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Financial & Economy | G-Fin™ | Grants

State Quarterly Personal Income, 1st quarter 2018

The Free Press WV

State personal income increased 4.3 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter of 2018, after increasing 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Personal income increased in all states and the District of Columbia.

The percent change in personal income across all states ranged from 7.4 percent in Washington to 2.0 percent in Idaho.

U.S. International Transactions, 1st quarter 2018 and annual update

The Free Press WV

The U.S. current-account deficit increased to $124.1 billion (preliminary) in the first quarter of 2018 from $116.1 billion (revised) in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

The deficit was 2.5 percent of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter, up from 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

U.S. housing starts jumped 5 pct. in May off Midwest building

The Free Press WV

A surge of construction in the Midwest drove U.S. housing starts up 5 percent in May from the prior month.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.35 million, the strongest pace since July 2007. All of May’s construction gains came from a 62 percent jump in the Midwest, while building slumped in the Northeast, South and West. Home construction can be volatile on a monthly basis, so May’s gains may be a blip rather than a trend.

The solid job market has helped to boost demand for new homes. Housing starts have risen 11 percent so far this year, with gains for both single family houses and apartment buildings. Permits to build tumbled 4.6 percent in May, but permits are running 8.9 percent higher year-to-date.

Still, builders are concerned that tariffs announced by President Donald Trump that could affect steel, aluminum and lumber would make construction much more expensive, possibly limiting how many properties are built.

The risk of trade war with Canada caused builder confidence to sink this month. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday fell two points to 68 this month. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

The home builder association said higher lumber prices have increased the price of a new single-family home by $9,000 since January 2017.

3 Little Letters May Hide an Ulterior Motive at Amazon

The Free Press WV

VTO: It’s a part of Amazon’s lexicon that might seem like an “innocuous sounding acronym.“ But in a lengthy piece, Gizmodo suggests it’s anything but. VTO, or Voluntary Time Off, is a just that: an opportunity for Amazon’s legions of warehouse workers to end their shift early when the overall workload hits a lull. They won’t get paid for the cut hours, but they also won’t be penalized for bowing out. Nice, right? Not according to the 13 unnamed current and former Amazon warehouse workers Bryan Menegus interviewed, who describe an environment in which workers are strong-armed into taking VTO, which they say isn’t just offered during rare and unexpected moments but, in some cases, daily, and even during peak holiday season. Amazon made clear to Menegus that the system is entirely voluntary and an option that “provide[s] additional flexibility.“

But workers describe being inundated with VTO alerts via text, email, and even on the scanner guns used by “pickers” who walk miles per shift to collect items for shipment. “After awhile you get tired of hearing it,“ says one worker, who notes VTO opportunities aren’t just communicated electronically. One worker suggests that managers who can’t find takers purposefully spread the “pick path” out to drive workers’ all-important pick-rates down in hopes of convincing them to “finally just give up” and take the VTO. Menegus digs in deep, then comes to the crux of the piece: With all the data Amazon has, why doesn’t it just trim its staff to the right level instead of foisting VTO upon its workers? His theory is that Amazon needs to maintain certain full-time position counts in order to qualify for tax breaks and other incentives handed over by local governments and uses VTO as a way to achieve that while trimming costs. Read his full piece HERE.

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