The pandemic highlighted vast inequalities in the United States, especially in the U.S. labor market. Striking disparities were magnified in who could work from home and who had to go into work in person, who was able to keep their job and who suffered from lost work hours or employment altogether, who had health insurance to seek care when they needed it and who didn’t, and who had the ability to take paid sick days to stay home when sick, get vaccinated, or take care of loved ones and who did not. Yesterday, the latest data on employer benefits was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Stark inequalities persist in access to workplace benefits. One that hits hard is the inability of over 60% of the lowest-wage workers in the U.S. to be able to earn paid sick days to care for themselves or family members.
Figure A below shows access to paid sick days is vastly unequal: workers at the bottom are disproportionately denied this important security. The highest wage workers (top 10%) are two and a half times as likely to have access to paid sick leave as the lowest paid workers (bottom 10%). Whereas 96% of the highest wage workers had access to paid sick days, only 38% of the lowest paid workers are able to earn paid sick days.
Workers’ ability to earn paid sick days varies greatly across the country. In lieu of federal action, many states have passed legislation to guarantee paid sick days, but many workers have been left behind. Figure B shows vast differences across Census divisions in workers’ ability to use paid sick time to take care of themselves or their family members. The share with access to paid sick days ranges from only 67% in East South Central states (Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee) up to 94% in the Pacific states (California, Oregon, and Washington). Notably, many state governments in the East South Central and West South Central Census division have passed preemption laws prohibiting local municipalities from passing paid leave and sick day policies.
There is also huge variation in access to paid sick days across the private sector. Full-time workers are much more likely to have paid sick days than part time workers (86% versus 51%). Unionized workers have greater access to paid sick days than nonunion workers (87% versus 76%). At 96% access, workers in management, business, and financial occupations have higher rates than any other occupation category. Services occupations have the least at 62%.
Across industrial sectors, paid sick leave also varies greatly, as shown in Figure C. Finance and insurance has the highest rate of coverage at 98%, closely followed by utilities (95%), professional, scientific, and technical (94%), and information (93%). Only about half of private-sector workers in leisure and hospitality (53%) have access to paid sick days, leaving the other half—often with public-facing jobs—without the ability to stay home to take care of themselves or their families when sick.
These averages also mask important differences within various jobs and the barriers some workers face when trying to access paid leave options, such as harsh policies on employer attendance, scheduling, and forced overtime. For instance, in a recent labor dispute, we’ve seen the barriers blocking many rail workers from taking paid (or even unpaid) time off for illness or medical appointments without penalty. Adequate paid sick leave policy means workers can take it when they need it.
Fortunately, there is a relatively simple way to address some of these inequities: the federal government can pass legislation to provide paid sick leave for all workers. Paid sick leave not only helps reduce transmission of disease, it also provides economic security for workers who might otherwise lose income if they have to take time off from work.transmission pandemic
Zika Vaccine Targeting Nonstructural Viral Proteins Found Effective in Mice
UCLA scientists report positive preclinical results on the safety and efficacy of an RNA vaccine (ZVAX) against the mosquito borne Zika virus that severely…
Positive preclinical results on the safety and efficacy of an RNA vaccine (ZVAX) against the mosquito-borne Zika virus that severely compromises brain development in children of infected mothers, were published in the journal Microbiology Spectrum on September 28, 2022 “Replication-Deficient Zika Vector-Based Vaccine Provides Maternal and Fetal Protection in Mouse Model.” The investigators tested the vaccine in pregnant mice and report the vaccine prevents systemic Zika infection in both mothers and developing fetuses.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the power of a strong pandemic preparedness plan and clear communication about prevention methods—all culminating in the rapid rollout of safe and reliable vaccines,” said senior author of the study, Vaithilingaraja Arumugaswami, DVM, PhD, an associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “Our research is a crucial first step in developing an effective vaccination program that could curb the spread of Zika virus and prevent large-scale spread from occurring.”
Engineering the vaccine
The experimental vaccine is composed of RNA that encodes nonstructural proteins found within the pathogen that trigger an immune response against the virus.
Arumugaswami said, “Engineering the vaccine involved deleting the part of the Zika genome that codes for the viral shell. This modification both stimulates an immunogenic reaction and prevents the virus from replicating and spreading from cell to cell.”
