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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.

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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Canadian dollar notches biggest gain in a month as stocks rally

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The Canadian dollar strengthened to a one-week high against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as investor sentiment picked up and domestic data showed that retail sales fell less than expected in July.

World stock markets rallied and the safe-haven U.S. dollar retreated from one-month highs as worries about contagion from property developer China Evergrande eased and investors digested the Federal Reserve’s plans for reining in the stimulus.

Canada is a major exporter of commodities, including oil, so the loonie tends to be particularly sensitive to investor appetite for risk.

“The assumption here is that (Fed interest) rate hikes are still a long way out and so equities markets can still perform with accommodative financial conditions,” said Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist at TD Securities in New York.

“Consequently, currencies that have a higher beta to the equity market, like the CAD, can do alright.”

U.S. crude oil futures settled 1.5% higher at $73.30 a barrel, while the Canadian dollar was trading up 0.9% at 1.2653 to the greenback, or 79.03 U.S. cents.

It was the currency’s biggest advance since Aug. 23. It touched its strongest level since last Thursday at 1.2628.

Canadian retail sales dipped 0.6% in July, compared with expectations for a decline of 1.2%, while a preliminary estimate showed sales rebounding 2.1% in August.

Canadian government bond yields were higher across a steeper curve, tracking the move in U.S. Treasuries.

The 10-year touched its highest level since July 14 at 1.335% before dipping to 1.330%, up 11.6 basis points on the day.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)

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China Vows Better Policy Support to Economy as Headwinds Mount – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Chinese policy makers reiterated the need to fine-tune economic policies as the world’s second-largest economy faces increasing headwinds from virus outbreaks and high commodity prices. 

Policy should be preemptive and coordinated across cycles, the State Council, the equivalent of China’s cabinet, said in a statement after a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang Wednesday. Governments at all levels should maintain the continuity and stability of macroeconomic policies and enhance their effectiveness, while also do a good job in preventing and controlling virus cases, it said.

Efforts are needed to better coordinate fiscal, financial and employment policies in order to “stabilize reasonable expectations by the market,” it said. 

China again vowed to make sure the economy is operating within a reasonable range, with further measures to boost consumption, guiding private capital to play a better role in expanding investment, and ensuring stable growth in foreign trade and foreign capital, according to the statement. While the employment situation is stable this year, efforts are still needed to maintain employment and help companies, it said. 

The economy took a knock in August from stringent virus controls and tight curbs on property. While China’s Covid zero approach helped to quickly quash the infections, retail sales growth suffered, slowing to 2.5% in August. 

Facing the continued commodity boom, the State Council also pledged to use more market-based measures to stabilize commodity prices and ensure supplies of power and natural gas during the winter. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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UAE Says It's Unwinding Pandemic Stimulus as Economy Recovers – Bloomberg

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The United Arab Emirates has begun winding down an economic support program launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic as the economy shows signs of gradual recovery, the central bank said in a statement.

The reduced reserve requirements for banks won’t change for now and neither will the lower loan-to-value ratio required for first-time home buyers seeking mortgage loans, the bank said. The loan deferral component of the Targeted Economic Support Scheme will expire by the end of 2021 with financial institutions able to carry on tapping a collateralized 50-billion-dirham ($13.6 billion) liquidity facility until the middle of 2022, in line with earlier guidance.

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