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The United States must find new supplies of lithium quickly as automakers push electric vehicle manufacturing.
Lithium is used in electric car batteries because it is light, can store a lot of energy, and can be recharged repeatedly. Other ingredients like cobalt are needed to keep the battery stable.
However, the production of raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, which are essential to these technologies, is often ruinous for land, water, wildlife and humans, Ivan Penn and Eric Lipton report for the New York Times. Mining is one of the dirtiest companies out there.
This environmental impact has often been overlooked because a race is underway between the United States, China, Europe and other great powers. In the style of past competitions and wars for gold and oil, governments are fighting for supremacy over minerals that could help countries achieve economic and technological dominance over decades.
Mining companies and allied companies aiming to accelerate domestic lithium production are calling on the administration and key lawmakers to include a $ 10 billion grant program in President Biden’s infrastructure bill on the grounds that it is a national security issue.
“At the moment, if China decides to cut the US off for various reasons, we are in trouble,” said Ben Steinberg, an Obama administration official who became a lobbyist. He was hired in January by Piedmont Lithium, which is working on the construction of an open pit mine in North Carolina and is one of several companies to form a trade association for the industry.
So far, the von Biden government has not tried to promote more environmentally friendly options – like extracting lithium brine instead of open pit mines. Ultimately, federal and state officials will decide which of the two methods to approve. Both could grab. Much will depend on how successfully environmentalists, tribes and local groups block projects.
Economists expect another big jump in monthly hiring when the Department of Labor releases its April job report on Friday morning. Forecasters polled by Bloomberg estimate that the number of employees rose by 978,000 last month and the unemployment rate fell from 6 percent to 5.8 percent.
As coronavirus infections subside, vaccinations spread, restrictions lift and businesses reopen, the job market heals. Profit for March, subject to a revision on Friday, was 916,000.
“The recovery in employment will come in fits and starts,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at accounting firm Grant Thornton. “But we will see a lot of strong wins this year.”
Traffic in the shopping malls has increased, Ms. Swonk said, but manufacturing could be affected by supply chain bottlenecks. Restaurants, hotels and travel are back online, she said, but it’s unclear whether job growth in these industries will exceed seasonal increases typical of this time of year.
The economy still has a lot to do before it returns to prepandemic levels. There were around 8.4 million fewer jobs in March than in February 2020, and the workforce has shrunk.
Employers, particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industries, have reported little response to help seekers. Some have blamed what they call overly generous government unemployment benefits, including a temporary federal grant of $ 300 per week that was part of an immediate-hand chemistry relief program.
But the best evidence of a real labor shortage, say many economists, would be rising wages. And that doesn’t happen sustainably. Jerome H. Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, told a news conference last week: “We are not seeing any rising wages yet. And we’d probably see that in a really tight job market. “
Millions of Americans have said that health concerns and childcare responsibilities – with many schools and day care centers failing to return to normal – have deterred them from returning to work. Millions of others who are not actively looking for a job are being laid off temporarily and are expected to be reinstated by their previous employers once businesses are fully reopened.
The good news, said Robert Rosener, a senior US economist at Morgan Stanley, is that the labor market turmoil that results from successive rounds of openings and closings seems to be easing. “People are going back to work and are more likely to stay at work,” he said.
This week, Republican governors of Montana and South Carolina said they would end state-funded pandemic unemployment benefits in late June, citing complaints from employers about severe labor shortages.
This means that unemployed workers there will no longer receive a state surcharge of $ 300 a week for state benefits and the states are abandoning a pandemic program to help freelancers and others who are not eligible for state unemployment insurance. (However, Montana offers a $ 1,200 bonus for those who take jobs.)
“What was meant to be short-term financial assistance to vulnerable and displaced people during the height of the pandemic has grown into a dangerous federal claim that encourages and pays workers to stay home,” said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.
However, this view is only part of a broader debate about the impact of temporarily increased unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
Gail Myer, whose family owns six hotels in Branson, Missouri, says the $ 300 surcharge is indeed a barrier to hiring. “I speak regularly to people across the country in the hospitality industry and the main topic of discussion is labor shortages,” he said.
Prior to the pandemic, Mr Myer said its six hotels employed around 150 full-time workers. Now the workforce is down about 15 percent, he said. Myer Hospitality housekeeping, breakfast staff, and receptionist jobs are advertised at $ 12.75 to $ 14 an hour plus benefits and a $ 500 signing bonus.
Employee advocacy groups offer a different perspective. “The shortage of restaurant workers across the country is not a labor shortage problem. It’s a problem of wage scarcity, ”said Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, an advocacy group for minimum wages.
In surveys of food service employees at One Fair Wage and the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley, three-quarters cited low wages and tips as reasons for leaving their jobs since the coronavirus outbreak. Fifty-five percent cited concerns about Covid-19 as a factor. And nearly 40 percent said customers frequently associated with wearing masks are becoming increasingly hostile and harassed in addition to longstanding complaints of sexual harassment.
Amy Glaser, senior vice president at recruitment firm Adecco, said former restaurant workers and others were migrating towards warehouse work jobs that had raised wages up to $ 23 an hour and customer service jobs that could be done from home.