business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the New York Times:

"The number of job openings rose in August, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, after three consecutive months of falling numbers.

"There were 9.6 million job openings in the month, up from a revised total of 8.9 million in July, according to seasonally adjusted figures in the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS. The increase was larger than expected.

"Investors balked at the new numbers, fearful that they would signal to the Federal Reserve that the economy was still running too quickly, necessitating even higher interest rates to slow it.

"Job openings are closely monitored by the Fed, which has tried to fight inflation over the past 19 months by increasing interest rates, aiming to cool the economy and reduce labor demand, though it took a pause at its most recent meeting."

According to the story, "Job openings have gradually come down from the 12 million recorded in April 2022, while the rate of workers leaving their jobs is down by nearly a percentage point, approaching what it was right before the pandemic. Openings rose in August, but because unemployment also ticked up, the number of openings per unemployed worker was flat, at around 1.5."

•  CNN reports that "seven Starbucks locations across San Francisco will shut down effective October 22," but the company says this is not just a reaction to local crime - in fact it has opened three new stores downtown in the last six months and is renovating four other stores.

“Each year as a standard course of business, we evaluate the store portfolio to determine where we can best meet our community and customers’ needs,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “This includes opening new locations, identifying stores in need of investment or renovation, exploring locations where an alternative format is needed and, in some instances, re-evaluating our footprint.”

The story notes that "the closures come as several well-known chains have left San Francisco in the last few years, including Whole Foods, CB2, Anthropologie and Nordstrom."

•  From the Washington Post:

"Your Chipotle burrito will be rolled by a human, but its guts may soon be assembled by a robot.

"The fast-casual chain announced Tuesday a new automated digital 'makeline' that uses machines to build bowls and salads to customer specifications. Human employees are then expected to incorporate the robot-assembled ingredients into burritos, tacos and quesadillas.

"For now, the new system - developed in collaboration with Hyphen, a kitchen technology company - is being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, Calif. But the company expects the technology will be live in restaurants in upcoming months, rolled out slowly starting with locations in Southern California."

•  From CNN, a story about how Starbucks is working to develop new coffee beans that will be resistant to the impact of climate change - a major concern since coffee is a "finicky crop," Starbucks buys about three percent of the world's coffee beans, and at least one estimate suggests that rising global temperatures could reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by up to 50 percent by 2050.

One other potential result:  geography inhospitable to growing coffee beans at the moment may evolve to being more appropriate for the crop.

According to the story, Starbucks "is developing new arabica varietals that are specifically cultivated to hold up better on a warming planet. For more than 10 years, agronomists at Starbucks have been breeding different types of coffee trees, trying to find ones that will yield a high amount of fruit in a relatively short amount of time and, among other things, resist coffee leaf rust, a disease that attacks coffee trees and is exacerbated by climate change.

"After pairing hundreds of varieties, the company has landed on six that fit the bill and meet the company’s standards for taste and flavor."

Pretty impressive that Starbucks started this process a decade ago, a time when far more people were declaring that climate change was a hoax.  (A few still say that, but their number has dwindled.  Or maybe I should say, melted.)