Pandemic, labor shortages have left long-term care facilities competing for staff

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(NEW YORK) — Labor shortages across the country are fueling a competition among long-term care facilities to retain and hire staff as they grapple with the delta variant.

With U.S. job openings hitting a record high of 9.2 million, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are losing staff to other industries, or to other nursing facilities that can offer higher wages and better benefits, long-term care advocates and health care associations tell ABC News.

Staff shortages among nursing homes are not new. But advocates say the combination of the coronavirus pandemic, a general labor shortage, and a looming vaccine mandate for many long-term care facilities is making it even more difficult to keep staff.

Many facilities are raising their pay as a result — which in turn has increased competition.

“You have places offering a starting rate of $19 or $20 with huge sign-up bonuses of thousands of dollars,” said Paul Liistro, CEO of Manchester Manor and Vernon Manor nursing homes in Connecticut. In contrast, Liistro said, his facilities are on a three-year track to provide certified nursing assistants a $20 hourly wage.

In May 2020, the median annual wage for long-term care nursing assistants — most of whom work full-time — was $30,120, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Liistro told ABC News that for a brief period of time at the start of the pandemic, some nursing homes were able to raise staff salaries after receiving federal and state coronavirus relief funds. But Liistro said with that aid no longer available, his facilities can’t keep up with the competitive wages being offered in other places.

And Liistro said he expects to see some resignations due to the upcoming mandate that will require his staffers to either get vaccinated or be tested regularly.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that it will require nursing home staffs be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. The latest move by the White House is already receiving pushback from advocates who say the decision will only lead to more staff shortages.

“Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine-hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes. “It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse. The net effect of this action will be the opposite of its intent, and it will affect the ability to provide quality care to our residents.”

Nationwide vaccination rates among nursing home staff members are lagging far behind residents. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, 78% of long-term care facility residents are fully vaccinated — while staff vaccinations are only at 56.7%

Liistro told ABC News that his staff continues to express concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, despite nursing home cases and deaths plummeting after they were prioritized for the vaccine.

“We have about 125 unvaccinated people,” Liistro said of his staff. “My guess is that 80% are going to get vaccinated, 10% will get exemptions and the other 10% will leave.”

“But,” he said, “I’m confident we will find people who want to work in a safe environment with employers who are doing the right thing.”

At John Knox Village, an independent 430-bed nursing facility located in a Kansas City suburb, managers say they’re seeing competition from beyond the health care industry. On top of losing nurses and certified nursing assistants to other nursing homes and hospitals offering higher salaries, the facility recently lost its long-time housekeeper to a warehouse job that offered an additional $3 an hour.

John Knox Village spokesperson Emily Banyas said that last year, the facility raised wages to between $11-$12 an hour for certified nursing assistants in order to remain competitive with stores like Target and Walmart. But recently the big-box stores raised their wages yet again, and are offering added benefits like college tuition and moving expenses.

“It’s turning into a borderline crisis for senior living communities,” Banyas said.

Most of the 310 Florida nursing homes and 23 assisted living facilities questioned last month by the Florida Health Care Association reported they are facing staff challenges.

As a result, said FHCA spokesperson Kristen Knapp, many Florida facilities are having to pay temporary staffing agencies to fill positions. That, in turn, has cost facilities in the state an additional $22.7 million, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Knapp also said that some facilities have been unable to take on new patients because they lack the necessary staff.

In Pennsylvania, the long-term care workforce crisis has “spiraled out of control,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.

Like in Florida, Pennsylvania providers have relied heavily on agency staff or contractors to fill staffing needs, Shamberg said — but now, even those agencies are facing their own workforce shortage.

“Other sectors, including hospitals, have the financial means to offer extravagant bonuses and rapidly maximize wages,” Shamberg said. “Long-term care providers simply cannot keep pace, which leads to workers leaving for other jobs in health care and other industries.”

Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the AHCA/NCAL, said a long-term solution is desperately needed.

“Nursing homes are in constant competition for staff,” said Gifford. “Many providers struggle to recruit and retain caregivers who can often find less demanding jobs in other settings, such as hospitals and industries that can offer better pay.”

