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Stellar Recap | Aug 20-26
AUG. 27, 2023
👋 Hello there,
Welcome to another edition of the Stellar Recap, a weekly newsletter where I share interesting content you may have missed over the week. This issue features 76 bullets.
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📊 Business, Economics & Personal Finance
Net profit for 6 of the largest public fast-food chains in the US totaled ~$16b YoY in Q2, >30% higher than the group achieved at the same point in 2019. Chick-fil-A isn’t in the top 6, but the average store rakes in $6.7M/yr, which is more than the top franchises, including ~2x what the typical McDonald’s store makes.
Kroger has become the biggest seller of sushi in the US (🔒WSJ). It sells 40M+ pieces of sushi in a typical year and generates an estimated $400M-$600M in sales.
The average starting wage for full-time job offer in the US rose 14% YoY in Q2 to ~$69.5K. The min. acceptable salary offer to switch jobs, rose to ~$78.6K, representing an 8% YoY jump and the highest level in a data series that goes back to 2014. BUT new data from ZipRecruiter suggests that the average pay for a majority of new hires may be declining (🔒WSJ). Some of the steepest drops have been in tech and transportation. New hires account for less than 4% of all employed workers each month so the changes can take a while to show up in federal data.
From May 2023 to Jun 2023, the quits rate decreased in 16 states, increased in 1 state (Kansas), and were little changed in 33 states and DC. The largest decreases in quits rates occurred in Maine (−1.2%).
American Airlines’ 15K+ pilots negotiated a contract that includes an immediate 21% pay bump, with compensation increasing ~46% over the duration of the 4-yr contract including 401(k) contributions.
LinkedIn reported that English-language job postings mentioning AI tech like “ChatGPT” and “GPT” have jumped 21x since the tech first debuted last Nov. The number of users listing related skills on their profiles has grown an average of 75% each month between the start of the year and Jun.
~205.5K US workers were on strike in Jul. The industry with the most strikes is accommodation and food services, with 18 different strikes.
87% of US adults said they’re very or somewhat interested in a 4-day workweek. When asked if they’d still be interested if that meant that remote work was never allowed, 51% expressed interest.
The share of US workers earning $100K+/yr who reported losing their job in the prior 2 mo. has fallen (🔒Bloomberg) after spiking during the first half of the year which was mostly driven by tech and finance companies.
An advanced model of ChatGPT indicated that 86 US jobs were entirely exposed to replacement by AI (🔒NYT). Human researchers said 15 jobs were at risk. The job that both the humans and the AI agreed was most exposed was mathematician.
NVIDIA reported $13.5B in revenue for Q2, up 88% from the previous quarter and >2x its revenue from the same quarter last year. Doubling revenue isn't unheard of for growth companies but doubling at this scale is rare.
28% of remote US workers said they felt a connection to the purpose of their organizations compared with 33% of full-time office workers. Hybrid workers clocked in highest, with 35% saying their companies’ mission made them feel their jobs were important.
The ~150K member union, United Auto Workers, authorized a strike when labor contracts expire on Sep. 14. Analysts think that a strike is “highly likely.” Stellantis is the most likely target, but GM and Ford are also at risk. UAW members could strike all 3 automakers for 12 weeks before the org’s stike funds are exhausted. Strike pay ($100/workday) is ~25%-60% of a UAW worker’s typical compensation. A 10 day strike would cost the 3 automakers ~$5B.
The past several years have seen hundreds of state laws proposing to expand nondoctor medical professionals’ ability to treat patients (🔒WP). >Half of states no longer require a physician to sign off on the work of a nurse practitioner. The American Medical Association is fighting to prevent these changes, stating that “Patients deserve care led by physicians.”
~1 in 4 Americans have medical debt. An estimated 23.5% of those in the middle class (annual income of $50K-$100K) have debt compared with 13% for those at higher income levels.
A new survey found that a record share of US adults under age 30 used marijuana (~44%) and engaged in binge drinking (30.5%; 5+ drinks in one setting w/in the prior 2 weeks) in 2022. Record shares of 35-50-yr-olds also reported using marijuana (28%).
New findings suggest that doctors may be able to detect signs of Parkinson’s disease several years before a person is diagnosed, using optical coherence tomography (OCT).
A new study found that 73% of therapists in the US are white. On average, there’s 1 white therapist per 307 white people vs 1 BIPOC therapist per 1K BIPOC people. Atlanta, Raleigh, and Seattle have the highest ratio of BIPOC therapists relative to the local BIPOC population, respectively. El Paso, Memphis, and Milwaukee have the lowest ratio.
A new survey of the US's largest employers (w/ 10K+ employees) showed that the average health care cost per worker reached about $17.2K in 2023, up from $15.9K in 2022. To cut costs, 79% of employers are limiting the initial supply of a new medications patients can get at a pharmacy. In 2022, pharmacy spending accounted for 24% of companies' overall health spending, up from 21% in 2021.
