THE WEEK IN NUMBERS

Protesting farmers, asking for a raise and flying canines

We round up the numbers to know from the week’s biggest economic and business news stories so you can impress yourself and your friends.

Farmers across India are protesting against new laws aimed at deregulating India's enormous agricultural sector [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]
Farmers across India are protesting against new laws aimed at deregulating India's enormous agricultural sector [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

It’s beginning to look a lot like Friday, and as countries around the world enter the festive period, there are a lot of numbers you might have missed during all of that online shopping.

That’s why we are rounding up the biggest economic and business news stories of the week to keep you up to date – and guarantee you’ll be the most interesting person at that Zoom holiday party.

Three

The number of controversial laws passed to deregulate India’s enormous agriculture sector, which are now the subject of mass protests by angry farmers.

Small farmers are among India’s poorest citizens, but government policies have long protected them from the ravages of open market prices. That changed in September when Indian lawmakers passed new policies that Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims will “liberate” farmers from the tyranny of middlemen.

But many farmers fear that they stand to lose more than they could gain from the new regulations and that the main beneficiaries will be agricultural corporations with gargantuan financial firepower.

As a result, the farmers have taken to the streets in the biggest such protests in years.

Less than 0.2 percent

The minuscule share of the US federal budget set aside for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is tasked with keeping the country’s air, water and land clean on a “starvation” budget, experts say.

The EPA turned 50 this week, and while environmental scientists celebrated its impressive track record, many also lamented significant failures, particularly on climate justice.

US cities are building whitewater courses and encouraging greater use of urban waterways, but the efforts come as they struggle with pollution in their rivers, like in Des Moines, Iowa [File: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo]
Since President Richard Nixon created the agency, the US population has grown 60 percent, the US economy is more than four times larger, and Americans use 44 percent more energy.

But aggregate emissions from six common pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide have dropped 73 percent as of 2016. And that, as well as keeping harmful substances like lead out of the water, is a win.

But experts say the EPA lost valuable time under President Donald Trump, who pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement and weakened Obama-era power plant emissions rules – as well as fuel economy standards, wetlands conservation and mercury emissions caps.

712,000

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits from states fell last week to 712,000 – a drop of 75,000 from the previous week, according to the US Department of Labor.

Continuing claims that count all workers currently receiving state unemployment benefits also fell by 569,000 to 5.52 million in the week ending November 21.

While the downward trend is a welcome development after jobless claims spiked for two consecutive weeks, the Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan federal watchdog, said the weekly jobless claim numbers are not offering an accurate read on the health of the nation’s labour market.

Why? The GAO says the government’s data collection is flawed, plus last week’s Thanksgiving holiday could have thrown numbers off. Then there’s the fact that some workers might have hit the six-month limit on state unemployment benefits, so they’re still struggling but not eligible for help.

And that’s a problem as an ongoing partisan fight over the next round of stimulus relief continues – but moratoriums on evictions and other support programmes are set to expire at the end of the month, leaving millions vulnerable.

50 million

The number of Americans who may experience food insecurity this year, up 15 million from 2019, according to Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger-relief organisation.

The nonprofit said its network of nationwide food banks has distributed an estimated 4.2 billion meals since March 1, 40 percent of them to people who reported they never needed help before the pandemic.

About 40 percent of people in a food bank survey said they did not need help putting food on the table before the pandemic, Feeding America found [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]
It is just one of many signs the US economy is in a K-shaped recovery. That means the groups that were on the top, to begin with – wealthy Americans, for example – are recovering better and quicker, while the bottom continues to decline, spurring wider inequality. Plotted out on a graph, that troubling news looks like the letter K – hence the name.

15 percent

The share of women who reported asking for a raise from their employer during the pandemic, compared with 20 percent of men, according to a study released this week by Moody’s Analytics and Morning Consult.

The study found that overall, 23 percent of workers who are employed said the pandemic has made them less likely to ask for a raise in pay or benefits, compared with 18 percent who described themselves as more willing to do so.

But a drill down into the data reveals that the pandemic is widening gender gaps that predate it.

Across all leading demographic groups, women were far less likely to ask their employer for better compensation or benefits, the study found, and that is widening the US’s already substantial gender wage gap.

One

The species of service animal – a dog – that will soon be able to legally travel in the cabin with you on US airlines.

For years, some travellers have been bringing untrained dogs and all kinds of other animals on board by claiming they need the animal for emotional support [File: Julio Cortez/AP Photo]
After years of arguing with passengers about emotional support animals such as cats, turtles, pigs and even peacocks on flights, US airlines will only recognise dogs as service animals when a new rule takes effect next month.

Airlines maintain people were abusing the service animal designation and using it to dodge airline pet fees, which amount to an estimated $59.6m a year.

Sorry, cat people. Meow-ch!

Source : Al Jazeera

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