Jan 10, 2022
The Weekly Scan January 10, 2022
Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of January 10, 2022.
Keepin’ up with the quits. A record 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor. The total quits rate jumped to 3%, an uptick from 2.8% in October. Meanwhile, there were an estimated 12 million job openings at the end of December, up from 10.6 million in November.
- The takeaway: Employers have cited higher wages, more flexibility, better opportunities, burnout, and stress as reasons why workers have left jobs. In the healthcare industry, which has been battered by Covid-19, the quits rate reached a record high of 3%. In addition to record quits and job openings, the labor participation rate, which measures how many eligible workers are employed or seeking employment, remains below pandemic levels. November’s labor participation rate was 61.8%, compared to 63.4% in January 2020.
Welcome to the fast lane. Japanese car manufacturer Toyota ousted General Motors (GM) as the highest-selling car manufacturer by annual sales in the U.S. in 2021, for the first time ever. Toyota sold about 114,00 more cars than GM in the U.S., with its total sales reaching 2.3 million, a 10% increase from the previous year. GM’s sales, meanwhile, decreased 13% to 2.2 million cars. GM has been the industry leader in U.S. car sales since 1931. Toyota reportedly benefited from stockpiling semiconductors ahead of a global microchip shortage. Other automakers—including Tesla, Hyundai, Honda, and Mazda—also experience above-average sales.
- The takeaway: The semiconductor shortage, as well as general supply-chain disruptions, has hurt the auto industry, which was already suffering from lower sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Semiconductors are required for the manufacturing of many of today’s cars, as well as home appliances, technological devices, and more. Since early 2021, chip makers have experienced shortfalls in manufacturing microprocessors used in those products. While total car sales increased slightly in 2021 year-over-year to roughly 15 million cars, sales are still far below the pre-pandemic level of 17 million vehicles.
Testing 123. As the Omicron variant surges in the U.S., a national shortage of Covid-19 tests has sent the price of at-home tests through the roof. In some cases, the price of a single at-home test sold online has tripled, with the popular BinaxNOW test reportedly selling for $75 from some secondary retailers. The average price for a two-pack test typically ranges between $15 and $25. Popular retailers including Kroger and Walmart have also increased the price of at-home tests in recent days, following the end of a deal with the federal government to sell the kits at a discount.
- The takeaway. President Biden is reportedly in the final stages of sending 500 million rapid tests free of charge, directly to households via a federal website. Average daily Covid-19 infections reached about 405,000 in the first week of January, approximately 60% higher than the previous U.S. peak in January 2021, according to reports. There are three tests currently available for Covid-19. The most accurate is something called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is typically administered in a doctor’s office. Another test, called an antigen test, looks for antibodies to the virus in the blood, and must also be administered in a medical setting. Rapid tests, which are considered less accurate than PCR tests, rely on a nasal swab.
Live mas every day. Fast food chain Taco Bell said it will launch a taco-per-day subscription service called the Taco Lover’s Pass, which will allow people to get one taco each day for 30 days for roughly $10 per month. Customers reportedly will be able to get one crunchy taco, soft taco, spicy potato soft taco, Doritos Locos taco, or the supreme version of any of those with the subscription. In a test of the program, Taco Bell found that 20% of subscribers were new to Taco Bell’s existing rewards program, and 20% renewed the subscription a second time.
- The takeaway: The subscription program is an attempt by Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, to recover from pandemic-induced losses. The company is reportedly hoping that the program will encourage customers to visit more, and purchase additional items. In its most recently reported quarter, Yum Brands said U.S. same-store sales fell 5% below expectations. Other restaurant chains, including bakery and sandwich chain Panera and salad purveyor Sweetgreen, have also experimented with their own subscription services in recent months.
Here’s what we covered last week in the Scan:
- The fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in the U.S. economic recovery.
- Payments for the advanced child tax credit, which provided nearly 30 million qualifying families with hundreds of dollars in monthly federal payments, ended.
- Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lead Steve Dickson have reportedly asked AT&T and Verizon to delay their launch of 5G.
- Amid surging prices for food nationwide, the Supreme Court will consider a petition from the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation over a California law.