The Week in Business: Vaccine Mandates
Job growth stalled. Awards season fizzled. And confirmation hearings for President Biden’s nominees for the two top Fed posts are coming up.
What’s Up? (Jan. 2-8)
Shifting Guidance for Employers
Businesses were grappling with increased staff shortages while workers called in sick or tested positive for Covid-19 as well as shifting guidance on what they are required to do to keep their workers safe. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stood by its guidance that Americans who test positive for the coronavirus could end isolation after five days without obtaining a negative test. The omission of a testing requirement has been criticized by some public health experts, and the agency had been widely expected to add testing to its guidelines. Walmart told workers on Tuesday that it would cut its paid time off for workers who contract the virus to one week, down from two. On Friday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of two rules from the Biden administration: One requires large private businesses to ensure workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly tests and the other requires some health care workers to be vaccinated. Macy’s requested the vaccination status of its employees last week, while Starbucks set a Feb. 9 deadline for its U.S. workers to be fully vaccinated and Citigroup said it would dismiss unvaccinated employees by the end of the month.
Job Growth Stalls
Employers are still having trouble finding workers. The U.S. economy added 199,000 jobs in December, down from 249,000 in November, the Labor Department said on Friday. It was the weakest job growth of the year, even before the Omicron variant of the coronavirus presented a new threat to the economy. The problem appears to be that demand for workers is outpacing available candidates. The unemployment rate in December fell to 3.9 percent from 4.2 percent, while average hourly earnings rose 4.7 percent over the year — a sign that companies are struggling to attract and retain workers. Data released Tuesday showed that more Americans quit their jobs in November than in any other month on record.
Guilty Verdict in Elizabeth Holmes Case
After a trial that lasted more than three months and seven days of deliberations, the jury in the Elizabeth Holmes case reached a verdict on Monday, finding the Theranos founder guilty on four of 11 charges of fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, terms that are likely to be served concurrently. The case raised questions about Silicon Valley’s “fake it until you make it” culture and set off a debate about whether Ms. Holmes’s behavior reflects anything other than one entrepreneur’s false and misleading actions. Ms. Holmes is likely to appeal, and a sentencing date is expected to be set this week.
What’s Next? (Jan. 9-15)
Awards Season Fizzles
The entertainment industry heads into a diminished 2022 awards season this week. The Critics Choice Awards, initially scheduled for Sunday, have been postponed indefinitely because of coronavirus concerns. The Golden Globes, also scheduled for Sunday, will take place without an audience or a red carpet after questions were raised about possible financial missteps and a lack of diversity within the group that hands out the awards. The Grammy Awards, originally scheduled for Jan. 31, have been postponed; the Palm Springs International Film Festival, scheduled to run through this week, has been canceled; and the Sundance Film Festival will take place online only at the end of January. Plans for an in-person Academy Awards on March 27 remain unchanged, but relatively few people have seen the movies that are most likely to win Oscars.
A Measure of Inflation
On Wednesday, the Department of Labor will report how much prices rose in December. In November, the Consumer Price Index, an important measure of inflation, rose at its fastest rate in nearly 40 years, and central banks around the world have begun efforts to cool off the economy. Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting released last week suggested that it may withdraw support for the economy more quickly than previously expected.
Fed Confirmation Hearings
The Senate will hold separate confirmation hearings this week for both Jerome H. Powell, who was nominated by President Biden for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, and Lael Brainard, Mr. Biden’s nominee for deputy chair. Though some progressive Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have said they will oppose Mr. Biden’s renomination of Mr. Powell, both Democrats and Republicans have expressed support for the appointment, which was widely seen as a signal of consistency. Mr. Powell will probably be asked about the controversy surrounding a financial transaction made by the departing vice chair of the Fed, Richard H. Clarida. Mr. Clarida bought shares in an investment fund that holds stocks one day before the Fed announced that it would rescue markets that were plunging at the start of the pandemic.
BlackBerry models that use the company’s operating systems stopped working on Tuesday, ending an era for the once-ubiquitous device. Apple’s market capitalization briefly hit $3 trillion for the first time. Cruises kept cruising despite warnings from the C.D.C. And airlines continued to cancel thousands of flights a day.