“This has been persistent, and the most pressing challenge confronting long-term care, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated,” Gifford said. “The ultimate impact is on our nation’s seniors, who may face limited access to long-term care.”

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Ulta Beauty specialty shops launch in over 50 Target stores

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(NEW YORK) –Attention, beauty enthusiasts! Ulta Beauty and Target have joined forces and this is not a drill.

The new Ulta Beauty shop-in-shop concept has officially started to roll out at over 50 locations.

Intrigued shoppers can also get a look at the full product assortment of offerings on Target’s website, which features over 50 prestige brands.

Standout brands include Clinique skin care, Urban Decay makeup, Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern hair care brand and many more.

Following the initial openings, this shop-in-a-shop format is slated to open in hundreds of other locations as well as online for years to come.

The Ulta Beauty specialty shops are located near existing Target beauty sections and feature specialized displays, season-specific buys and discovery zones for on-trend products.

There will also be trained staff available to help those looking for expert recommendations.

“Ulta Beauty at Target is unmatched in the industry, bringing guests the opportunity to discover new prestige brands while they shop Target’s incredible beauty assortment,” Christina Hennington, Target’s executive vice president and chief growth officer, said in a statement.

She continued, “This unique partnership is another way we continue to elevate the guest experience across our multi-category business to drive traffic and preference as we meet guests’ needs in innovative ways.

“With two powerhouse retailers, our collective brand love, loyalty and omnichannel expertise will inspire guests and raise the bar for the beauty shopping experience,” Hennington added.

Beauty lovers will also get to benefit from two rewards programs — Target Circle and Ultamate Rewards — with this new concept.

Ulta Beauty joins Target’s roster of partnerships with other big-name brands, such as Disney, CVS, Starbucks and more.

“As the retail and beauty industries continue to evolve, we take pride in being leaders that continually redefine and elevate guest experiences,” said Ulta Beauty Chief Operating Officer Kecia Steelman.

She continued, “Ulta Beauty at Target reflects our commitment to drive the industry forward and keep our guests meaningfully engaged. Our dynamic teams have worked together to create a disruptive, exciting way to discover prestige beauty with a thoughtfully curated assortment and knowledgeable, approachable experts to serve as beauty gurus.”

Ulta Beauty at Target has opened at locations throughout California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Texas and many more coming soon.

Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News and “Good Morning America.”

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T-Mobile says data breach exposed personal data of more than 40 million people

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(NEW YORK) — T-Mobile confirmed that the personal information of millions of current and prospective customers was compromised in a recent “highly sophisticated cyberattack.”

Some of the data accessed by hackers includes first and last names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and drivers license or ID information. The company said no phone numbers, account numbers, passwords or financial information, including credit or debit card details, were compromised.

The cell phone carrier said the access point bad actors used to illegally gain entry to its servers was located and closed, but the company’s investigation into the breach is ongoing.

“Our preliminary analysis is that approximately 7.8 million current T-Mobile postpaid customer accounts’ information appears to be contained in the stolen files, as well as just over 40 million records of former or prospective customers who had previously applied for credit with T-Mobile,” the company said.

Moreover, the company confirmed that some 850,000 active T-Mobile prepaid customer names, phone numbers and account PINs were also exposed. No customers of Metro by T-Mobile, formerly Sprint prepaid, or Boost had their names or PINs exposed.

T-Mobile said it’s offering two years of free identity protection services with McAfee’s ID Theft Protection Service to customers who are affected, and is recommending all T-Mobile postpaid customers proactively change their account PINs.

The company also said it’s also launching a web page on Wednesday with additional information to help customers protect themselves.

“We take our customers’ protection very seriously and we will continue to work around the clock on this forensic investigation to ensure we are taking care of our customers in light of this malicious attack,” the company said. “While our investigation is ongoing, we wanted to share these initial findings even as we may learn additional facts through our investigation that cause the details above to change or evolve.”

