The trajectory of the economy as the holidays approach and a tumultuous year nears its conclusion will come into focus Friday morning when the government releases data on hiring and unemployment in November.
Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for a gain of 550,000 jobs, a robust number that suggests economic momentum. In October, employers added 531,000 jobs, and initial claims for unemployment benefits recently touched a 52-year low.
The unemployment rate is expected to dip one-tenth of a percentage point, to 4.5 percent.
Employment has been helped by the easing of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in many places and increased hiring at bars and restaurants as well as stores, offices and factories. The emergence of the Omicron variant threatens some of those gains, but it is too soon to gauge the risk to the economy.
“We should continue to see strong jobs growth because demand for labor is red hot, but there is a lid on potential acceleration as the pandemic is still going on,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor.
He expects the report to show formidable hiring in retailing, transportation and warehousing with companies staffing up in anticipation of holiday demand.
Despite the tight labor market and the healthy recent hiring number, the economy remains roughly four million jobs short of prepandemic levels. About one-third of those positions are in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is vulnerable if the Omicron variant turns out to be as much of a threat as the Delta variant, constraining travel and gatherings.
“That’s the risk, but it probably won’t show up before Christmas,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “It could be an issue in the new year. We’re still dealing with the Covid pandemic, and the risks are there for the economy and hiring.”
The economy’s path has been characterized by clashing signals throughout the fall.
The “quits rate” — a measurement of workers leaving jobs as a share of overall employment — has been at or near record highs, evidence of confidence among workers that they can navigate the labor market and find something better. But the University of Michigan’s survey of consumer sentiment dropped to levels not seen since the sluggish recovery from the recession of 2007-9.
The report noted “the growing belief among consumers that no effective policies have yet been developed to reduce the damage from surging inflation.” Shoppers are facing the steepest inflation in 31 years. In October, prices increased 6.2 percent from a year earlier.
Nonetheless, markets have remained relatively calm. The major stock indexes are up by impressive levels this year. And bond yields, which tend to move higher in inflationary environments, remain near record lows, indicating that investors don’t see inflation as a longer-term threat to the economy or financial stability.
Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that it had decided not to invest in a British oil development off the coast of Scotland that has become a test of the government’s environmental credentials.
The British government is considering whether to approve the project, which environmental groups and some politicians have said should be rejected because it would produce carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change.
Shell, which owns 30 percent of Cambo, said it had “concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time.”
The company also said there was “potential for delays,” apparently referring to the possibility that the drilling would draw protests from environmental groups and possibly legal actions trying to stop it. Shell said recently that it planned to move its headquarters from the Netherlands to Britain.
Shell’s decision to decline to invest in developing Cambo is a serious blow to the project. Siccar Point Energy, a private equity-backed firm that is Cambo’s main owner and developer, said that while “disappointed” by Shell’s decision, it remained “confident about the qualities” of the project, saying it would create 1,000 jobs.
Siccar Point has said that it plans to invest $2.6 billion in Cambo and that it has already spent $190 million in the four years since it acquired the rights to the field, which was discovered in 2002.
The oil industry argues that as long as Britain consumes more oil and natural gas than it produces, it is preferable for those fuels to come from the North Sea, where emissions regulations can be set, instead of from places with potentially fewer controls.
The environmental group Greenpeace UK said letting Cambo go ahead “would be a disaster for our climate and would leave the U.K. consumer vulnerable to volatile fossil fuel markets.”
Shareholders in BuzzFeed, the digital media pioneer known for its listicles, quizzes and a news division that won its first Pulitzer Prize this year, voted on Thursday to take the company public.
The deal that will take BuzzFeed onto the stock market raised less money than initially expected, which could crimp the company’s spending in the years to come and lead it to rein in its ambitions.
The long-in-the-works plan, led by the BuzzFeed co-founder and chief executive Jonah Peretti, will merge it with a special purpose acquisition company, 890 5th Avenue Partners. So-called SPACs raise money through an initial public offering and use that cash to buy a private company.
The deal is expected to close by Friday, 890 5th Avenue Partners said in a news release. BuzzFeed will make its stock market debut as soon as Monday, under the ticker symbol BZFD. Part of the deal includes the completion of BuzzFeed’s $300 million acquisition of Complex Networks, a sports and entertainment publisher.
Because investors who buy into a SPAC do not know what company it plans to buy, they have the opportunity to redeem those shares at their I.P.O. price — in this case $10 — before it reaches any deal. Many did. BuzzFeed could have raised over $250 million from the investors in the SPAC, but in the end it got only $16 million, according to a news release from BuzzFeed and 890. But BuzzFeed will have $150 million that it is raising from selling a debt security. Other SPAC deals in recent weeks have suffered from shareholders asking for their money back.
As the shareholders were casting their votes, a move that could mean millions of dollars for its early investors and some current and former staff members, not everyone at the company was cheering: Union employees at its news division, BuzzFeed News, staged a daylong work stoppage in an effort to speed contract negotiations. All 61 of the workers who belong to the BuzzFeed News Union, which includes reporters, editors and designers, took part, the union said.
In a statement, the union accused the company of refusing to budge in contract negotiations. The main sticking point is pay. The union said BuzzFeed was proposing a 1 percent guaranteed annual wage increase and a minimum salary of $50,000.
“We deserve a strong contract that protects us and ensures a fair and equitable workplace for everyone in our unit,” Katie Notopoulos, a senior tech reporter, said in the statement.
A BuzzFeed spokesman said the company would be back at the negotiating table “next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues.”
The union, which formed in February 2019, is represented by the NewsGuild, which also represents workers at The New York Times and other media outlets. The union and the company have yet to agree on a first contract.
BuzzFeed was started out of a small office in New York’s Chinatown in 2006 as an experimental project in viral media for Mr. Peretti, back when his day job was chief technology officer of The Huffington Post. He devoted himself full time to BuzzFeed in 2011, after AOL bought HuffPost for $315 million, and transformed it into a stand-alone media company with the help of $35 million from investors.
It was soon hailed as the future of the news media. In recent years, though, it has missed revenue targets, and some investors pushed for a sale. Last year, BuzzFeed gained scale when it acquired HuffPost from its last owner, Verizon, in a stock deal.
Regulators in California said on Thursday that they had fined Pacific Gas & Electric $125 million for its role in causing the Kincade fire, which injured four people and destroyed hundreds of buildings in 2019.
As part of a settlement with the regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, the company will pay the state $40 million and will forgo collecting $85 million it is entitled to from its customers in the state. The commission’s action followed a determination by investigators at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that a PG&E transmission line caused the fire.
PG&E said it reached the settlement to more quickly compensate victims and so it could continue improving its systems, which have been responsible for many fires in recent years, including the deadliest one in state history, the 2018 Camp fire.
“We will continue our work to make it safe and make it right, both by resolving claims stemming from past fires and through our work to make our system safer,” PG&E said in a statement.
Regulators and the courts have ordered PG&E to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for starting wildfires. The utility filed bankruptcy in January 2019 after amassing $30 billion in liability related to fires.
The Kincade fire burned almost 78,000 acres in Sonoma County over two weeks in October and November 2019.
Officials are investigating the company’s equipment in at least three fires that burned this year, including the Dixie fire, the second-largest wildfire in California history.