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Business Highlights: March hiring continues, markets rise

April 1, 2022 GMT

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Amazon workers in NYC vote to unionize in historic labor win

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize on Friday, marking the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history. Warehouse workers cast 2,654 votes in favor of a union, giving the fledgling Amazon Labor Union enough support to pull off a victory. According to the National Labor Relations Board, which is overseeing the process, 2,131 workers rejected the union bid. The 67 ballots that were challenged by either Amazon or the ALU were not enough to sway the outcome. The victory was an uphill battle for the ALU, made up of former and current workers who lacked official backing from an established union and were out-gunned by the deep-pocketed retail giant.

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Journalists impeded, not muzzled, by Russian reporting rules

NEW YORK (AP) — New restrictions placed on journalists in Russia have impeded but not muzzled reporting about the country and its war in Ukraine. A law enacted on March 4 that criminalizes the reporting of so-called “false information,” and carries punishment of up to 15 years in prison, says journalists cannot call the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “war.” Some news organizations have pulled their journalists from Russia, and many aren’t saying what they’re doing for safety reasons. But the tools of the modern reporting trade — social media, the Internet, mobile phones — have enabled many news organizations to keep a close eye on what is going on in Russia.

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Face scanner Clearview AI aims to branch out beyond police

NEW YORK (AP) — A controversial facial recognition company that’s built a massive photographic dossier of the world’s people for use by police, national governments and the Ukrainian military now plans to offer its technology to banks and other private businesses. Clearview AI co-founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That disclosed the plans Friday to The Associated Press in order to clarify a recent federal court filing that suggested the company was up for sale. He said the company plans to launch a new ID verification business to compete with Amazon and Microsoft. It would use Clearview algorithms but not its trove of 20 billion images, which the company reserves for law enforcement use.

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Alaska Airlines cancels dozens of flights as pilots picket

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Dozens of flights along the West Coast are being canceled as Alaska Airlines pilots picket during ongoing contract negotiations with the airline. At least 66 Alaska Airlines flights were canceled in Seattle, 20 in Portland, 10 in Los Angeles and seven in San Francisco. The union action comes as air travel rebounds to pre-pandemic levels and many Americans are headed on vacation for spring break. Alaska Airlines says in a statement that it values its pilots but needs to negotiate a deal that allows the airline to maintain growth and profitability. Passengers on canceled flights vented their frustration on social media.

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US added 431,000 jobs in March in sign of economic health

America’s employers extended a streak of robust hiring in March, adding 431,000 jobs in a sign of the economy’s resilience in the face of a still-destructive pandemic, Russia’s war against Ukraine and the highest inflation in 40 years. The government’s report showed that last month’s job growth helped shrink the unemployment rate to 3.6%. That’s the lowest rate since the pandemic erupted two years ago and just above the half-century low of 3.5% that was reached two years ago. Despite the inflation surge, persistent supply bottlenecks, damage from COVID-19 and now a war in Europe, employers have added at least 400,000 jobs for 11 straight months.

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New vehicles must average 40 mpg by 2026, up from 28 mpg

DETROIT (AP) — New vehicles sold in the U.S. will have to average at least 40 miles per gallon of gasoline in 2026 under new rules unveiled by the government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday its fuel economy requirements will undo a rollback enacted under President Donald Trump. For the current model year, standards enacted under Trump require the fleet of new vehicles to get about 28 miles per gallon in real-world driving. They’re expected to decrease carbon dioxide emissions — but not as much as some environmentalists want — and raise new vehicle prices in an industry already pressed by inflation and supply chain issues.

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European inflation soars to record 7.5% on fuel, food costs

LONDON (AP) — Inflation in Europe has soared to another record. It’s a fresh sign that rising energy prices fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine are squeezing consumers and adding pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates. Official EU figures released Friday show consumer prices in the 19 countries that use the euro currency rose by an annual rate of 7.5% in March. The latest reading smashed the record set just last month, when it hit a revised 5.9%. Inflation in the eurozone has been setting records since December and is at its highest level since recordkeeping for the euro began in 1997. The spiking price of energy has been the main factor.

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High energy costs are hitting UK. It’s about to get worse

LONDON (AP) — People across the United Kingdom will face tough choices in coming months as energy costs for millions of households are set to rise by 54% on Friday. It’s the second big jump in energy bills since October, and a third may be ahead as rebounding demand from the COVID-19 pandemic and now Russia’s war in Ukraine push energy prices higher. Those costs are the main driver of rising consumer prices. While inflation is a worldwide phenomenon, it’s a bigger issue in Britain because it’s more exposed to rising natural gas prices even than its European neighbors.

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Analysis: Oil prices, Ukraine war create Saudi pivot point

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The world is looking to Saudi Arabia to boost oil production as global energy prices spike because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But that could mean rethinking how to deal with the kingdom’s controversial crown prince. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ties with longtime allies have been troubled by a string of issues. At the top of the list is the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018, as well as Saudi Arabia’s intervention in neighboring Yemen’s war. With economic worries high, some may be putting the controversies behind them.

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Russia: Push to pay for gas in rubles not disrupting supply

BERLIN (AP) — Russian officials say their demand that natural gas be paid for in rubles doesn’t mean supplies will be immediately interrupted. Gas used for heating and electricity is still flowing from Russia to Europe on Friday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says “payments on shipments in progress right now must be made not this very day, but somewhere in late April, or even early May.” But a decree he signed says countries could pay foreign currency to Gazprombank, which would convert the money into rubles in a second account to pay for the gas. It gave Russian authorities and the bank 10 days to make arrangements.

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The S&P 500 rose 15.45 points, or 0.3%, to 4,545.86. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 139.92 points, or 0.4%, to 34,818.27. The Nasdaq rose 40.98 points, or 0.3%, to 14,261.50. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 20.99 points, or 1%, to 2,091.11.

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