The breach at T-Mobile comes in the wake of multiple high-profile cybersecurity attacks this year that have targeted meat processors, oil pipeline operators and more. In May, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at modernizing the federal government’s response to cyberattacks.

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Old Navy unveils its most diverse sizing ever by offering every style in every size

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(NEW YORK) — Old Navy is championing size inclusion with the launch of the brand’s latest “Bodequality” campaign.

More than a campaign, the fashion retailer announced it would be fully revamping the company’s size offerings to feature every women’s style in every size ranging from 0-30 and XS-4X, along with no price differences.

The brand also confirmed Wednesday that these changes will start rolling out in stores and online starting Aug. 20.

The store’s entire shopping experience surrounding size inclusion, store visuals and more are getting a full-on upgrade, the company said.

In 2016, a study published by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education revealed that the average size of an American woman is between 16 to 18.

At the top of this year, the CDC published 2015-2018 data revealing that the average weight of American women is 170.8 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches. In most U.S. stores, these measurements equate to a pants size of 16 and up or large to extra large.

However, GMA previously reported that only about 2,000 stores cater to women above size 12 compared to more than 60,000 stores that cater to traditional straight sizes, 00 to 12, according to Torrid’s CEO Liz Muñoz.

Old Navy’s president and CEO Nancy Green noticed an opportunity to change the women’s shopping experience by making it more inclusive regardless of size, and she essentially ran with it.

“Bodqueality is not a one-time campaign, but a full transformation of our business in service to our customers based on years of working closely with them to research their needs,” Green said. “I’m proud of the collaboration across our Old Navy teams to evolve the retail experience for women.”

With efforts to provide updated sizing that felt true to a variety of body types, Old Navy said it administered 389 body scans to create digital avatars based on real women’s bodies.

Fit clinics with models that wear sizes 20-28 were also ran to build fresh fit blocks based on each of their unique proportions.

Old Navy also said it partnered with full-time fit models in sizes 8 – 20 to review the brand’s updated styles.

Similar to other big-name stores such as Nike and most recently Victoria’s Secret, the company said it will feature mannequins in a variety of sizes such as four, 12 and 18.

Online, shoppers can also use a new toggle feature that allows them to select their preferred default model display.

Prior to the launch of Bodequality, Old Navy offered sizes 0-14 as part of its Women’s collection and sizes 16-30 as part of its Women’s Plus collection. With its new initiative, all women’s sizes will be integrated where all customers can participate in the same brand experience with the same access to product.

Several other retailers have a designated area for plus sizes, but Old Navy is also doing away with separate sections and creating space where everything will be displayed in one place in-store and online.

Pricing will now also be the same throughout sizing. Before Bodequality, there was a price difference between straight sizes and the plus collection.

“Traditionally, to create extended size garments it requires more fabric and a different production process,” an Old Navy spokesperson told GMA. “As we launch Bodequality, we’ve transformed our process so we’ve been able to create price parity for all.”

Old Navy employees are also participating in customer-focused training with an aim to create more of an environment where everyone feels they belong, the company said.

Old Navy initially debuted its first Plus line in 2004 and in 2018 launched dedicated Plus shops in 75 U.S. stores. The following year, the company transformed 30 of those locations into size-integrated concept stores.

“Developing Bodequality allowed us to rethink the way we serve women in the retail industry,” Alison Partridge Stickney, head of women’s and maternity merchandising at Old Navy, said in a statement.

“This launch is a transformative moment for our brand and the fashion industry,” Partridge said.

With a goal to introduce Bodequality to women everywhere, the retailers will premiere a TV spot starring Emmy-nominated actress and comedian Aidy Bryant dancing alongside a diverse group of women to “I Am 100%” by Jarina De Marco.

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Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recall of magnetic balls and cubes

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(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a new warning about the dangers of high-powered magnetic balls and cubes.

The agency announced a mandatory recall on Tuesday of 10 million products from Zen Magnets LLC — Zen and Neoballs — due to an ingestion hazard and risk of death.

Most recalls are done voluntarily, with companies and the CPSC working together to get dangerous products out of consumers’ hands, but the agency said that since “Zen did not agree to a voluntary recall, CPSC sued the company to effect a mandatory recall.”

