged other agencies to sign on, prosecutors said, and threatened an agency that raised its pay to between $17 and $18.50.The agencies’ margin is essentially the difference between the wage and the reimbursement from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. In April 2020, the department raised the rate to $26.20 an hour, from $20.52, explicitly to “fund pay raises for approximately 20,000 workers,” according to the indictment.The agencies’ agreement, the indictment said, was “a per se unlawful, and thus unreasonable, restraint of interstate trade and commerce in violation of Section l of the Sherman Act.”That blows directly against the position of the Chamber of Commerce. Last April, it filed a brief in a similar case, opposing the government’s argument against an outpatient medical care facility that agreed with a rival not to solicit each other’s employees. The Justice Department was overstepping, the brief argued, because the company couldn’t know the behavior was “per se” illegal — an outright breach of the law irrespective of its effects — since the government’s argument had not been tested in court.American companies “are entitled to fair notice of what conduct is and is not prohibited by the federal antitrust laws,” it argued. “Because no court has previously held that nonsolicitation agreements are per se illegal, this prosecution falls far short of the fair notice that due process requires.”A federal court in a separate case has since sided with the government’s interpretation. In November, Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Texas denied a motion to dismiss a federal criminal indictment alleging wage-fixing at a staffing company providing physical therapists, agreeing that price fixing would be “per se” illegal and that the defendants had fair warning that their behavior was against the law.But beyond the legal wrangling brought about by the Justice Department’s new approach, there are striking examples of efforts by employers to suppress wages.“I suspect those things are all over the place,” said Ioana Marinescu, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, whether it is employers hoarding highly paid computer engineers or chicken plants paying $15 an hour. “The benefits of collusion may not be super large, but if the costs are quite low, why not do it if you can extract profit?”Until recently, over half of all franchise agreements in the United States, at companies including McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube and H&R Block, included provisions barring franchisees from hiring one another’s workers, according to research by the economists Alan B. Krueger and Orley Ashenfelter. Economic analysis has found that suppressing competition for workers, reducing their options, generally means lower wages. After challenges from several state attorneys general, hundreds of companies abandoned the practice.Another study found that 18 percent of workers are under contracts that forbid moving to a competitor. Most are highly skilled and well paid. Employers who invest in their training can plausibly argue that the noncompete clauses protect their investment and prevent workers from taking valuable information to a rival.But such provisions cover 14 percent of less-educated workers and 13 percent of low-wage workers, who receive little or no training and hold no trade secrets. Several states have challenged the provisions in court. Some, including California, Oklahoma and North Dakota, have prohibited their enforcement.Then there is the litigation. There are civil cases from the 1990s: one by the Justice Department against the Utah Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration and several hospitals in the state that shared wage information about registered nurses and matched one another’s wages, keeping their pay low. Lawsuits filed by nurses in 2006 accusing hospital systems of conspiring to suppress their wages led to multimillion-dollar settlements in Albany and Detroit.In 2007, the Justice Department sued the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association for fixing the rates that hospitals paid to nursing agencies for their temporary nurses, putting a cap on their wages. In settling the case, the association agreed to abandon the practice.The pace picked up after a Justice Department lawsuit in 2010 taking aim at no-poaching agreements involving Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar and later Lucasfilm. The companies settled the case without admitting guilt or paying fines, but Adobe, Apple, Google and Intel paid $415 million to settle a subsequent class-action lawsuit.Since then, lawsuits have been filed across the industrial landscape. Pixar, Disney and Lucasfilm paid $100 million to settle an antitrust challenge to their agreements not to hire one another’s animation engineers. In 2019, 15 “cultural exchange” sponsors designated by the State Department paid $65.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that they colluded to depress the wages of tens of thousands of au pairs on J-1 visas. Since 2019 Duke University and the University of North Carolina have paid nearly $75 million to settle two antitrust cases over agreements not to recruit each other’s faculty members.This month, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission arguing that Planned Companies, one of the largest building services contractors in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, illegally forbids its clients to hire its janitors, concierges or security guards either directly or through another firm — locking its workers in.In perhaps the biggest case of all, in 2019 a class action was filed against the American chicken industry, growing to cover some 20 producers responsible for about 90 percent of the poultry market. The complaint accused them of exchanging detailed wage information to fix the wages of about a quarter-million employees, including hourly workers deboning chickens, refrigeration technicians and feed-mill supervisors on a salary.Four of the chicken processors have settled, agreeing to pay tens of millions of dollars. In February, Webber, Meng, Sahl & Company, one of two firms that collected wage data for the poultry companies, settled as well, offering a fairly clear window into the industry’s attempts to suppress wages.In a declaration to the court, part of the settlement agreement, the law firm’s president, Jonathan Meng, said the chicken companies had used the firm “as an unwitting tool to conceal their misconduct.” He offered details about how poultry executives would share detailed wage information. “They wanted to know how much and when their competitors were planning to increase salaries and salary ranges,” he said, because it would allow them “to limit and reduce their salary increases and salary range increases.”Most of the defendants, however, are still contesting the case. They have argued that to prove collusion, the plaintiffs must show that wages across the industry moved in tandem, an argument the court has yet to rule on.Another hurdle is convincing judges that chicken industry workers amount to a specific occupation. If workers deboning chickens could easily leave the poultry industry to work for a better wage at McDonald’s or 7-Eleven, they would have a tougher case to prove that anticompetitive practices by poultry processors caused them direct harm.In pursuing such cases, the government is likely to be challenged by corporate groups every step of the way.Mr. Heather at the Chamber of Commerce, for one, argues that “this narrative that lax antitrust is responsible for income inequality” is wrong. He notes a study sponsored by the chamber showing that corporate concentration is no higher than in 2002 and has been declining since 2007. “The heart of the premise is just flawed,” Mr. Heather said.Moreover, Mr. Heather said, labor markets are already covered by labor laws. “The chamber has an objection to the blending of antitrust and workplace regulation,” he said.Mr. Gidley of White & Case broadly agrees. “It is intriguing to us to see the last 40 years of antitrust law thrown out the window,” he said in an interview. “If antitrust is no longer about low prices but about a clean environment and wages and this, that and the other, it loses its compass.” More

