Business briefing

The daily business briefing: September 12, 2022

Study finds COVID is still keeping 500,000 out of labor force, the Biden administration expands restrictions on chip shipments to China, and more

1

Study says COVID still keeping 500,000 out of work force

COVID-19 is continuing to force about 500,000 people to stay out of the U.S. labor force, according to a study released Monday by economists Gopi Shah Goda of Stanford University and Evan J. Soltas of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Millions quit jobs during the pandemic. Some retired, some lacked child care, some feared infection. "If we stay where we are with COVID infection rates going forward, we expect that 500,000-person loss to persist until either exposure goes down or severity goes down," Soltas said. The labor force, a measure of those working or seeking employment, rose to 164.7 million in August, topping the February 2020 pre-pandemic level for the first time but falling short of where the U.S. labor force would have been.

2

Biden administration expands restrictions on chip sales to China

The Biden administration plans to expand restrictions on U.S semiconductor shipments to China, Reuters reported Sunday, citing several people familiar with the matter. The Commerce Department reportedly plans to confirm the policy, which applies to artificial intelligence and chipmaking tools, in new regulations, formalizing restrictions spelled out earlier this year in letters to KLA Corp., Lam Research Corp., and Applied Materials Inc. The letters ordered the companies not to send chipmaking equipment to Chinese semiconductor manufacturers that haven't obtained U.S. licenses. The rules also would formalize restrictions the Commerce Department established last month in letters telling Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices to stop shipping some artificial intelligence computing chips to China.

3

Biden signs order to boost biotech production, research

President Biden on Monday signed an executive order launching an initiative encouraging U.S. biotech production and research. Later Monday, Biden plans to discuss how biotech can help fight cancer in remarks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. On Wednesday, the Biden administration will announce investments by several federal agencies. The effort will encourage biomanufacturing production in the pharmaceutical, agriculture, plastics, and energy industries. The initiative is the administration's latest attempt to boost domestic industry. Last month, Biden signed bipartisan legislation providing $52 billion to subsidize domestic semiconductor production and research.

4

Cargo delays loom as unions, railroads hit contract impasse 

Two unions said Sunday some major U.S. freight railways are halting some cargo shipments to increase their leverage ahead of this week's deadline to finalize new labor agreements. The railroads late last week announced they would halt shipments of hazardous and toxic materials beginning on Monday due to safety concerns in the event of a strike. The unions, which represent nearly 60,000 workers, have until midnight Friday to reach tentative deals with the railroads, which include Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF, CSX, and Norfolk Southern.

5

Stock futures rise after Wall Street snaps 3-week losing streak

U.S. stock futures rose early Monday as investors awaited key inflation data being released this week. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.4 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were up 0.5 percent. All three of the major U.S. indexes rose last week, snapping three-week losing streaks. The Dow and the S&P 500 gained 2.7 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 4.1 percent. Volatility is continuing ahead of the Federal Reserve's September meeting, which is expected to end with the central bank's third straight 0.75 percentage point interest-rate hike to fight high inflation. The latest major inflation measure, the August consumer price index, comes out Tuesday.

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