“When high-powered magnets are swallowed, they can interact with each other or other metallic objects (material attracted to magnets) and become lodged in the digestive systems. This can result in perforations, twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning, and death,” the CPSC warned in a press release. “These injuries can occur when infants, toddlers, and teens access and ingest the magnets, including, for example, when teens use the magnets to mimic mouth piercings and swallow them inadvertently.”

Founder Shihan Qu shared a statement in response to the recall Tuesday on the company’s website.

“Zen Magnets is honored to have been the leading voice of the majority of consumers who believe that adults should be able purchase recreational high powered magnets, in the CPSC’s continual and uncompromising War on Magnets,” he wrote. “We’ve been offering a voluntary recall since 2016 allowing customers to return magnets for a refund for any reason, including if they didn’t feel safe with them, didn’t think they could keep them from being swallowed, or was unable to understand why they are dangerous, or didn’t like the name Zen Magnets.”

The founder added that his was “the first company to petition the CPSC for safer standards for recreational magnet sets after their 2016 ban was overturned by a Judge, for not having properly considered alternatives. After much work with other companies, doctors, and human factors experts, the spirit of our petition for safer magnet standards lives in a new standard ASTM F3458 — 21 which requires recreational magnets to have warnings stronger than cigarettes and fireworks combined, and packaging that’s safer that laundry detergent pods and on par with pharmaceuticals.”

In order to help protect kids from the potential hidden hazard, CPSC issued violation notices to companies that market dangerous, high-powered magnetic balls and cubes as toys for children, insisting that those companies notify purchasers and warn of the dangers of use by children. CPSC also works with major online platforms to remove these products from their sites.

“When consumers see these products marketed for children on trusted e-commerce sites, many of these items sold by foreign firms, consumers assume they are safe,” acting Chairman Robert Adler said in a statement. “But the reality is, these magnets can cause lifelong injury, or worse, to kids. That’s why it’s so important that e-commerce sites not allow these products to be sold to kids and why kids are safest when these products are not in the home.”

The CPSC also worked with e-commerce sites to issue safety alert notices directly to purchasers in the cases when magnet firms were not responsive.

Adler added that “until we can get these products off the market entirely, we just have to be vigilant.”

The nearly 10 million magnets, manufactured in China, were sold individually for 6 to 10 cents as well as in magnet sets for anywhere between $12 and $264 per set. The magnets were sold online and at certain Colorado retailers starting in January 2009.

Zen Magnets and Neoballs are high-powered 5 mm spherical magnets. Zen Magnets were sold individually and in sets of 72, 216 with 6 spares, and 1,728 with 8 spares. Neoballs were sold individually and in sets in the following colors: silver, gold, red, orange, green, red, blue and purple. “Zen Magnets” or “Neoballs” is printed on the packaging.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled magnets and contact Zen Magnets LLC for a refund.

As of time of publication, the CPSC said Zen Magnets LLC was aware of two children who ingested Zen Magnets and required surgery to remove them along with parts of their intestines and bowels. It was also aware of other reports of children and teenagers ingesting high-powered magnets and requiring surgery. A 19-month-girl died after ingesting similar high-powered magnets.

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Food stamp benefits get permanent boost thanks to Biden administration

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(WASHINGTON) — Millions of Americans who struggle to get food on the table will soon receive new assistance thanks to a historic increase in funding.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a reevaluation to its Thrifty Food Plan, marking the first major update in over 45 years to reflect current cost realities for low-income families.

The plan estimates the price of a budget-conscious diet for a family of four and calculates the average need for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. The recalculations to the program, formerly referred to as food stamps, will go into effect Oct. 1. Each qualified recipient, on average, will see a rise from $121 to $157 per month.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the modernized plan “an investment in our nation’s health, economy, and security” that will better provide healthy food to low-income families.

“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs,” he said. “The additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”

The historic increase approved by President Joe Biden’s administration will help food aid rise by more than 25% from pre-pandemic levels for all 42 million program beneficiaries.