A new study found that 1 in 5 US mothers experienced mistreatment by medical staff during pregnancy. This included being ignored, scolded or yelled at, having their physical privacy violated, being threatened with the withholding of treatment, and/or being forced to accept care they didn't want by health care providers during maternal care. Women with private insurance were less likely to be mistreated than those without insurance or those with public insurance.
Flesh-eating bacteria has killed 5 Floridians so far this year across Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties (26 cases have been reported). Warm summer waters provide ideal growing conditions for the bacteria - although you can also be exposed in other ways like being bitten. Infections can cause flu-like symptoms of fever, dizziness and cold sweats right away. Severe complications are common, like sepsis, shock, and organ failure.
The US has at least 600 fewer nursing homes than it did 6 yrs ago (🔒WSJ). Consequently, frail elderly patients are stuck in hospitals, which are dangerous places for seniors, waiting for somewhere to go.
The nationwide median rate of kindergartners with vaccine exemptions has ~doubled over the past decade. Exemption rates last year were highest in Idaho (9.8%), Utah (7.4%), and Oregon (7%), while Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia had the lowest at 0.1%.
The FDA approved Pfizer’s Abrysvo, which is the first prenatal vaccine to protect newborns against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) .
According to the CDC, asthma-related emergency department visits were 17% higher than expected in the US on the days when record-setting wildfires in Canada carried heavy smoke into parts of the country. On the worst air quality day in NY in Jun., ED visits related to asthma jumped 82%.
🎓 Lifelong Learning
🌴 Lifestyle & Travel
The average San Francisco commuter spends ~$12.7K to get to and from work, the costliest average annual commute of all US cities analyzed by the Chamber of Commerce.
The World Travel & Tourism Council estimated that the travel industry could generate $15.5T by 2033 (🔒Bloomberg), which would represent 11.6% of the global economy and 1 in 9 jobs worldwide.
A field guide to 15 great hot dogs of America (🔒NYT), from New York’s all-beef classic to Alaska’s reindeer-driven rendition.
A new poll showed that Dallas is the safest of 16 large US cities.
The Four Corners Monument (in AZ, NM, CO, and UT) is the # 1 tourist trap in the world, according to an analysis by USA TODAY, which we analyzed 23.2M Google reviews of the 500 most popular tourist attractions in the world, spanning 65 countries in 6 continents.
10 best places to travel in Oct., according to Afar.
🗳️ Politics, Security & International Affairs
Only 36% of Americans approve of President Biden’s handling of the economy and 42% aprove of his handling of his job as president overall.
A survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 8 in 10 transgender or nonbinary Floridians want to move out of state or have made plans to do so. A third of LGBTQ+ residents responded the same way.
Greek firefighters recovered 18 bodies from the rubble of a major wildfire near the Avanta area in Ioannis Artopios.
The DOJ announced 718 law enforcement actions connected to $836M that was stolen through the fraudulent use of Covid aid programs (🔒WP). To date, the DOJ has launched investigations into a total of $8.6B in alleged fraud.
A USA TODAY analysis found there’s at least 1 instance of a major school bus driver shortage in every state this year.
⏩ Pop Culture, Art, Sports & Entertainment
Spain won its 1st Women’s World Cup last Sun., after beating England 1-0.
Sherwin-Williams released its 2024 Colormix Forecast, which predicts that the top trending colors next year will be 1) red, berry, and pink, 2) off-whites and soft tints, 3) deep deep darks, and 4) blues and greens.
An analysis of the 523 male contestants on the past 19 seasons of The Bachelorette found that most contestants worked in sales (14.3%). ~7% of contestants are or were professional athletes, even though athletes represent 0.01% of American workers. Athlete contestants were also the most common winners on the show, while CEOs, lawyers, and marketers tended to be the first to be cut. Only 4 of the 21 couples (~19%) that linked up in the finales of the show are still together today.
A break down of iconic hip hop samples over the past 50 yrs through musical frequency charts showing where the bits of popular songs came from (29.5 min. video).
New records from the British Museum found that hundreds of historical artifacts have gone missing since 2013, including coins, jewelry, and 540 pieces of pottery. The missing items date from between the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD. Some items have been tracked to eBay.
Dune: Part Two will be delayed because of the ongoing strikes in Hollywood. The sci-fi sequel was set to debut Nov. 3, but has been rescheduled to Mar. 15.
🏡 Real Estate
A new report estimated that college students would need to earn ~$72K/yr to afford rent in America's most expensive college towns. California is home to 16 of the US’s 25 most expensive college towns, with the 3 priciest cities all in Santa Clara County.
>8% of US homes are worth $1M+. The SF mryto strs has the largest share of homes that are worth $1M+ (81%).
The most costly type of natural catastrophe in the US for property insurers in 2023 is thunderstorms, accounting for 70% of all losses. Total losses are estimated to reach $50B+ by the end of the year.
