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Fast food struggles to hire as demand soars, U.S. economy roars – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Taco Bell wants to hire at least 5,000 employees in one day, it said on Tuesday, and is adding benefits for some general managers to sweeten the pot as restaurants struggle to hire enough workers to keep up with a surge in sales amid a broader U.S. economic recovery.

Taco Bell, part of Yum Brands Inc, will hold spot interviews on April 21 in parking lots at nearly 2,000 Taco Bell locations, where some candidates won’t even have to leave their cars to apply.

It has also added four weeks of annual vacation, eight weeks of paid maternity leave, and four weeks of new parent and guardian “baby bonding” time for general managers at company-owned locations.

Taco Bell has used such hiring events before, but never at so many locations at once. “It is no secret that the labor market is tight” now, Kelly McCulloch, Taco Bell’s chief people officer, said in a statement.

“Total nightmare” is the way FAT Brands Inc CEO Andy Wiederhorn describes the staffing situation for franchisees of his company’s restaurants, which include Johnny Rockets and Fatburger.

“The most recent stimulus check and unemployment benefits have been a catalyst for people to stay at home” instead of looking for work, he said.

U.S. job openings in the accommodation and food service industry increased by 104,000 to reach 761,000 on the last day of February from the prior month, according to federal data on Tuesday.

Though fast-food companies and some other restaurant chains did well through the coronavirus pandemic as their customers turned to drive-thru, carry-out and delivery, they are seeing greater sales now that the weather is warmer, many limits on dining room capacities are lifted, and people with stimulus checks are eating out.

A measure of U.S. services industry activity surged to a record high on Monday amid robust growth in new orders, the latest indication of a roaring economy boosted by increased vaccinations.

Hiring cannot keep pace. The U.S. restaurant industry in March was still about 1.2 million employees short from the same month in 2020, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The gap is hardly limited to hospitality. High jobless rates have not translated into a flurry of applications for open positions in manufacturing, either.

On Friday, the Labor Department said 916,000 jobs were created last month, the most since last August, including 53,000 manufacturing positions. That was the highest number of new factory jobs in six months.

HAWKING CARS OR COCKTAILS

One McDonald’s Corp franchisee said sales have soared as consumers spend their stimulus checks. Yet some McDonald’s dining rooms may not reopen until the second half of 2021 because of labor shortages, the franchisee said.

McDonald’s franchisees are aiming to hire 5,000 employees just in the state of Ohio, according to local media reports in late March.

Restaurants are competing not just with each other for employees but with other industries, as some hospitality workers who were laid off found other kinds of work – construction or real estate, for instance – and are not coming back, FAT Brands’ Wiederhorn said.

“That waiter or waitress can sell a car just as well as they can sell a cocktail,” Wiederhorn said.

In Las Vegas, which has about 16 Johnny Rockets and Fatburger locations, employees are working double shifts. “It’s just hard, it gets old and tiring,” Wiederhorn said. “You can only do it for so long.”

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Economy

TSX extends gains as gold prices rise, set to rise for third week

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(Reuters) -Canada’s main stock index extended its rise on Friday after hitting a record high a day earlier as gold prices advanced, and was set to gain for a third straight week.

* At 9:40 a.m. ET (13:38 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange‘s S&P/TSX composite index was up 24.24 points, or 0.1%, at 19,326.16.

* The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace in this quarter and the next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.

* The energy sector climbed 0.6% even as U.S. crude prices slipped 0.1% a barrel. Brent crude added 0.1%. [O/R]

* The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.3% as gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,777.9 an ounce. [GOL/] [MET/L]

* The financials sector gained 0.2%. The industrials sector rose 0.1%.

* On the TSX, 117 issues advanced, while 102 issues declined in a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring gainers, with 14.26 million shares traded.

* The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Cascades Inc, which jumped 4.2%, and Ballard Power Systems, which rose 2.9%.

* Lghtspeed POS fell 5.6%, the most on the TSX, while the second biggest decliner was goeasy, down 4.9%.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Zenabis Global Inc, Bombardier and Royal Bank of Canada.

* The TSX posted 23 new 52-week highs and no new low.

* Across Canadian issues, there were 160 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows, with total volume of 29.68 million shares.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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Canadian economy likely to slow, but COVID-19 threat to growth low

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By Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore

BENGALURU (Reuters) – The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace this quarter and next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.

Restrictions have been renewed in some provinces as they struggle with a rapid spread of the virus, which has already infected over 1 million people in the country.

After an expected 5.6% growth in the first quarter, the economy was forecast to expand 3.6% this quarter, a sharp downgrade from 6.7% predicted in January.

It was then forecast to grow 6.0% in the third quarter and 5.5% in the fourth, compared with 6.8% and 5.0% forecast previously.

But over three-quarters of economists, or 16 of 21, in response to an additional question said tighter curbs from another COVID-19 wave were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, including one respondent who said “very unlikely”.

Canada is undergoing a third wave of the virus and while case loads are accelerating, the resiliency the economy has shown in the face of the second wave suggests it can ride out the third wave as well, without considerable economic consequences,” said Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at TD Economics.

The April 12-16 poll of 40 economists forecast the commodity-driven economy would grow on average 5.8% this year, the fastest pace of annual expansion in 13 years and the highest prediction since polling began in April 2019.

For next year, the consensus was upgraded to 4.0% from 3.6% growth predicted in January.

What is likely to help is the promise of a fiscal package by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late last year, which the Canadian government was expected to outline, at least partly, in its first federal budget in two years, on April 19.

When asked what impact that would have, over half, or 11 of 20 economists, said it would boost the economy significantly. Eight respondents said it would have little impact and one said it would have an adverse impact.

“The economic impact of the federal government’s promised C$100 billion fiscal stimulus will depend most importantly on its make up,” said Tony Stillo, director of Canada economics at Oxford Economics.

“A stimulus package that enhances the economy’s potential could provide a material boost to growth without stoking price pressures.”

All but two of 17 economists expected the Bank of Canada to announce a taper to the amount of its weekly bond purchases at its April 21 meeting. The consensus showed interest rates left unchanged at 0.25% until 2023 at least.

“The BoC is set to cut the pace of its asset purchases next week,” noted Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.

“While it will also upgrade its GDP forecasts, we expect it to make an offsetting change to its estimate of the economy’s potential, implying the Bank will not materially alter its assessment of when interest rates need to rise.”

 

 

(Reporting and polling by Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore; editing by Rahul Karunakar, Larry King)

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Economy

CANADA STOCKS – TSX rises 0.78% to 19,321.92

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange‘s TSX rises 0.78 percent to 19,321.92

* Leading the index were Martinrea International Inc <MRE.TO​>, up 7.4%, Fortuna Silver Mines Inc​, up 7.1%, and Hudbay Minerals Inc​, higher by 6.7%.

* Lagging shares were AcuityAds Holdings Inc​​, down 6.7%, Ballard Power Systems Inc​, down 6.5%, and Northland Power Inc​, lower by 6.0%.

* On the TSX 165 issues rose and 60 fell as a 2.8-to-1 ratio favored advancers. There were 18 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 203.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Royal Bank Of Canada, Suncor Energy Inc and Air Canada.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.59 points, or 0.5%, while the financials sector climbed 0.86 points, or 0.3%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.27%, or $0.17, to $63.32 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.36%, or $0.24, to $66.82 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.8% for the year.

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