According to the Agriculture Department, the retooled plan’s average monthly benefits, which were $121 per person per month before the pandemic, will rise by $36.24 under the new rules.

“The reevaluation concluded that the cost of a nutritious, practical, cost effective diet is 21% higher” than the current plan, according to the Agriculture Department.

This boost comes on the cusp of emergency SNAP benefits that are set to expire at the end of September. They were first put into place as a pandemic protection measure as part of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion relief bill signed in March.

The USDA called SNAP “the most far-reaching, powerful tool available to ensure that all Americans, regardless of background, can afford healthy food.”

The program helps to feed 1 in 8 Americans each month with evidence showing that SNAP increases food security, including among households with children who have been disproportionately impacted by hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

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Tesla’s Autopilot systems the subject of new NHTSA investigation

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(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. agency that oversees highway safety officially has launched a formal probe into Tesla’s Autopilot systems after identifying 11 separate crashes involving the feature over approximately four years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told ABC News in a statement Monday that it is “opening a preliminary evaluation into Tesla Autopilot systems and the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with driving while Autopilot is in use.”

“A preliminary evaluation starts the agency’s fact-finding mission and allows additional information and data to be collected — in this case about Tesla Autopilot,” the statement added. “Specifically, this investigation stems from 11 separate crashes beginning in 2018, in which various Tesla models crashed where first responders were active, including some that crashed directly into the vehicles of first responders.”

In a separate document on the investigation posted to its website Monday, the agency said the probe will include 2014 through 2021 Tesla Model Y, Model X, Model S and Model 3 vehicles.

There were 17 injuries and one fatality associated with the 11 crashes, the document stated. The crashes took place in nine states, and most of the incidents took place after dark.

The NHTSA said that in all of these cases, the Tesla vehicles had either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control engaged just prior to the crashes.

Tesla did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment Monday.

The company, and its eccentric CEO Elon Musk, have long defended Autopilot systems as safe.

On its website, the company has released internal data that suggests vehicles with Autopilot turned on are involved in fewer accidents per mile than those without Autopilot engaged.

In its statement to ABC News, the NHTSA reminded the public that “no commercially available motor vehicles today are capable of driving themselves” and all vehicles require a human driver to be in control at all times.

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‘Pivotal’ moment for businesses considering back-to-office plans

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(NEW YORK) — As mass vaccination rolled out in the late spring and COVID-19 cases began to decline precipitously, Americans and the companies they work for began to envision a return to normalcy.

Masking guidance was lifted for the vaccinated and plans were made for bringing employees who had the privilege of working from home through the crisis back into offices after more than a year of remote work — in many cases adopting a hybrid model that attempted to balance business needs, personal lives and safety.

But the rapid spread of the delta variant, largely among the unvaccinated, has overwhelmed hospital systems and cast uncertainty on those plans, halting many in their tracks.

In announcements that followed each other like dominoes, a slew of major U.S. corporations — from Amazon to McDonald’s — in recent weeks have pushed back their September office reopening targets.

In light of these mounting uncertainties, experts say organizational leaders are at a “pivotal” moment and must put workers at the center of their longer-term planning in order to build business resilience. The push to return to the status quo is no longer acceptable to many and an increase in choices, including the ability to work remotely, has upped the stakes for employers.

With a smooth return to “normal” after Labor Day no longer looking feasible, how organizations navigate recalling millions of workers still recouping from the collective anguish of a once-in-a-century pandemic could have a costly impact on retention at a time when job openings and quit rates are both at record highs.

“I would argue that for business leaders, it’s a pivotal moment for them, and they need to put their employees at the center of their workplace strategy,” Steven Hatfield, the head of Deloitte’s Global Future of Work team, which counsels some 90% of firms on the Fortune 500, told ABC News.

‘Permanently altered’ the employee-employer relationship

According to Hatfield, the pandemic has “permanently altered the nature of the employer-employee relationship.”

Many companies that had required their employees to come in five days a week and now, after more than a year of remote work, the work week and other aspects of the relationship are on the table. Hybrid, permanent remote and flexible arrangements have become a regular part of the conversation.

