Gas prices climb as crude oil briefly hits highest prices in six years


(NEW YORK) — Crude oil prices briefly reached their highest levels in six years early Tuesday before retreating slightly, as surging post-pandemic oil demand and fizzled talks among producers casts new volatility over energy markets.

Futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, were trading at $73.32 a barrel by midday Tuesday after topping $76.90 a barrel earlier. The price of WTI crude has skyrocketed by more than 50% since the beginning of the year.

Futures on Brent crude, the international benchmark, was $74.50 by midday Tuesday, a slight fall from its early morning high of $77.82. Since the beginning of the year, prices for Brent crude have climbed more than 45%.

The volatility comes as the waning pandemic is leading to a surge in demand for oil as industries reopen and global travel bounces back. In addition, a meeting of members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries scheduled for Monday was abruptly called off. In a brief statement, OPEC Secretary General HE Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo did not give a reason for the last-minute cancellation, saying the date of the next meeting will be decided “in due course.” The oil producers were expected to discuss increases in production after failing to reach an agreement last week.

Americans are also seeing no relief from soaring gas prices at the pump. On Tuesday, the national average gasoline price was $3.13 per gallon, according to American Automobile Association data.

Moreover, the AAA predicts that gas prices will increase another 10 to 20 cents per gallon through the end of August, bringing the national average to more than $3.25 later this summer.

“Robust gasoline demand and more expensive crude oil prices are pushing gas prices higher,” Jeanette McGee, an AAA spokesperson, said in a statement. “We had hoped that global crude production increases would bring some relief at the pump this month, but weekend OPEC negotiations fell through with no agreement reached. As a result, crude prices are set to surge to a seven year-high.”

States that saw the largest weekly increases at the pump include Idaho (which saw an average increase of 10 cents), Alaska (a 9 cent increase) as well as Washington, Oregon and Colorado (which all saw an increase of 7 cents).

The AAA noted that the last time the national average gas price was $3.25 was in October 2014.

Gas prices have been steadily climbing since the beginning of the year. The national average on Tuesday was 95 cents higher on average than during the same time period one year ago.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How this 28-year-old’s pandemic cookie business became a celebrity favorite


(NEW YORK) — When Lara Adekoya started baking cookies at the start of the pandemic, she never anticipated that a year later, celebrities like Issa Rae, Jenna Dewan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Melissa Benoist and Lena Waithe would be lining up to order from her Los Angeles business, Fleurs et Sel.

“What I’m doing is reaching beyond just the backyard,” Adekoya, 28, told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “It’s refreshing to have their support, because these are people that now know who I am, and they know that I make really great cookies.”

Her Hollywood clientele isn’t just limited to celebrities either. The business owner has catered to Amazon Studios, A24, the Oprah Winfrey Network, HBO’s Insecure set and, most recently, National Geographic. But even though Fleurs et Sel has quickly risen as a business that’s only a year old, its success is anything but a fluke — Adekoya said she hustled to make a name for herself.

“I’m customer-obsessed and social media-driven, and I use those skills to create community through my cookies,” the baker of Nigerian and Japanese descent said. “I hope that my voice transcends communities and transcends different cultural groups so people know that we, as young Black women, we are capable of doing so many things.”

Adekoya’s venture started when she was laid off during the pandemic as a designer shoes salesperson at Nordstrom. Like many Americans, the pandemic prompted her to reimagine her career goals. According to a survey by Prudential, 50% of workers admitted that the pandemic made them rethink their careers, and another study by Microsoft found that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year.

Despite the career change, Adekoya said her job at Nordstrom was invaluable to the success of Fleurs et Sel because of the work values and connections she built there.

“The key to me working in designer shoes was building relationships, because in order to be successful, my work was strictly commission driven, so it was up to me to make money — I wasn’t going to be there and not hustle,” she said.

Two important relationships she cultivated there were with female entrepreneurs Aderiaun Shorter and event planner Mindy Weiss, the latter who is known in Hollywood for throwing lavish parties for the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Ciara and many others. When Adekoya started sharing her baking hobby on social media, her two former Nordstrom clients were the first to buy cookies and promote her. That’s when her idea for Fleurs et Sel really kicked off.

