Hurricanes Irma and Harvey Caused U.S. Economy to Lose Jobs in September

The September jobs report is out.

It showed that the US economy shed jobs for the first time since 2010, something the Bureau of Labor Statistics blamed on the damage caused by the hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

In a release Friday, the BLS said the hurricanes affected the payroll jobs number but not the unemployment rate.

“It is likely that the payroll employment estimates for September were lower due to the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey,” William J. Wiatrowski, the acting BLS commissioner, said in the release.

“The storms caused large-scale evacuations and severe damage to many homes and businesses,” he continued. “Many employees in the areas affected by the hurricanes were likely off payrolls during the reference pay period for September.” 

Nonfarm payrolls fell by 33,000 in September, according to the BLS. Most of the losses occurred in the leisure-and-hospitality sector. It shed 111,000 jobs, its most dating back to at least 1939.

Within that sector, the BLS drew attention to employment in food services and drinking places, which fell by 105,000 last month.

“In this industry, a large majority of workers are not paid when they are absent from work,” Wiatrowski said. “Hence, if these employees were unable to work during the September survey reference pay period because they had evacuated, or because their establishments were not open for business due to power failures or other effects of the hurricanes, they were not included on September payrolls.”

The unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, its lowest level since February 2001.

“Payrolls were hit hard by the hurricanes,” Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said. “We expect the recovery to begin in October, but if Katrina is any guide the big rebound won’t come until November.”

Irma made landfall during the September jobs report’s reference period, while Harvey hit before it. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are not included in the report.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Tech

As Ford pushes into electric vehicles, U.S. union aims to save jobs

DETROIT (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers is talking with Ford Motor Co (F.N) about ways to avoid layoffs as the No. 2 U.S. automaker builds more electric vehicles, a senior union official told Reuters on Thursday.

Ford told investors Tuesday it planned to slash $ 14 billion in costs over the next five years and shift investments away from internal combustion engines and sedans to develop more trucks, plus electric and hybrid cars.

“We’ve been doing our due diligence to find out how much it (electrification) means to us,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, head of the union’s Ford department said in a telephone interview. “We put them on notice early on that we want to be part of this process.”

“Up to this point they (Ford) have been agreeable that it’s in the best interest of the company and also our members for us to be part of the process,” he added.

Ford’s push into electric comes after Detroit rival General Motors Co (GM.N) unveiled plans to add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023.

Ford’s presentation to investors this week under new chief executive Jim Hackett, included a slide touting a 30 percent reduction in “hours per unit” to build electric vehicles.

Fewer hours mean fewer workers.

German automaker Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) warned last month that electric Mercedes models would initially be just half as profitable as conventional alternatives – forcing the group to find savings by outsourcing more component manufacturing, which may in turn threaten German jobs.

The UAW’s Settles said he had met one-on-one with Hackett, a former CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase Inc (SCS.N) and in a meeting with union leaders in recent weeks.

He said Hackett’s message had been that he wants to find new opportunities for UAW workers as electrification evolves.

“The assembly may be different, but he’s not looking to eliminate any jobs,” Settles said of Hackett. “He’s been consistent in what he’s saying and I‘m optimistic he means it.”

The UAW vice president said the union and automaker had assembled teams to discuss future jobs, including for production workers and skilled trades workers, Settles said.

Settles said Ford’s announcement in March that it would invest $ 200 million on a new data center in Michigan could create new union-represented, technology-related jobs.

“We need further communications on what it means in terms of jobs,” he said.

Ford has completed 85 percent of its 2015 union contract target of creating or retaining 8,500 union jobs by 2019 and could hit 100 percent by the end of 2017, Settles said.

A Ford spokeswoman said the company and the UAW are in “constant communications about the business.”

Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Andrew Hay

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Former Equifax chief will face questions from U.S. Congress over hack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers are due to question the former head of Equifax Inc (EFX.N) at a Tuesday hearing that could shed light on how hackers accessed the personal data of more than 140 million consumers.

Richard Smith retired last week but the 57-year-old executive will answer for the breach that the credit bureau acknowledged in early September.

Late Monday, Equifax said an independent review had boosted the number of potentially affected U.S. consumers by 2.5 million to 145.5 million.

In March, the U.S. Homeland Security Department alerted Equifax to an online gap in security but the company did nothing, said Smith.

“The vulnerability remained in an Equifax web application much longer than it should have,” Smith said in remarks prepared for delivery on Tuesday. “I am here today to apologize to the American people myself.”