“We believe that the secret for organizations today is they have to acknowledge the nature of the changing dynamics in terms of that relationship. They need to acknowledge that workers do have more choice and more power.”

That level of choice is manifesting itself in “skill shortages, the labor shortages, the way in which people are picking up and moving to different jurisdictions based on where their heart is,” he added.

“And other factors — ‘promote’ job postings on LinkedIn is up 5x,” he said, referring to companies paying extra to make sure their postings are seen.

As the nation begins to emerge from the pandemic, fresh data indicates that people are leaving their jobs at record levels. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said earlier this week that the “quits rate” in June was 2.7% — tying with April 2021 for the highest rate since its record-keeping on it began. Moreover, the number of job openings hit a record high of 10.1 million in June, the BLS said in its latest release. The layoffs and discharge rate, meanwhile, was at a record low of 0.9% in both May and June.

Economists have attributed these trends to both competitive labor market conditions as employers vie for workers with increased flexibility offerings, as well as harder-to-quantify reasons as many people reassess their life and career goals following the shock of a global pandemic that left more than 600,000 Americans dead.

The pandemic also spurred droves of women to leave the workforce entirely, an alarming trend experts warned could undo years of hard-fought gains towards gender equity in the private sector. This mass exodus of women in the workforce has been linked to uneven caregiving responsibilities at home as schools and daycares sporadically shuttered throughout the course of the pandemic.

As delta now rages, many parents are also grappling with how to protect their unvaccinated children amid a push to reopen.

“What’s going on with the delta variant is basically just another data point telling us that returning to the status quo and going back to the office, expecting people to be there full time, everyday, face-to-face is just not going to cut it,” Mabel Abraham, a professor of management at Columbia Business School, told ABC News.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that we can replace face-to-face interactions wholly with being online, I’m certainly Zoomed-out,” she added. “There’s always going to be a place for that face-to-face dynamic, whether it looks the same as it did pre-pandemic is a different question. Do we necessarily need everybody to be in the office, every single day, for eight to ten hours a day? Probably not.”

‘Be adaptable’ and listen to employees

Abraham said this constantly-changing environment is demanding that employers — and employees — be nimble and adaptable to a degree that has not previously been demanded.

Organizational leaders “need to be thinking less about a formal plan, and more about how to be adaptable as the environment continues to change,” Abraham said.

Abraham said that simply giving people options can be a strategy for being adaptable. This starts by listening to employees who voice concerns — such as exposing family members to the virus or commuting difficulties — and setting up a workplace that offers flexible options.

Some 42% of current remote workers say if their current company does not continue to offer remote work options long term, they will look for a job at a company that does, according to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey released earlier this year.

“Employers who aren’t listening are in some ways just being naive in thinking that their employees won’t move,” Abraham said. “In this current environment, for many people, the pandemic looms large and it really is a concerning factor where going back to the office might mean that that person is willing to forego their position, even if they’re getting the benefits and the pay and enjoying the work and liking their co-workers.”

“Employers just need to recognize that when employees voice these concerns, it probably takes a lot for them to speak up, so if they’re bringing it up it’s because they’re probably really concerned about it,” she added. “And making a decision to not offer options, not to offer flexibility, needs to come with the understanding that that person might actually leave.”

Her recent research also found that organizations with female leadership and which signal that they care about equity in the workplace are much more likely to attract women applicants at a time when many firms have had great difficulties retaining their female staff.

“With all of the dialogue around women exiting at an even higher rate than men during this time, really thinking about if we want to counter that force in any way, organizations need to think carefully about how this solution will also have this additional benefit of really retaining their top female talent,” she said.

Looking out for workers ‘good for business’

Deloitte’s Hatfield added that while many still think about productivity in “first-industrial-revolutionary terms,” looking out for your employees’ health and well-being is actually “good for business, too.”

“We need to reshape our ideas around productivity to be akin to the marketplace that exists now, so your performance as a human, your well-being as a human, really matters,” Hatfield added, “and it matters to boost the productivity for the organization.”