Eliminating structural proteins that mutate rapidly to escape the immune system also ensures that the vaccine trains the recipient’s immune system to recognize viral elements that are less likely to alter. The researchers packaged the replication deficient Zika vaccine particles in human producer cells and verified antigen expression in vitro.
“We deleted not just the gene responsible for encoding the capsid, but also those encoding the viral envelope and membrane. This vaccine is replication-deficient—it cannot spread among cells,” said co-author of the study, Nikhil Chakravarty, a master’s student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Chakravarty clarified, “The deletion itself does not lead to stimulation of immune response but it makes this vaccine safer by rendering it replication deficient. The nonstructural proteins encoded by the RNA packaged in the vaccine stimulate more of a T-cell immune response that can specifically recognize Zika-infected cells and prevent viral replication and the spread of infection.”
The team showed increased effector T cell numbers in vaccinated versus unvaccinated mouse models. Using mass cytometry, the researchers showed high levels of splenic CD81 positive T cells and effector memory T cell responses and low levels of proinflammatory cell responses in vaccinated animals, suggesting that endogenous expression of the nonstructural viral proteins by the vaccine induced cellular immunity. There were no changes in antibody mediated humoral immunity in the vaccinated mice.
“We saw complete protective immunity against Zika virus in both pregnant and nonpregnant animals, speaking to the strength and utility of our vaccine candidate,” said Chakravarty. “This supports the deployment of this vaccine in pregnant mothers—the population, perhaps, most at need—upon further clinical evaluation. This would help mitigate some of the socioeconomic fallout from a potential Zika outbreak, as well as prevent neurological and developmental deficits in Zika-exposed children.”
The investigators administered the RNA vaccine using a prime-boost regimen where an initial dose was followed up by a booster dose. To estimate the durability of the vaccine, the researchers monitored the mice for a month-and-a-half, which is equivalent to approximately seven years in humans.
Chakravarty said, “Since the vaccine is geared toward stimulating T-cell response, we anticipate it will induce longer-lasting immunity than if it were just stimulating antibody immune response.”
The global Zika outbreak in 2016, led to efforts in developing effective therapies and vaccines against the virus. However, no vaccines or treatments have been approved for Zika virus yet.
“Other Zika vaccine candidates mainly focused on using structural proteins as immunogens, which preferably stimulates antibody response. Our candidate is unique in that it targets nonstructural proteins, which are more conserved across viral variants, and stimulate T-cell-mediated immunity,” said Chakravarty.
Epidemiological studies have shown that the Zika virus spreads approximately every seven years. Moreover, the habitats of Zika-spreading mosquitoes are increasing due to climate change, increasing the likelihood of human exposure to the virus.
“Given that RNA viruses—the category to which both Zika and the SARS family of viruses belong—are highly prone to evolving and mutating rapidly, there will likely be more outbreaks in the near future,” said Arumugaswami.
“It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing the virus spread again,” said Kouki Morizono, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at UCLA and co-senior author of this study.
Before the vaccine candidate can be tested in humans, the researchers will be test it non-human primate models.vaccine preclinical genome genetic rna pandemic covid-19 spread
Why is Russia sending oil and gas workers to fight in Ukraine? It may signal more energy cutoffs ahead
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not hesitated to use energy as a weapon. An expert on global energy markets analyzes what could come next.
Russia’s effort to conscript 300,000 reservists to counter Ukraine’s military advances in Kharkiv has drawn a lot of attention from military and political analysts. But there’s also a potential energy angle.
In its call for reservists, Russia’s leadership specifically targeted oil and gas workers for the draft. One might assume that energy workers, who provide fuel and export revenue that Russia desperately needs, are too valuable to the war effort to be conscripted. But this surprising move follows escalating energy conflicts between Russia and Europe.
The explosions in September 2022 that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines from Russia to Europe, and that may have been sabotage, are just the latest developments in this complex and unstable arena. As an analyst of global energy policy, I expect that more energy cutoffs could be in the cards – either directly ordered by the Kremlin to escalate economic pressure on European governments or as a result of new sabotage, or even because shortages of trained Russian manpower as a result of conscription lead to accidents or stoppages.
