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Plus, we explain what the heck "flurona" is
January 08, 2022 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew

The Motley Fool

Good morning. As the NFL regular season concludes this weekend, there's a potentially ridiculous situation you should look out for on Sunday. The Las Vegas Raiders will play the LA Chargers that night, with both teams hoping to lock in a playoff spot. BUT, if the Jaguars beat the Colts and the Steelers beat the Ravens earlier in the day, then all the Raiders and Chargers would need to do is tie to get in. So they could conceivably kneel for every down during the game and the 0–0 draw would hand them both a playoff ticket.

Both teams' coaches said they'd play to win no matter the scenario, but it's still quite the prisoner's dilemma. What would you do?

Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt, and the birthday girl Jamie Wilde

MARKETS

Nasdaq

14,935.90

S&P

4,677.03

Dow

36,231.66

10-Year

1.767%

Bitcoin

$41,757.47

Netflix

$541.06

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 5:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: The S&P is off to its worst start to a year since 2016, and the Nasdaq fell 4.5% this week—its worst drop since February 2021. The Fed's hawkish pivot + rising bond yields are really pounding tech stocks.
  • Crypto: Bitcoin fell to its lowest level since last September, and other cryptos like ethereum and solana are also in the doghouse. It appears as though the Fed's move to raise borrowing costs and the turmoil in mining powerhouse Kazakhstan are dragging down prices.

ECONOMY

The US Needs More Workers

"Still hiring" banner Dianna "Mick" McDougall

The jobs reports from the past couple months are a lot like single-malt scotch: harsh at first, but after a few more sips you appreciate its complexity.

Take December's report, for example. The US economy added 199,000 jobs last month, far below expectations of 422,000, marking the second straight month of lower-than-predicted job growth.

But on the flip side, the unemployment rate declined more than expected, to 3.9% from 4.2% in November. Considering that unemployment hit 14.8% just 21 months ago, this recovery has been just as unprecedented as the times.

Crazy fact: The unemployment rate in December was lower than it was during every month in the '70s, '80s, and '90s.

So how to square slower job growth with minuscule unemployment?

In the current environment, virtually everyone who wants to get a job can get one. The problem is, a large share of the potential workforce isn't applying to jobs. Many would-be job candidates have retired early, are concerned about contracting Covid at work, or may be caring for children or other family members at home.

  • More than 2 million Americans have left the workforce completely during the pandemic.
  • And the labor force participation rate—the share of adults working or looking for work—didn't budge and remains below pre-Covid levels.

Of course, a historic worker shortage = raises for everyone who is working. Average hourly earnings gained a meaty 4.7% from the year before, which will likely add more fuel to the Fed's plan to hike rates this year in a bid to tame inflation.

Bottom line: Overall, it was a historic year for the labor market. The unemployment rate posted its sharpest 1-year drop in history. And the US added 6.4 million jobs in 2021, a higher total than any year on record. That, however, comes after a year in which the US lost more jobs than ever before.—NF

        

HEALTH

Flurona: Who Is She?

Two viruses on a scale Francis Scialabba

Getting coronavirus and influenza at the same time received a lot of attention this week, partly because "flurona" is so fun to say. But it's worth a closer look, because as this year's flu season starts to pick up, the twin viruses could put extra pressure on health care systems.

The backstory: An Israeli outlet coined the term "flurona" five days ago, when it reported the country's first case of simultaneous Covid/influenza infections. More reports of flurona have sprung up around the world since, but you should know that it's:

  • Not new. Hospitals have been treating patients who caught both viruses at the same time for a while now.
  • Not a "super-virus" that's more dangerous. The viruses didn't combine like Jeff Goldblum and that poor fly; they are just both infecting people right now, sometimes at the same time.

However, there's still cause for concern if the seasonal flu comes back off the bench this winter. With everyone inside making banana bread last year, that virus all but disappeared: The CDC reported just 2,038 cases from Sept. 2020–April 2021, compared to 38 million the year prior. A normalized 2021–2022 flu season combined with Covid-19 could burden hospitals that are already short on ICU beds.—JW

        

ENTERTAINMENT

Remembering Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier on set Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Sidney Poitier, the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, died yesterday at 94. He has long been celebrated as Hollywood's first Black movie star who opened the doors for countless Black actors after him.

  • Poitier once wrote, "I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made."

The actor, director, producer, and even Disney board member (from 1995 to 2003) was born in Miami and raised in the Bahamas. After dropping out of school at 12, he found himself flubbing an audition for Harlem's American Negro Theater in 1945. The next year, though, he turned it around and made his stage debut with the company, and went on to appear in 40+ movies over his career. In 1967, Poitier appeared in three of Hollywood's top-grossing films.

Zoom out: Oprah, Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, and former President Barack Obama—who presented Poitier with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his "relentless devotion to breaking down barriers"—were among the celebs who shared messages about Poitier's impact on combating racial bias and his immense talent.—MM

        

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GRAB BAG

Key Performance Indicators

Tim Cook waving and saying thank you Giphy

Stat: Apple CEO Tim Cook's compensation for 2021 amounted to nearly $100 million, thanks to stock awards and bonuses from the company crushing its financial targets. Cook's haul was 1,447 times the median employee's pay at Apple.

Quote: "Idiots"

Canadians are known for being polite. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dispensed with the niceties after videos showed a group of Canadian social media influencers and reality TV stars flouting Covid rules and partying on a plane from Quebec to Cancun on Dec. 30. Sunwing, the charter airline that brought the carousers to Mexico, wouldn't allow them to board a return flight, and Air Canada also said it wouldn't fly them home.

Read: How Jessica Simpson almost lost her name. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

        

CARTOON

Saturday Sketch

A bullfrog's resolutions Max Knoblauch

        

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Three men who were convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 were sentenced to life in prison, two without parole.
  • The Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared skeptical of Biden's vax-or-test mandate for large employers.
  • Citigroup reminded employees that they need to be fully vaccinated by the end of the month or they should find work somewhere else.
  • Yeezy Gap is partnering with Balenciaga in a new design collab.
  • Another one: John Legend sold his song catalog, but at a much younger age than his fellow artists who have done the same.

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The Brew, for your ears: Business Casual talks to the smartest folks in biz to help you make 2022 the best year yet. Some choice epis: 1) The best BC conversations from 2021 2) is texting with a bot the future of retail? and 3) maybe rethink that gift card when looking for a present.

Weekend conversation starters:

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GAMES

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Written by Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt, and Jamie Wilde

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