Basis Points – August 11, 2022

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Above the Fold 

Millions of Americans Still Not Showing Up for Work 

While many were hoping that this summer would be less troubling for the labor market, it appears that staffing headaches have continued to ail many businesses, with some even claiming that now has been the most difficult time throughout the entirety of the pandemic in terms of keeping operations going. Current staffing shortages are due to a combination of many issues, including continuing COVID-19 sick leave (new subvariants have even caused COVID-19 infections to increase in recent weeks), along with planned vacations and ongoing hiring challenges. Reports also indicated that “sick days” in general continue to run far above average.  

 While just one of these issues might be manageable for American corporations, having to contend with all these simultaneously has left many businesses (service-focused businesses, especially restaurants) struggling to adapt as able employees are stretched thinner and thinner. This has left many analysts wondering how we can see a path forward, as COVID-19 might not be as big of an issue as before, but it will seemingly be concerning for the near future. Current suggestions point to the needed changes in business culture to combat current labor issues. Factor in an economic downturn and matters become more complicated.  

 While remote workplaces have had to overcome their own challenges, physical workplaces will need to handle unique logistical challenges to help attract employees and retain them, and keep customers happy as well. Many observers point to the fact that sick-leave policies are still unchanged in many places, even with COVID-19 providing an unprecedented health emergency. If businesses can look to provide more flexible absence policies to accommodate workers, along with other benefits to attract new hires, they may be more well-equipped to confront the current challenges of the labor market. Obviously, workers may also need to return to the workforce to best fill the voids. 

 Ultimately, an individual business cannot control the wider labor market or tackle global issues like pandemics. Their focus is best spent on noticing the trends that find success in their industry and fortifying their own workplace to support employee success. 

Three Things 

U.S. Says “No” to (Some) Chinese Solar Goods 

In an effort to take a harsher stance on human rights abuses and forced labor, U.S. customs has begun to detain shipments from major solar-panel producers based in China’s Xinjiang region. The Xinjiang region is responsible for almost half of the world’s supply of polysilicon, an essential component in solar panels, and some projects are already seeing increased costs. This is all tied to the new Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that took effect at the end of June, and while solar seems to be the industry most prominently affected, we may see more disruption as this law continues to be enforced. 

The CHIPS and Science Act Becomes Official 

This week, President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law, a $280 billion initiative to empower American innovation, with $53 billion marked specifically for U.S. semiconductor manufacturing. This move is at least in part inspired by the current global semiconductor shortage, largely due to issues with Chinese manufacturing. With a renewed interest in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, the U.S. can look to capitalize on the worldwide growing demand for tech products. 

Oh SNAP! Another Tech Company is Planning Layoffs 

Prominent tech companies like TikTok, Twitter and Meta have announced incoming layoffs, and it looks like Snap Inc. will be the next major business to join them. As stock prices fell to near record lows due to disappointing earnings results and a rough forecast for the rest of the year, sources reported that Snap is now planning layoffs, with an exact number not yet determined. This current downturn can be attributed to the volatile state of the economy, difficulty with effective ad targeting and poorly performing product ventures. (Snap released a $230 selfie drone that has yet to catch on with a wide audience.) 

In the Know 

The Selfie Age 

While it’s difficult to tell where the term “selfie” truly originated, it was officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013 defined as “a photo of yourself that you take, typically with a smartphone or webcam, and usually post on social media.” Only a year later, Twitter then dubbed 2014 as the “Year of the Selfie” with this new term being mentioned over 92 million times, representing a 500% increase from the year before. 

 Since then, as photo technology has continued to develop, selfies have maintained and even increased their popularity. Of the nearly 1.72 trillion photos taken annually, selfies will account for about 4% of those. Surveys have also revealed how important selfies have become for people, especially the younger generation. It is reported that for 18- to 24-year-olds, 1 in 3 photos they take will be a selfie, and in a single year, people can spend 54 hours or more taking these photos (it’s suggested that around 7 minutes is needed to take an ideal selfie). 

Over the course of a lifetime, it is estimated that millennials will take around 25,700 selfies, capturing important moments of their lives, whether it be casual gatherings with friends or expensive vacations around the globe (the Eiffel Tower is reportedly the most popular selfie destination). The selfie has only continued to increase in popularity since it was introduced, and with photo and filter technology still rapidly advancing, this photo format does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

The information contained herein represents the views of Westwood Wealth Management at a specific point in time and is based on information believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty is made concerning the accuracy or completeness of any data compiled herein. Any statements non-factual in nature constitute only current opinion, which is subject to change. Any statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. Past performance is not indicative of future results. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell or otherwise invest in any of the securities/sectors/countries that may be mentioned.