Dwindling natural gas flows
Russia has significantly reduced natural gas shipments to Europe in an effort to pressure European nations who are siding with Ukraine. In May 2022, the state-owned energy company Gazprom closed a key pipeline that runs through Belarus and Poland.
In June, the company reduced shipments to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has a capacity of 170 million cubic meters per day, to only 40 million cubic meters per day. A few months later, Gazprom announced that Nord Stream 1 needed repairs and shut it down completely. Now U.S. and European leaders charge that Russia deliberately damaged the pipeline to further disrupt European energy supplies. The timing of the pipeline explosion coincided with the start up of a major new natural gas pipeline from Norway to Poland.
Russia has very limited alternative export infrastructure that can move Siberian natural gas to other customers, like China, so most of the gas it would normally be selling to Europe cannot be shifted to other markets. Natural gas wells in Siberia may need to be taken out of production, or shut in, in energy-speak, which could free up workers for conscription.
Restricting Russian oil profits
Russia’s call-up of reservists also includes workers from companies specifically focused on oil. This has led some seasoned analysts to question whether supply disruptions might spread to oil, either by accident or on purpose.
One potential trigger is the Dec. 5, 2022, deadline for the start of phase six of European Union energy sanctions against Russia. Confusion about the package of restrictions and how they will relate to a cap on what buyers will pay for Russian crude oil has muted market volatility so far. But when the measures go into effect, they could initiate a new spike in oil prices.
Under this sanctions package, Europe will completely stop buying seaborne Russian crude oil. This step isn’t as damaging as it sounds, since many buyers in Europe have already shifted to alternative oil sources.
Before Russia invaded Ukraine, it exported roughly 1.4 million barrels per day of crude oil to Europe by sea, divided between Black Sea and Baltic routes. In recent months, European purchases have fallen below 1 million barrels per day. But Russia has actually been able to increase total flows from Black Sea and Baltic ports by redirecting crude oil exports to China, India and Turkey.
Russia has limited access to tankers, insurance and other services associated with moving oil by ship. Until recently, it acquired such services mainly from Europe. The change means that customers like China, India and Turkey have to transfer some of their purchases of Russian oil at sea from Russian-owned or chartered ships to ships sailing under other nations’ flags, whose services might not be covered by the European bans. This process is common and not always illegal, but often is used to evade sanctions by obscuring where shipments from Russia are ending up.
To compensate for this costly process, Russia is discounting its exports by US$40 per barrel. Observers generally assume that whatever Russian crude oil European buyers relinquish this winter will gradually find alternative outlets.
Where is Russian oil going?
The U.S. and its European allies aim to discourage this increased outflow of Russian crude by further limiting Moscow’s access to maritime services, such as tanker chartering, insurance and pilots licensed and trained to handle oil tankers, for any crude oil exports to third parties outside of the G-7 who pay rates above the U.S.-EU price cap. In my view, it will be relatively easy to game this policy and obscure how much Russia’s customers are paying.
On Sept. 9, 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued new guidance for the Dec. 5 sanctions regime. The policy aims to limit the revenue Russia can earn from its oil while keeping it flowing. It requires that unless buyers of Russian oil can certify that oil cargoes were bought for reduced prices, they will be barred from obtaining European maritime services.
However, this new strategy seems to be failing even before it begins. Denmark is still making Danish pilots available to move tankers through its precarious straits, which are a vital conduit for shipments of Russian crude and refined products. Russia has also found oil tankers that aren’t subject to European oversight to move over a third of the volume that it needs transported, and it will likely obtain more.
Traders have been getting around these sorts of oil sanctions for decades. Tricks of the trade include blending banned oil into other kinds of oil, turning off ship transponders to avoid detection of ship-to-ship transfers, falsifying documentation and delivering oil into and then later out of major storage hubs in remote parts of the globe. This explains why markets have been sanguine about the looming European sanctions deadline.
One fuel at a time
But Russian President Vladimir Putin may have other ideas. Putin has already threatened a larger oil cutoff if the G-7 tries to impose its price cap, warning that Europe will be “as frozen as a wolf’s tail,” referencing a Russian fairy tale.