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    Britain’s inflation rate climbed to 7 percent, the highest in 30 years.

    In Britain, several pieces of dispiriting economic news arrived this week: Prices are rising at their fastest pace in 30 years, wages adjusted for inflation fell the most in nearly eight years and the economy hardly grew in February.It is mounting evidence of what is turning out to be a challenging year for many, with the tightest squeeze on household budgets forecast since records began in 1956.Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Britain’s economic growth had slowed. But that war has weakened Britain’s economic outlook, as is the case in many countries. Rising energy costs are passing through to household bills. Manufacturers, farmers and supermarkets have warned about the rising cost of essential inputs into their supply chain from goods produced in Russia and Ukraine — including metals, wheat, fertilizer and sunflower oil. The pain is wide-reaching: Even fish and chips, a traditionally cheap British staple, has jumped in price.The Consumer Prices Index rose 7 percent in March from a year earlier, up from 6.2 percent the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday. That exceeded economists’ predictions. Inflation was driven by record prices for gasoline and diesel, as well as by large increases at restaurants and hotels, for food and drinks, and clothing and furniture.This broad-based increase in prices for products that are usually seen as less volatile “will be viewed with particular discomfort by the Bank of England,” Sandra Horsfield, an economist at Investec, wrote in a note. The central bank has raised interest rates three times since December to their prepandemic level in an effort to arrest price increases, even as policymakers have cut the outlook for economic growth.The statistics agency also said on Wednesday that wholesale prices were rising at their fastest pace since September 2008. Output prices of manufacturers rose nearly 12 percent in March from a year earlier, while their input prices rose 19 percent, a record high.On Tuesday, data showed Britain’s unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, back to its prepandemic low, while there are a record number of job vacancies. Signs of a tight labor market are fueling expectations that workers will be in a position to demand larger salaries. Wages, excluding bonuses, in December to February rose 4 percent from a year earlier, but at the moment the gains are being eaten away by inflation. Once adjusted for price increases, pay fell 1 percent, the most since mid-2014.The British economy has recovered from its pandemic slump, but growth is waning. After the Omicron wave subsided in February, bookings for accommodation and travel services increased, offering the main contributor to economic growth that month. The economy grew just 0.1 percent, as manufacturing of cars, electrical products and chemicals all declined, the statistics agency said on Monday. More

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    Inflation Hits Fastest Pace Since 1981, at 8.5% Through March

    Gasoline weighed heavily in the increases, while prices moderated in several categories. Some economists say the overall rate may have peaked.Inflation hit 8.5 percent in the United States last month, the fastest 12-month pace since 1981, as a surge in gasoline prices tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine added to sharp increases coming from the collision of strong demand and stubborn pandemic-related supply shortages.Fuel prices jumped to record levels across much of the nation and grocery costs soared, the Labor Department said Tuesday in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index. The price pressures have been painful for American households, especially those that have lower incomes and devote a big share of their budgets to necessities.But the news was not uniformly bad: A measure that strips out volatile food and fuel prices decelerated slightly from February as used car prices swooned. Economists and policymakers took that as a sign that inflation in goods might be starting to cool off after climbing at a breakneck pace for much of the past year.In fact, several economists said March may be a high-water mark for overall inflation. Price increases could begin abating in the coming months in part because gasoline prices have declined somewhat — the national average for a gallon was $4.10 on Tuesday, according to AAA, down from a $4.33 peak in March. Some researchers also expect consumers to stop buying so many goods, whether furniture or outdoor equipment, which could begin to take pressure off overtaxed supply chains.“These numbers are likely to represent something of a peak,” said Gregory Daco, the chief economist at Ernst & Young’s strategy consultancy, EY-Parthenon. Still, he said, it will be crucial to watch whether price increases excluding food and fuel — so-called core prices — slow down in the months ahead.A letup would be welcome news for the White House, because inflation has become a major liability for Democrats as midterm elections approach in November. Public confidence in the economy has fallen sharply, and as rapid price increases undermine support for President Biden and his party, they could imperil their control of Congress.Inflation Rates Around the World More