business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"U.S. inflation accelerated to a 7.5% annual rate in January, reaching a new four-decade high as strong consumer demand and pandemic-related supply constraints kept pushing up prices.

"The Labor Department on Thursday said the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—was last month at its highest level since February 1982, when compared with January a year ago, and higher than December’s 7% annual rate. Inflation has been above 5% for the past eight months.

"The so-called core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, climbed 6% in January from a year earlier. That was a sharper rise than December’s 5.5% rise, and the highest rate in nearly 40 years."

•  The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle City Council has passed 6-0 a resolution that expresses support for Starbucks employees trying to unionize.

The story notes that the resolution "prompted debate among council members over the purpose of symbolic resolutions and stoked old debates among the council’s liberal faction."  Two members of the Council declined to vote on the matter, while still expressing support for organized labor, because they questioned whether the lawmakers should be weighing in on the matter in this way.

•  CNBC reports that Apple, which has 270 bricks-and-mortar stores in the US,  "is increasing benefits for U.S. retail workers, including doubling sick days for full-time and part-time employees … full-time retail workers will get 12 paid sick days per year, twice as many as before. Retail employees will also receive more vacation days if eligible, and part-time employees will get up to six vacation days. Retail employees are also now eligible for paid parental leave and can access discounted emergency child care."

The story notes that "the move indicates that Apple is making changes to attract and retain hourly workers for its retail stores in a tight labor market. The increase in sick days also addresses complaints from retail workers about potentially losing out on pay because of policies stemming from the pandemic and the CDC-recommended isolation period for close contacts or positive tests."

More pressure on other retailers to improve their wage and benefits packages … at least if they want to attract and keep employees.