U.S. officials are counting on the idea that Russia won’t want to damage its oil fields by turning off the taps, which in some cases might create long-term field pressurization problems. In my view, this is poor logic for multiple reasons, including Putin’s proclivity to sacrifice Russia’s economic future for geopolitical goals.
Russia managed to easily throttle back oil production when the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed world oil demand temporarily in 2020, and cutoffs of Russian natural gas exports to Europe have already greatly compromised Gazprom’s commercial future. Such actions show that commercial considerations are not a high priority in the Kremlin’s calculus.
How much oil would come off the market if Putin escalates his energy war? It’s an open question. Global oil demand has fallen sharply in recent months amid high prices and recessionary pressures. The potential loss of 1 million barrels per day of Russian crude oil shipments to Europe is unlikely to jack the price of oil back up the way it did initially in February 2022, when demand was still robust.
Speculators are betting that Putin will want to keep oil flowing to everyone else. China’s Russian crude imports surged as high as 2 million barrels per day following the Ukraine invasion, and India and Turkey are buying significant quantities.
Refined products like diesel fuel are due for further EU sanctions in February 2023. Russia supplies close to 40% of Europe’s diesel fuel at present, so that remains a significant economic lever.
The EU appears to know it must kick dependence on Russian energy completely, but its protected, one-product-at-a-time approach keeps Putin potentially in the driver’s seat. In the U.S., local diesel fuel prices are highly influenced by competition for seaborne cargoes from European buyers. So U.S. East Coast importers could also be in for a bumpy winter.
Amy Myers Jaffe does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.spread pandemic covid-19 oil india european europe germany poland russia ukraine eu china
Butter, garage doors and SUVs: Why shortages remain common 2½ years into the pandemic
The bullwhip effect describes small changes in demand that become amplified as they move down the supply chain, resulting in shortages. The pandemic put…
Shortages of basic goods still plague the U.S. economy – 2½ years after the pandemic’s onset turned global supply chains upside down.
Want a new car? You may have to wait as long as six months, depending on the model you order. Looking for a spicy condiment? Supplies of Sriracha hot sauce have been running dangerously low. And if you feed your cat or dog dry pet food, expect empty shelves or elevated prices.
These aren’t isolated products. Baby formula, wine and spirits, lawn chairs, garage doors, butter, cream cheese, breakfast cereal and many more items have also been facing shortages in the U.S. during 2022 – and popcorn and tomatoes are expected to be in short supply soon.
In fact, global supply chains have been under the most strain in at least a quarter-century, and have been pretty much ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
I have been immersed in supply chain management for over 35 years, both as a manager and consultant in the private sector and as an adjunct professor at Colorado State University - Global Campus.
While each product experiencing a shortage has its own story as to what went wrong, at the root of most is a concept people in my field call the “bullwhip effect.”
What is the ‘bullwhip effect’?
The term bullwhip effect was coined in 1961 by MIT computer scientist Jay Forrester in his seminal book “Industrial Dynamics.” It describes what happens when fluctuations in demand reverberate and amplify throughout the supply chain, leading to worsening problems and shortages.
Imagine the physics of cracking a whip. It starts with a small flick of the wrist, but the whip’s wave patterns grow exponentially in a chain reaction, leading to the tip, a snap – and a sharp pain for anyone on the receiving end.
The same thing can happen in supply chains when orders for a product from a retailer, say, go up or down by some amount and that gets amplified by wholesalers, distributors and raw material suppliers.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to lengthy lockdowns, massive unemployment and a whole host of other effects that messed up global supply chains, essentially supercharged the bullwhip’s snap.
Cars and chips
The supply of autos is one such example.
New as well as used vehicles have been in short supply throughout the pandemic, at times forcing consumers to wait as long as a year for the most popular models.
In early 2020, when the pandemic put most Americans in lockdown, carmakers began to anticipate a fall in demand, so they significantly scaled back production. This sent a signal to suppliers, especially of computer chips, that they would need to find different buyers for their products.
Computer chips aren’t one size fits all; they are designed differently depending on their end use. So chipmakers began making fewer chips intended for use in cars and trucks and more for computers and smart refrigerators.