For businesses, Hatfield said that, “It makes more sense for organizations to focus on up-skilling and re-skilling their workforce than trying to find workers.”

If organizational leaders are more attuned to the needs of their employees, and supportive of their career growth, this can help build a resilient workforce within an organization despite a myriad of external factors that leaders cannot control.

The present environment also presents a unique opportunity for employees to express what they need in order to do their work better and to more seamlessly support the work of an organization — whether it’s a stipend for a better home office setup, more flexibility options, or a better understanding of the purpose in the work they do.

“But, I think it’s incumbent on the workforce itself to be vocal about what some of those things might be in order to help the organizations they work with navigate change,” Hatfield said.

The more organizational leaders engage and pay attention to their workers, the more they can also avoid falling into a “trap” of attempting to appease by offering unrelated perks — like an office ping pong table “that’s going to gather dust,” Hatfield said.

“Do what’s going to be classic,” he said. “Do the things that are going to have enduring power, both for the organization and for the workforce — so things like focusing on the potential of their work, and focusing on how they develop, and ensuring that what their workforce is doing is really meaningful.”

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US jobless claims drop again, near pandemic low

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(WASHINGTON) — Weekly unemployment claims dropped slightly last week, with 375,000 Americans applying for first-time benefits.

That figure dropped for the third consecutive week, according to the Department of Labor, a sign that employers are laying off fewer people amid an increase in consumer demand. That as some employers insist they are struggling to fill open jobs. Still, new claims are near the pandemic low of 368,000, set last month.

The job market and the broader economy are getting better despite the rise in coronavirus infections from the delta variant that are starting to crimp some economic activity. The latest jobs report showed 943-thousand jobs were created in July, the biggest increase in nearly a year.

Prior to the pandemic, weekly unemployment claims were at about 220,000 per week.

Still, consumers continue to see an increase in the costs of goods and services. In July, the consumer price index rose 0.5 percent. Still more price hikes are on the horizon, with 44 percent of small businesses surveyed this month saying they plan to raise prices.

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Demand for air travel flatlines amid delta variant surge

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(NEW YORK) — The first signs are emerging that the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is dampening demand for air travel: cancellations are rising, while passenger loads and air fare are on the decline.

On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 1.7 million people nationwide — the lowest number of passengers in nearly two months.

In its most recent financial filing, Southwest Airlines reported seeing a recent uptick in cancellations. The airline attributed them to the rise in COVID-19 cases as fears mount about the delta variant.

The airline projected the surge in cancelations to continue into September, a much more grim outlook than Southwest and most other major U.S. airlines had just three weeks ago.

Travel booking site Hopper has seen domestic demand flatline since July Fourth.

“What we saw was that mid-July was one of our best booking weeks ever,” Hopper economist Adit Damodarn said, “so the domestic bookings were really strong in mid July, but on the domestic front we have seen bookings be pretty flat since then.”

International bookings have been hit harder, Damodarn explained, hitting lower than projected rates.

“I think there’s a lot going on here that’s making people think twice about traveling,” Founder of crankyflier.com Brett Snyder told ABC News. “One of the big concerns for people going internationally is the chances of even if you’re vaccinated of getting an infection seem to be going up. It may not be severe, but it does mean that you might not be able to come back into the U.S. for some time just because of the testing requirement. So with that I think you’re scaring some people off. And then, of course, we have the just general concern about getting sick, going to places where there is more virus.”

Hopper noticed more fliers began to purchase cancel-for-any-reason flight insurance in July.

“It is up about 33% since early July,” Damodarn said. “So I think what we’re seeing here is a little bit of hesitancy, maybe, from users traveling.”

And the airlines’ prices are already starting to reflect the halt in demand recovery.

Average air travel booking prices, before fees, are currently down $76 from the end of June, according to travel itinerary app TripIt.

“We’re seeing a significant drop in domestic and international airfare,” Damodarn said. “It’s a little bit more than the seasonality that we have seen in prior years, and so that would suggest to us that there’s both the seasonal variation coming off the peak summer travel season, as well as the impact of the delta variant.”

ABC News’ Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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