Smith will face the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday but there will be three more such hearings this week.

Equifax keeps a trove of consumer data for banks and other creditors who want to know whether a customer is likely to default.

The cyber-hack has been a calamity for Equifax which has lost roughly a quarter of its stock market value and seen several top executives step down alongside Smith.

Smith’s replacement, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., has also apologized for the hack and said the company will help customers freeze their credit records and monitor any misuse.

There has been a public outcry about the breech but no more than 3.0 percent of consumers have frozen their credit reports, according to research firm Gartner, Inc.

Smith said hackers tapped sensitive information between mid-May and late-July.

Security personnel noticed suspicious activity on July 29 and disabled web application a day later, ending the hacking, Smith said. He said he was alerted the following day, but was not aware of the scope of the stolen data.

On Aug. 2, the company alerted the FBI and retained a law firm and consulting firm to provide advice. Smith notified the board’s lead director on Aug. 22.

Patrick Rucker contributed from Washington; editing by Clive McKeef.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Twitter suspends Russia-linked accounts, but U.S. senator says response inadequate

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter (TWTR.N) said on Thursday it had suspended about 200 Russian-linked accounts as it probes online efforts to meddle with the 2016 U.S. election, but an influential Democratic senator slammed its steps as insufficient.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, summoned Twitter officials to testify behind closed doors on Thursday as part of broad investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook (FB.O) faced a similar grilling earlier this month.

Lawmakers in both parties suspect social networks may have played a big role in Moscow’s attempts to spread propaganda, sow political discord in the United States and help elect President Donald Trump. Moscow denies any such activity, and Trump has denied any collusion.

Twitter also briefed the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Warner said Twitter officials had not answered many questions about Russian use of the platform and that it was still subject to foreign manipulation.

The company’s presentation to the Intelligence Committee “showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is,” Warner said. He took particular umbrage at what he said was Twitter’s decision to largely confine its review to accounts linked to fake profiles already spotted by Facebook.

Twitter said it had identified and removed 22 accounts directly linked to about 500 fake Facebook pages or profiles tied to Russia and that it unearthed an additional 179 accounts that were otherwise related.

Twitter declined to comment when asked about Warner’s comments.

In addition to the private testimony by its officials, the company published a public blog post Thursday with its most detailed discussion to date of the steps it was taking to combat propaganda.

Warner in remarks to reporters called Twitter’s statements “deeply disappointing” and “inadequate on almost every level.”

The comments signaled that the congressional investigations into Russia’s use of social media platforms would not ease up. Twitter, Facebook and other Internet companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) are facing a steady stream of criticism as more information emerges about manipulation of their platforms during the 2016 election campaign.

Users, lawmakers and technology analysts have long criticized Twitter as too lax in policing fake or abusive accounts. Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows both anonymous accounts and automated accounts, or bots, making it far more difficult to police the service.

On Thursday, researchers at Oxford University published a study concluding that Twitter bots disseminated misinformation and propaganda at a higher rate in U.S. battleground states than in noncompetitive states during a 10-day period around Election Day in November.

San Francisco-based Twitter said Russian media outlet Russia Today, which is close to the Kremlin, had spent $ 274,100 on Twitter advertisements and promoted 1,823 tweets potentially aimed at the U.S. market.

Those ad buys alone topped the $ 100,000 that Facebook this month linked to a Russian propaganda operation during the 2016 election cycle, a revelation that prompted calls from some Democrats for new disclosure rules for online political ads.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was more tempered in his assessment of Twitter’s briefing, saying in a statement that the firm expressed a desire to work cooperatively with investigators and conduct additional analyses.

‘LOW-QUALITY TWEETS’

Twitter announced new measures to toughen restrictions on suspect spammers, for example by reducing the time that suspicious accounts stay visible during company investigations.

To thwart abuse via applications interacting with Twitter, the company said it had suspended 117,000 apps since June that had been responsible for 1.5 billion “low-quality” tweets this year.

Twitter said it wanted to strengthen disclosure rules on political advertising, as Facebook has just done.

Warner is leading efforts to introduce legislation requiring internet platforms to reveal who is purchasing online political ads, which would bring them in line with rules governing ads on radio or television.

He told reporters on Thursday he did not have a Republican co-sponsor for a draft measure he was circulating he was confident there would be bipartisan interest.