“I got a new entire following, and I was introduced to a new crowd that I would have never otherwise been exposed to,” Adekoya said. “Aderiaun and Mindy are both self-made women entrepreneurs, and they were both instrumental in mentoring me as a woman entrepreneur in this new space.”

The women’s support helped leverage Adekoya’s presence on social media, which in turn exposed her to high-end clientele. Adekoya credits community word-of-mouth and digital promotion for the social media craze of Fleurs et Sel.

“When I have encountered the celebrities, they too have shared their excitement and love for Fleurs et Sel on social media,” the baker said. “They are part of our online community, and they have helped strengthen and solidify our reach and success.”

Adekoya’s time at Nordstrom also came full circle when she was invited by Rick Caruso, the real estate mogul behind L.A.’s premiere shopping center, The Grove, to do a pop-up event right across from the Nordstrom where she used to work.

“They’ve had Lululemon, Yves Saint Laurent, they had Skims most recently, big names,” the businesswoman said. “They’re not housing just anyone, not anyone can just have a pop-up there.”

The pop-up event at The Grove was so triumphant, the event sold out in two hours.

“Hundreds of people were there for me and the cookies, and [Caruso’s team] was like ‘Whoa,’” Adekoya said. “It was the first day, and I had a line from the pop-up all the way to the valet, and I sold out in two hours.”

Selling out of popular treats like the bae bar or the vanilla bean sugar cookie might be easy for Adekoya, but creating the products comes with a lot of work and sacrifice. The baker said she’s no stranger to staying up past midnight or waking up at 4 a.m. to fulfill orders from her Culver City kitchen.

“It’s challenged me to be very organized. I have to be — I’m the only person behind Fleurs et Sel,” she said.

Adekoya has managed to thrive beyond the pandemic to establish herself as a legitimate force in the cookie industry. She’s working on two new flavors coming later this summer, including a vanilla chai cookie, and will continue expanding Fleurs et Sel.

“I’m a multicultural woman, and look at what I’m doing — and especially during this time, with all of these cultural and social movements, it is so amazing to have this much support and this diverse of an audience,” she said. “Everyone’s here for the cookies, but also to share in community.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How to make returning to the office less painful


(NEW YORK) — While some tech companies, such as Twitter and DropBox, have said that employees may work remotely forever, many companies are planning a partial or full return to the office this summer or fall.

For other workforces, that transition is already in swing. Among adults who are employed at least part-time, 61% say they currently work from a location outside their home, 19% are exclusively remote and 21% work partially from home and partially from another location, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey published in June.

For those making the switch from fully remote to in-person or hybrid work, the key to a successful re-entry is staying true to the spirit of the word “transition,” experts say.

“What transition really means is that we need to ease into it,” said Dr. Victor Carrión, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. “There’s going to be this impetus to completely return back to normal, but the reality is that life is different now,” he said. “We not only want to be resilient, but we want to be adaptive.”

Instead, workers and bosses should approach the transition period as a different animal than either working from home or pre-pandemic office work. It’s a chance incorporate the best parts of each and synthesize them into a better model of work, as well as process trauma from the pandemic that led to remote work in the first place. Workforces that skip the synthesis and processing steps may do so at their peril.

“There’s a human impulse right now to suppress and move on and return to normality,” said Ezra Bookman, a New York-based ritual designer who consults for companies and communities. “I think that that’s part of the energy that we’re receiving from leadership. That’s the very American way of dealing with trauma: suppress and move on.”

One tool for processing that trauma and creating a tangible transition back to the office could be creating a ritual around it, Bookman explained, but cautioned against a topdown approach that doesn’t engage with why employees might be hesitant to return to work in the first place. Rituals aren’t likely to have much effect if leaders aren’t modeling vulnerability, treating workers as individuals and engaging with their concerns. “I think that what leadership does in this moment is going to be super, super important,” he said. “No ritual is going to magically change the imbalance of power and the fact that employers are not listening to their employees,” he said.

With all that in mind, there are practical steps workers and bosses can take to make the process easier for everyone, as well as a guide to creating a personal or collective back-to-office ritual.

Step 1: Go slow

“People who jump too fast may find themselves feeling exhausted very quickly,” Carrión warned. He recommended gradual re-entry as opposed to heading back to the office five, or even three days a week.

