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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Employers cutting hours over jobs

U.S. employers in struggling sectors such as manufacturing are reducing hours rather than resorting to aggressive job cuts, with flashbacks to recent labor shortages that challenged so many companies.

The average number of weekly hours for nonsupervisory workers in manufacturing slipped last month to 40.6, matching the lowest since the early days of the pandemic, the government’s jobs report showed Friday.

The latest data available for the truck transportation industry show the fewest hours worked since 2020, while weekly hours at warehouses stand at a one-year low.

Manufacturing and transportation are among industries struggling for traction as many consumers change their spending patterns from goods back to services.

The average workweek for all nonsupervisory workers – which includes a majority of U.S. workers who aren’t in management positions – held at 33.8 last month, matching the lowest since April 2020.

Some may view that as cracks forming in the job market, but Omair Sharif, president and founder of Inflation Insights, notes that hours worked are merely normalizing.

Global food prices rising

Global food prices rose for the first time in three months, as trade disruptions from India to the Black Sea and extreme weather stoke supply concerns anew.

The United Nations’ index of food-commodity prices gained 1.3% in July, led by vegetable oil, according to a Friday report.

That marks a pickup from the two-year low reached the prior month as fresh threats emerge in the supply chain.

Last month, Russia exited the Black Sea grain deal that helped usher millions of tons of Ukrainian crops abroad.

On top of that, top rice exporter India banned some shipments of the staple, and extreme weather is curbing harvests in places like China and southern Europe.

The rice index from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization reached its highest nominal level since 2011, following the curbs in India.

That “raises substantial food security concerns for a large swathe of the world population, especially those that are most poor and who dedicate a larger share of their incomes to purchase food,” the FAO said.

While the index remains well below last year’s record, the increase poses a fresh risk for food inflation, which remains high at the global level.

From wire reportsPrices are still soaring in Egypt, although the run-up has begun to slow or decline in nations like Kenya and Brazil.

Vegetable oil prices rose 12% during the month.

The gain was driven by Black Sea trade uncertainties, coupled with North American crop concerns and subdued palm oil production prospects, FAO said.