Reporting by Dustin Volz and Joseph Menn; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Uber reviews Asia business over bribery allegations in U.S.: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], which is the subject of a federal probe into whether it broke bribery laws, has started a review of its Asia operations and notified U.S. officials about payments made by staff in Indonesia, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Bloomberg report was accurate.

Uber said in August it was cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether company managers violated U.S. laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Uber hired law firm O‘Melveny & Myers LLP to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014, Reuters reported in June.

O’Melveny & Myers is now examining records of foreign payments and interviewing employees, raising questions about why some potentially problematic business dealings were not disclosed sooner, Bloomberg said on Tuesday. bloom.bg/2xdk6PT

Attorneys are focused on suspicious activity in at least five Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, Bloomberg said, adding that Uber’s law firm is reviewing financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there.

Uber and the DoJ could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Samsung says new U.S. offices are its ‘biggest investment in Silicon Valley’ to date

samsung-new-office-silicon-valley

Samsung officially opened the doors to its new 1.1-million-square-foot Silicon Valley offices Thursday, more than 30 years after its arrival in the San Jose tech corridor in 1983.

The building will house various research labs dedicated to semiconductors, LEDs and displays, staff in sales and marketing, and other support areas, the company said.

“[We are] laying the groundwork for a more aggressive pace of growth over the next several decades,” said Samsung’s chief executive, Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon, at the grand opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, the company’s president of its U.S.-based device solutions operations, Jaesoo Han, said that the move “represents a major milestone as we open our most strategically important Samsung facility in the U.S., and also our biggest investment in Silicon Valley.”

samsung-office

Samsung also announced that it has established a $ 1 million STEM College Education Scholarship Fund. In its own words:

Deserving university students who are currently enrolled in STEM-focused programs at a California State or University of California school will benefit from this program, beginning with a $ 50,000 gift to San Jose State University this year. Each scholarship will cover tuition and living expenses for one year.

But the announcement of the new office has been largely overshadowed by news in virtual reality today: We reported that the Samsung Gear VR will launch as a consumer product this November for $ 99. (You can read our full roundup from today’s Oculus event here.)

Earlier this week, Samsung unveiled its new fonts-inspired Serif TVs, and shared more about how it relies on startups to stay ahead on technological innovation.

If you happen to be passing through the area, Samsung’s new building certainly looks worth checking out.

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China passed 250M 4G users in July, more than double the subscribers in the U.S.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook on a visit to China in 2014. Reuters / China Stringer Network

China’s 4G mobile users surpassed 250 million for the first time at the end of July, according to newly released data (link in Chinese) from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (hat tip to TechNode). If you throw 3G users into the mix, that number shoots up to a whopping 695 million users, with China’s total mobile user base now at 1.29 billion.

250 million is a milestone to be celebrated — it represents 4G penetration of nearly 20 percent, versus 40 percent (over 100 million) in the US at the end of 2014. Still, the figure belies a slightly shadier forecast: The report made clear that China’s mobile user growth rate so far this year has slowed to just a quarter of what it was over the same period in 2014.

Meanwhile, a separate report by the country’s state-run English-language newspaper China Daily over the weekend notes that the country has achieved this explosive growth in a mere 20 months since regulators first issued telcos 4G licenses. Though, somewhat confusingly, the article pegs the country’s 4G user base at 225 million, possibly in reference to June’s numbers rather than July’s.

Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official press agency, on Monday also had the 250 million number. The same report pointed out that the country’s three telecom giants — China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile (currently the world’s largest telco) — “raked in a total of 75.3 billion yuan (about $ 11.8 billion) in the first half of 2015.” This was largely off the back of continued 4G growth.

Combined, 3G and 4G in the country now have a penetration of close to 54 percent among mobile users, according to the ministry’s report, and while the addition of new subscribers may be slowing, data consumption is through the roof. An average user in China now consumes around 330MB of data per month, almost twice as much (up 85 percent) as 12 months ago.

China’s International Telecommunication Union confirmed that it is actively developing 5G technology and industry, keeping up the blistering pace of development. But there has also been major reshuffling announced Monday at the very top levels of the country’s three telcos as Beijing aims to revamp state-owned firms.

4G growth aside, the broader challenges being faced by China’s volatile economy of late have rocked markets and tech stocks worldwide, leading Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to take the unusual step of issuing a statement to CNBC on Monday in an attempt to soothe investors. Apple, like an increasing number of smartphone makers, is heavily reliant (read: overexposed) on Chinese consumer demand to hit Wall Street’s targets.

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