“If your goal is to be in the office four days a week and you’re unsure about the delta variant and only feel good going one day a week, go one day a week,” he said. “Once you’ve dealt with that, you can work toward your goal.” During that transition period, self-care is equally as important as it was during the height of the pandemic. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Avoid leaning on alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms. Remember that everyone had different pandemic experiences and it’s okay to go at your own pace.

“It’s going to be different for different people,” Carrión said.

Step: 2: Acknowledge the pandemic

Part of returning to the office should include reflecting on why we left in the first place, experts say. Holding a moment of silence for those who died of COVID-19 is one potential place to start. Depending on the size of your organization that moment of silence could be with the whole company or just with your team. Bookman suggested pausing and reflecting for 3.9 minutes, in honor of the 3.9 million people who have died worldwide from the virus.

“That gives people permission to say we’ve acknowledged, we’ve made space, we’ve recognized the loss of life,” Bookman said.

Step 3: Create a ritual

Acknowledging COVID as a group is a good springboard for a ritual Bookman calls a “litany of losses.”

Either as group, or individually, people can write down everything they’ve lost over the past year. It can be helpful to read that list aloud or have someone witness it, Bookman said, but you could also do this exercise alone.

“Write down every single thing that you’ve lost and then hold onto that paper until you don’t want it anymore. Until you’re ready to let go.” Then Bookman recommends getting rid of the paper in an intentional and symbolic way. You could burn it, bury it, put it out to sea or use any other method that speaks to you and isn’t part of your regular routine. “Something more than putting it in the recycling bin,” Bookman advised. “It doesn’t mean that the all those things magically go away and suddenly you’re fine with it, but it does give you a different point in your psychological map.”

Carrión recommended a different twist on a litany of losses: writing down your experiences over the past year to incorporate them into your memory and build a personal narrative around them. “If we don’t, some experiences may not be processed and they may continue to be in our brain, nagging us and getting in the way of our functioning,” he said.

“It is very important as we transition we don’t forget the year that has passed.”

Tips for managers and team leaders: One size does not fit all

Making Carrión and Bookman’s advice a reality requires a flexible and empathetic employer, they both acknowledged.

“People feel very differently about returning to work, and they’re all occupying the same space again,” Bookman explained. Some may have had the best year of their lives and spent more time with their kids, he noted. Others, who lost family members or friends or had their marriages fall apart, are still grieving. Still others may have been totally isolated and crave socialization.

Carrión seemed to agree.

“I think managers need to be very sensitive about the differences between individuals. They can not think that there is one solution or formula for everyone,” Carrión said. “They may have to tailor approaches to different individuals and create environments in the workplace that are supportive and promote coping and self-care.”

As for employees, if you can do so safely, speak up about your concerns and needs. “I really want to encourage people to not be chill,” Bookman said. “This moment to be direct, to be brave. Chances are everyone else in the room is feeling similarly and will feel relieved that someone is stepping up to advocate for a smarter, healthier, more real, honest and authentic return to work.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

French automaker Bugatti survived two world wars. Can it outlast the electric crusade?


(NEW YORK) — Does every automaker have to go electric?

Industry trends and government regulations are pointing in that direction. No more naturally aspirated engines. No more turbochargers. No more engines, in fact. Instead, mute conveyances happily trundling along on city streets and highways, the roars, barks and pops of internal combustion engines a distant memory.

Not so fast.

Illustrious French automaker Bugatti has been building powerful race cars since 1909. There are no plans to replace the marque’s deafening, rocket-like, quad-turbo 16-cylinder engines with electric motors.

Volkswagen AG, the automotive conglomerate that owns Bugatti, has recently ramped up its electric vehicle efforts and reportedly may find a new owner for the brand. Can Bugatti’s thirsty 8.0-liter engines mesh with Volkswagen’s electrification strategy?

“Customers are not asking for electric Bugattis,” Cedric Davy, chief operating officer of Bugatti of the Americas, told ABC News. “We live and breathe the W16 [engine]. A lot of customers say, ‘This may be my last chance of owning the iconic W16. I don’t know what will come next.'”

In June, Bugatti showed off the new $3.9 million Chiron Super Sport, the latest member of the Chiron family that launched in 2016 and succeeded the Veyron supercar. The Chiron Super Sport’s 8.0-liter W16 engine delivers 1,577 horsepower and 1,180 lb-ft of torque and reaches an electronically limited top speed of 273 mph. Redline happens at 7,100 rpm.

