Business briefing

The daily business briefing: September 15, 2021

Inflation eases in August but remains high, Amazon raises starting pay to $18 an hour for some new hires, and more

1

Prices rise in August, but less than expected 

Inflation eased but remained elevated in August, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday. The consumer-price index rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in August from July, down from 0.5 percent in July compared to June. The increase in June was even higher, at 0.9 percent. Economists had expected a 0.4 percent August rise. The price increases have come as the latest surge in coronavirus cases slowed the economic recovery and extended labor and supply shortages. Prices were up by 5.3 percent in August from a year earlier, down from 5.4 percent adjusted annual increases in June and July. Real wages adjusted for inflation fell by 0.5 percent in August, as rising prices more than offset pay increases, according to data from the Labor Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

2

Amazon to hike starting pay to $18 an hour in hiring push 

Amazon said Tuesday it would make 125,000 new hires in the United States and raise its average starting wage to $18 an hour in regions where the labor market is tightest. The minimum wage will remain at $15 an hour in other areas, said Dave Bozeman, vice president of delivery services at Amazon. The new jobs will be in transportation and fulfillment. New hires in some areas will get sign-on bonuses up to $3,000, and some of the new jobs could pay as much as $22.50 an hour, the e-commerce giant said. The wage increases marked the latest in a series of moves by big U.S. employers to attract new workers during a labor shortage blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.

3

Senators vow inquiry of report that Facebook knows Instagram harms some girls

Senators said Tuesday they would launch an investigation after The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook's own research found that the company's photo-sharing app, Instagram, was harmful to many young users, especially teenage girls.  "Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse," the researchers said in a 2020 internal presentation reviewed by the Journal. Facebook has been conducting studies on Instagram's influence on young people for three years. Without prompting, teens also blame Instagram for increased anxiety and depression, one slide said. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently downplayed the app's negative effects and told lawmakers that "using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits."

4

Stock futures rise slightly

U.S. stock index futures rose early Wednesday following Tuesday's losses. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all up by roughly 0.3 percent several hours before the opening bell, ahead of the latest economic data. The Dow fell by 0.8 percent on Tuesday as investors expressed concerns about economic damage from the Delta-variant-fueled coronavirus surge and the Federal Reserve's timetable for tapering the easy-money policies it has been using to boost the recovery. The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped by 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. After eight months of market gains, many strategists are warning a correction could be looming.

5

Broadway blockbusters return after coronavirus closures

Some of Broadway's biggest shows, including The Lion King, Wicked, and Hamilton, resumed performances on Tuesday after an 18-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Some other shows restarted earlier, but the return of the musical-theater powerhouses, with mask and vaccine requirements, represented a big step for the industry, even as a coronavirus surge driven by the highly contagious Delta variant slows the economic recovery. "Broadway, and all of the arts and culture of the city, express the life, the energy, the diversity, the spirit of New York City," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Tuesday. "It's in our heart and soul. It's also so much of what people do to make a living in this town … So, this is a big night for New York City's comeback."

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