Axios Closer

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April 07, 2022

🩰 Happy Thursday! Labor shortages are continuing to keep companies on their toes, as our Closer stories today demonstrate. It's going to be rough out there for a while.

Today's newsletter, edited by Pete Gannon, is 672 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 0.4%.

  • Biggest gainer? HP (+14.8%), after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed an 11.4% stake.
  • Biggest decliner? Twitter (-5.4%), as investors digest its 29% stock surge in the days following Elon Musk's 9.2% stake disclosure.

1 big thing: Walmart throws money at trucker problem

Illustration: Allie Carl, Sarah Grillo/Axios

Getting goods from point A to point B hasn’t gotten any easier since the pandemic has eased, Hope writes.

  • Why it matters: Businesses say profits are being limited by transportation bottlenecks that they’re urgently trying to solve.

Driving the news: Walmart is now the latest employer to bump trucker pay as it tries to keep up with shoppers’ demands.

State of play: Consumers still want everything delivered while labor shortages and working conditions in transportation worsen.

  • The trucking industry lost 4,900 jobs last month, the first monthly decline since the start of the pandemic.
  • In 2021, there was a record deficit of 80,000 drivers, the American Trucking Associations trade group said — though some critics point to this as a lobbying tactic.

Walmart’s starting salary for truck drivers is now between $95,000 and $110,000 a year, up from an average of $87,000, a spokesperson told WSJ

  • What they’re saying: “I have nothing against investment bankers. They could all retire and nothing much would change. [Truckers] all quit, everything comes to a halt,” President Joe Biden said this week at a White House event promoting his administration’s Trucking Action Plan.
  • For context: Investment banking analysts, who are also questioning their own quality of life, start at $110,000 at JPMorgan.

The big picture: Walmart and other retailers have also been testing autonomous trucks and vehicles to replace more than 500,000 long-haul and last-mile delivery drivers.

2. Charted: Fewest jobless claims in 54 years

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of Americans who filed a new claim for unemployment insurance benefits last week was the lowest since 1968, Axios' Neil Irwin writes.

Why it matters: The claims numbers are just the latest sign of an exceptionally tight labor market.

  • The 166,000 new claims filed last week come exactly two years after the all-time peak of 6.1 million new claims filed in the first week of April 2020, as the pandemic set in.

Go deeper.

3. What's happening

🤳 The New York Times' executive editor told his reporters to spend less time on Twitter. (Axios)

⚖️ The Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson 53-47 to the Supreme Court. (CNBC)

4. Cruising at sea level

A white bus emblazoned with the logo of American Airlines
American Airlines will take passengers from airport to airport in the Philadelphia area on buses. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

American Airlines is about to start moving people at much lower altitudes, Nathan writes.

Driving the news: The airline announced Thursday that it will offer bus connections to several smaller regional destinations from its Philadelphia hub.

  • Transportation service Landline will provide 50- to 70-mile rides to and from airports in Allentown/Bethlehem and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Why it matters: With airlines facing pilot shortages and looking to chop unprofitable routes, customers will have to consider alternative options like this to get to less popular destinations.

How it works: Upon landing at the Philadelphia airport, passengers with a connecting bus will de-board, enter the terminal and find the gate where their bus is set to depart.

  • Going the other way, passengers traveling to Philadelphia will go through security at their local airport first, then board a bus.

Of note: United Airlines has been using buses to connect passengers to regional locations from its Denver hub since last year.

5. Tiger has sportsbooks shaking

Tiger Woods reacts after making par on the seventh green during the first round of the Masters.
Tiger Woods reacts after making par on the seventh green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Oddsmakers will be biting their nails this weekend if Tiger Woods has a serious chance to win the Masters, Nathan writes.

What’s happening: Bets have poured in on the golf legend to win the tournament in his dramatic return to golf after a devastating car crash in 2021.

  • The pre-tournament odds on Woods to win hovered in the range of about 50-to-1, meaning you'd net $50 for every $1 bet if you wagered on him to capture the title.

Catch up quick: Woods finished his first round -1 on Thursday, well within reach of the leaders in the four-round tournament.

Be smart: Don’t cry any tears for the sportsbooks, even if Woods prevails. The house always wins in the end.

6. What they're saying

"It’s kind of a bummer for me. If there’s no Spirit anymore, who are we going to make fun of?"
— Comedian Jimmy Kimmel on the prospect of JetBlue acquiring Spirit Airlines (CNBC)

Editor's note: This newsletter has been corrected to note the The S&P 500 closed up 0.4%.

Thanks to Sheryl Miller for copy editing today's (and every day's) newsletter.