Last year Bugatti unveiled the $4 million Chiron Pur Sport, a 1,479 hp unadulterated beast that’s raw, loud, nimble and engineered with shorter gear ratios for faster acceleration and cornering prowess. The fixed wing in the rear spans more than 6 feet across, generating more downforce than previous Chirons. Only 30 Super Sports will be produced; 60 for the Pur Sport.

“The Pur Sport is not a rocket someone put wheels on,” longtime Bugatti test driver Butch Leitzinger told ABC News. “This car is meant to work for you. I can talk until I am blue in the face about how easy it is to drive but no one believes me nor should they.”

Bugatti’s Chiron Super Sport 300+ shook up the automotive community in 2019 when test driver and Le Mans winner Andy Wallace piloted the car to history. The slightly modified 1,600 hp Chiron reached 304.773 mph, the first car ever to reach a speed of over 300, an incredible feat of engineering. The Chiron Super Sport 300+ was immediately declared the “fastest sports car in the world.”

Even with Bugatti’s staggering prices — upward of $3 million per vehicle — and the COVID-19 pandemic, the company reported record first-quarter sales, delivering more vehicles between January and March than the first three months of any year in the company’s modern history. Davy said the Pur Sport in particular has helped to boost sales, with 70% of Pur Sport owners in North America new to the brand.

“It’s a more visceral driving experience and we’re seeing more drivers than collectors with the Pur Sport,” he said.

A Pur Sport owner in France racked up 2,000 miles on the odometer the weekend he took delivery of the car, according to Davy, proof that these rarefied vehicles offer comfort and convenience as well as insane power and speeds.

“The cars are extremely reliable. There are customers with well over 10,000 miles on their Chirons,” he said.

Jason Cammisa, a veteran automotive journalist, said the Chiron could have been even more fearsome and supreme with an electric or hybrid powertrain.

“The Chiron was a missed opportunity. If Bugatti was looking far enough ahead, they would have known electrification means incredible amounts of acceleration,” he told ABC News. “Gas engines will be legislated out of existence and it’s in Bugatti’s interest to go electric.”

Cammisa noted that the $130K Tesla Model S Plaid sedan, which hurls occupants from zero to 60 mph in a reported 1.99 seconds, will trounce a Chiron on the track — a problem for Bugatti and other carmakers that rely on their performance laurels to sell cars.

“There’s no Chiron buyer who would get out of that and not be impressed,” he said. “The acceleration of the Plaid is painful, terrible, nauseating. In the real world that thing is a magic trick.”

Erin Minoff, a specialist in the motoring department at Bonhams in New York, said every industry has its “moment of terror.” Unlike mainstream brands, however, Bugatti is not trying to sell a lot of cars or please a lot of people, he said.

“Bugatti has different motivations than what Ford, Mercedes and even Rolls-Royce are trying to pursue,” he told ABC News. “No one is buying a Bugatti or any supercar because they are looking for an efficient mode of transportation or because they are an environmentalist.”

Jalopnik editor-in-chief Rory Carroll doubts Bugatti will upend its business model to accommodate government policies. Volkswagen had larger aspirations for the struggling marque when it acquired the rights to Bugatti in May 1998, he argued.

“Bugatti was effectively a dead brand when Volkswagen bought it and was revived to build a car that would break a speed record and do so in comfort,” he told ABC News. “Bugatti demonstrates technical prowess and attracts talent for the VW Group.”

Cammisa and Minoff both pointed out that the most in-demand toy right now for the uber wealthy is not electric or even a hybrid. It’s a six-speed manual transmission, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, high-revving lightweight supercar that makes 650 hp from a 12,100 rpm naturally aspirated V12 engine. The T.50, the latest creation of Gordon Murray, the brilliant designer behind the famed McLaren F1, costs $2.6 million and all 100 units sold out within 48 hours of the prototype’s debut.

“There have been several bespoke EV hypercars — Rimac and Pininfarina’s Battista — and no one wanted any of them,” Cammisa said.