So when demand for vehicles suddenly returned in early 2021, carmakers were unable to secure enough chips to ramp up production. Production last year was down about 13% from 2019 levels. Since then, chipmakers have began to produce more car-specific chips, and Congress even passed a law to beef up U.S. manufacturing of semiconductors. Some carmakers, such as Ford and General Motors, have decided to sell incomplete cars, without chips and the special features they power like touchscreens, to relieve delays.
But shortages remain. You could chalk this up to poor planning, but it’s also the bullwhip effect in action.
The bullwhip is everywhere
And this is a problem for a heck of a lot of goods and parts, especially if they, like semiconductors, come from Asia.
Most of this stuff travels to the U.S. by container ships, the cheapest means of transportation. That means goods must typically spend a week or longer traversing the Pacific Ocean.
The bullwhip effect comes in when a disruption in the information flow from customer to supplier happens.
For example, let’s say a customer sees that an order of lawn chairs has not been delivered by the expected date, perhaps because of a minor transportation delay. So the customer complains to the retailer, which in turn orders more from the manufacturer. Manufacturers see orders increase and pass the orders on to the suppliers with a little added, just in case.
What started out as a delay in transportation now has become a major increase in orders all down the supply chain. Now the retailer gets delivery of all the products it overordered and reduces the next order to the factory, which reduces its order to suppliers, and so on.
Now try to visualize the bullwhip of orders going up and down at the suppliers’ end.
The pandemic caused all kinds of transportation disruptions – whether due to a lack of workers, problems at a port or something else – most of which triggered the bullwhip effect.
The end isn’t nigh
When will these problems end? The answer will likely disappoint you.
As the world continues to become more interconnected, a minor problem can become larger if information is not available. Even with the right information at the right time, life happens. A storm might cause a ship carrying new cars from Europe to be lost at sea. Having only a few sources of baby formula causes a shortage when a safety issue shuts down the largest producer. Russia invades Ukraine, and 10% of the world’s grain is held hostage.
The early effects of the pandemic in 2020 led to a sharp drop in demand, which rippled through supply chains and decreased production. A strong U.S. economy and consumers flush with coronavirus cash led to a surge in demand in 2021, and the system had a hard time catching up. Now the impact of soaring inflation and a looming recession will reverse that effect, leading to a glut of stuff and a drop in orders. And the cycle will repeat.
As best as I can tell, these disruptions will take many years to recover from. And as recent inflation reduces demand for goods, and consumers begin cutting back, the bullwhip will again work its way through the supply chain – and you’ll see more shortages as it does.
Michael Okrent does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.recession unemployment pandemic coronavirus covid-19 congress lockdown recession unemployment europe russia ukraine
Research into 1930s commuting in London shows how public transport boosts the labour market
COVID: how ICUs in England were stretched to cope with the pandemic
Emergent closes on buying smallpox drug Tembexa from Chimerix with a $238M payment
Historic $75 million gift from Orlando Corporation will strengthen health care and medical education in Scarborough and the Eastern GTA
Mish’s Daily: Step Back to the Monthly Chart on Transportation
Coalesce lands fresh capital to transform data at ‘enterprise scale’
COVID vaccine: Who’s searching for reassurance?
We can turn to popular culture for lessons about how to live with COVID-19 as endemic
Louis Pasteur’s scientific discoveries in the 19th century revolutionized medicine and continue to save the lives of millions today
Can Graphite Bio Realize the Promise of CRISPR Gene Editing to Develop One-time Cures?
Economics15 hours ago
Global IPO market continues to plummet as Q3 draws to a close
Crypto10 hours ago
F1’s Daniel Ricciardo cruises into crypto at Token2049
Economics18 hours ago
Here’s Why Your Boss May Reject Your Business Travel Request
Economics5 hours ago
FDA clears Dupixent as first drug for rare skin disorder
Spread & Containment15 hours ago
Mish’s Daily: Step Back to the Monthly Chart on Transportation
Crypto21 hours ago
Next Bitcoin bull run to be half story, half utility — Mike Novogratz at Token2049
Economics20 hours ago
Cox Automotive Lowers Full-Year New-Vehicle Sales Forecast as September Volumes Hold Steady at Low Level; Third Quarter Sales Volume Expected to Decline Versus Q3 2021
International11 hours ago
Are We Falling As Rome Did?