48% of new homes built last year had 4+ bedrooms (🔒Bloomberg), the highest share since the Census started keeping such records in 1973. Only 21% of US households have 4 or more people in them. At the same time, the average unit size for new houses has decreased 10% nationally to ~2.4K sq ft since 2018 (🔒WSJ). So more bedrooms but each room is getting smaller?
With an average median list price of $10.65M, the California enclave of Newport Coast was the priciest place to a buy a home in America last month (🔒WSJ).
Sales of newly built homes in the US rose to an annualized pace of 714K in Jul. Meanwhile, sales of existing homes posted another sharper-than-expected decline. While new home sales are growing much faster than existing homes, the latter makes up 80%+ of the market.
A study by Point2 analyzed the local median price per sq ft of homes in the 100 largest US cities to see how much space the local average rent could afford if it were a mortgage payment (🔒NYT), assuming a 20% down payment and a monthly 30-yr-fixed-rate mortgage payment at 6.78%, plus homeowners’ insurance and property taxes. In 63 of the 100 cities, the average rent would support the mortgage on a home of <1K sq ft.
Rents in Manhattan rose to a record-high average of ~$5.6K/mo. in Jul., up 9.3% YoY. In other words, the average rental in Manhattan costs ~$67.1K/yr, excluding application fees, broker fees, and other common amenity fees like for parking, storage, and gyms.
Over the past 7 yrs, the total number of renter-occupied housing units in the US has increased by just 275K. The number of owner-occupied housing units has increased by ~11.1M.
A recent study found that ~1 in 5 US employees perceive their roles as unnecessary and lacking value, particularly those working in admin support, sales, and business and finance occupations.
A recent survey found that 91% of women received unwanted romantic and sexual advances on LinkedIn. 74% said they dialed back their activity on the platform due to inappropriate messages. Only 43% let the senders know that they crossed a line.
China’s total fertility rate fell to 1.09 last year (🔒WSJ), down from 1.3 in 2020. In order for a country’s population to sustain itself, TFR would need to be ~2.1 which means each couple is giving birth to at least 1 child to replace themselves.
1% of Americans identify as vegan, down from 3% five yrs ago.
Women who graduated from a top MBA program between 2015 and 2019 were significantly more likely than their male classmates to negotiate their job offers, but they were still offered 22% less.
🧪 Science, Climate, Environment & Technology
A glitch on X, formerly known as Twitter, wiped out most pre-Dec. 2014 images and links. No videos are affected. Separately, Elon Musk admitted that X “may fail, as so many have predicted.” Also related, a new study found that of the ~153.2M acacounts that followed Musk last Oct., 42% had 0 followers and 72% had less than 10 followers.
A record strong heat dome prompted extreme heat alerts for 143M people in 22 states last Tue. Heat indices climbed to 120F-130F in some places. 3.6K+ daily high temp records and ~5K daily high min temp records have been broken in the past 30 days. Hundreds of those records fell last week.
Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the Moon after a problem occurred with its propulsion system as it attempted to get into an orbit ahead of landing. The team can now only communicate with Luna-25 when the moon is visible over Russia.
Car companies showed off their fancy new EV concept automobiles at Monterey Car Week.
The Gemini North telescope in Hawaii has stopped observations since Aug 1, due to a “cyber incident.” 8 other telescopes in Chile have also stopped observations due to cyberattacks (🔒Science).
A photo of an invasive orange pore fungus was the winner of the 2023 BMC Ecology and Evolution image competition.
The number of Canadians who have been forced to evacuate their homes rose to 50K+ due to wildfires spreading in British Columbia. Check out this 30 sec. clip of a firenado outside Kamloops. So far this season, ~59.2 sq mi have burned across the country. The carbon emissions amount to >2x the previous Canadian annual total estimated fire emissions record.
Temps in southern Sweden have increased by ~2C over the past 30 yrs, compared with the previous 30 yrs. This has lengthened the growing season for grapes by ~20 days, making Sweden an increasingly attractive location for wine producers.
A spotless giraffe – believed to be the only of its kind – was born at a Tennessee zoo last week.
The furthest planet from the Sun, Neptune, is nearly cloudless, and a new study suggests it’s because the planet’s wispy white streaks of cold methane clouds closely follow solar activity. When solar activity is low and less radiation is emitted by the Sun, Neptune’s clouds dissipate (🔒NYT).
Using X-ray and optical imaging, scientists have documented the process of water droplets freezing as they come into contact with an ice-nucleating particle during the formation of rain (🔒Nature). What remains unclear is how clouds produce enough of these nucleating particles to make rain.
India became the 4th country to successfully land spacecraft on the Moon last Wed. with a reported budget of just $75M.
Simulations suggest that certain plants will grow faster with more CO2 in the atmosphere. The plant that proliferated the most in the study was poison ivy, which grew 70% faster by 2050 in the simulated environment. It may also become more poisonous in the process.
A group of 19 neuroscientists, philosophers and computer scientists have come up with a checklist of criteria that, if met, would indicate that a system has a high chance of being conscious.
Wishing you a good week
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