Economics in the News – April 4-10, 2022
Economics impacts our lives every day. Below are some of the top storylines from this past week related to economics.
- The World Bank has projected that Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 45.1 percent this year due to Russia’s invasion. Half of Ukraine’s businesses have closed because of the war, while the country has sustained vast damage to its infrastructure. The war has cut off access to the Black Sea, which is a key source for 90 percent of Ukraine’s grain shipments and other exports.
Ukraine plays an important role as a global supplier of agriculture exports such as wheat but the planting and harvesting seasons of those crops have been disrupted. More than four million people have fled Ukraine with many of those people going to Poland and other bordering countries such as Moldova, Romania and Hungary. [Associated Press]
- Payments on student loan payments will be paused until Aug. 31, 2022. It marks the seventh extension of a pandemic relief effort that began more than two years ago, after initially being paused in March 2020. The latest extension comes less than one month before payments were scheduled to resume.
Americans owe $1.6 trillion in student loan debt – more than they owe on car loans, credit cards or any other consumer debt other than mortgages. The latest delay means that the topic of student loan debt will likely be an issue during the upcoming midterm elections. [The New York Times]
- Sixty-five percent of workers in the United States say they are looking for new employment, according to a PricewaterhouseCooper US Pulse Survey. Some are looking at alternatives to boost their salary, others for improved benefits, and more for improved workplace culture. It’s part of a changing phenomenon that the expectation among many Gen Z and Millennials that they expect to work in multiple careers.
According to LinkedIn research, the average job tenure within the internet or information technology services is 1.8 years. Employers have to use more diverse strategies to attract and retain workers, including offering perks such as flexibility and aligning with the values of their workers. [TIME]
- Last summer, El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as an official currency, alongside the United States dollar. The El Salvadorian town El Zonte became a testing ground for bitcoin after an initiative called the “Bitcoin Beach Initiative” was created following an anonymous donation that funded the initiative and created dozens of jobs.
Many of the jobs in El Zonte are paid in bitcoin while roughly 45 businesses are accepting bitcoin. Citizens can pay their dentist, pay their electric bill or buy a $2 cup of coffee using bitcoin. However, some of the shop owners in El Zonte remain skeptical due to the complex nature of bitcoin. It’s not backed by a government authority and requires significant energy to support the underlying network. [60 Minutes]
- BA.2 – a subvariant of the Omicron variant that widely spread throughout the United States this winter – is spreading. It has become the dominant variant throughout the United States and has sparked recent surges across Europe. Do people need to worry?
Doctors say that the metrics to monitor BA.2 aren’t necessarily the same as they were earlier in the pandemic. With many people testing at home, case counts are less reliable. But case count doesn’t tell us the severity of cases. Scientists and doctors recommend watching the change in case counts and local hospital visits while adhering to your own risk profile and tolerance. [The Wall Street Journal]