Bugatti has amazingly survived two world wars, worker strikes, the death of its founder, Ettore Bugatti, and his son, Jean Bugatti, the company’s designated heir, the sale of its Molsheim factory, bankruptcy and multiple owners. But the greatest threat to its existence may be the electric motor. Bugatti, however, has an “enduring appeal” that will keep fans wanting more from the company in the years to come, according to Carroll.

“An electrified Bugatti — that’s not the point of the brand,” he said. “There’s something very human about Bugatti’s superlatives and achievements. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bugatti never did an electric vehicle.”

Added Minoff: “Enthusiasts want the fastest, most visceral machine they can purchase. Electric vehicles are like appliances. Bugatti will continue to build these hyper luxury supercars.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Air travel sets new pandemic record ahead of 4th of July holiday weekend


(NEW YORK) — Air travel continues to soar past pre-pandemic levels, as passengers contend with long waits, lines and cancellations this Fourth of July holiday.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported it screened 2,196,411 people nationwide Friday, for the highest throughput since the start of the pandemic. That was also higher than the checkpoint volume for the same day in 2019.

The record comes a day after air travel exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

The influx comes as airlines and airports are experiencing staffing shortages. TSA said last month there were staffing shortages at more than 100 airports and warned travelers that there will be long lines as a result.

In addition to long lines for security and airport services, some travelers have had to contend with delays and cancellations.

By Friday afternoon, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport had 135 flights canceled and 458 flights delayed based on data from flight-tracking website Flight Aware, according to ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV. Those were the highest numbers for any airport in the world at that time, WFAA reported.

Weather and thunderstorms in North Texas caused arriving flights that morning to be delayed, the station said.

At Denver International Airport, demand and staffing shortages were behind cancellations this holiday, ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV reported.

One family trying to depart from Denver had two flights canceled in two days.

“Me and my family are all stranded,” Whitney Cline told KMGH Friday. “I had a flight canceled last night, they’re like — rebook. So, then they rebooked it for me, and then they canceled it again this morning when I was at the airport.”

The tail end of the holiday could be even busier for the nation’s airports.

Friday was forecast to be the busiest departure day, while Monday the busiest day to return, according to travel-booking app Hopper. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told ABC News he is expecting Monday to be a record-breaking travel day.

AAA forecasts that more than 47.7 million Americans will travel this Fourth of July holiday, from July 1 to 5 — which would make it the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record.

Despite high gas prices, the company said 91% of holiday travel will be by car, with 43.6 million Americans expected to take to the roads.

As of Saturday, the national gas price average is $3.127 — the highest so far this year, and nearly a dollar higher than the same time last year, according to AAA.

Prices are only expected to climb.

“Gas prices have been trending more expensive, and there is no slowing down, even after the holiday weekend,” AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee told ABC News. “We expect gas prices to continue to increase another 10, possibly 20 cents through the end of August.”

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The fight over the ‘Fight for $15’: A tipped wage worker, a restaurant owner and a representative

Carrie Schweitzer

(NEW YORK) — Carrie Schweitzer has been a waitress since she was 12.

Now 50, she said back then employers didn’t check, so she lied and told them she was 17.

“I was 13 years old the very first time I had my backside pinched to get an extra tip,” Schweitzer told ABC News.

She’s been in the service industry most of her life, and most of her life the federal minimum wage for tipped workers has been $2.13 an hour. Where Schweitzer works now, in Philadelphia, she gets $2.83 an hour, still far below the $7.25 an hour mandated for other jobs. If she doesn’t earn the base minimum wage through tips, restaurants are legally mandated to pay the rest — although some do not.

In fact, the Labor Department did a two-year investigation of 9,000 restaurants nationwide and found that 84% of restaurants committed some type of violation. But one in nine restaurants violated the law by specifically committing a tipping infraction.

“If I was able to get a full-time wage, I would not have to jump through hoops and do embarrassing things for a tip,” Schweitzer said. “I wouldn’t have to put up with a man calling me ‘baby doll’ or ‘baby girl.'”

“But I’m a waitress,” she added, “so I’m there to be harassed.”

Like over four million Americans, Schweitzer earns most of her income from tips. But despite working more than 40 hours a week, her salary is low enough to qualify for food stamps and state-provided health insurance.

“Working full time and having to accept welfare makes me feel like I’m an unappreciated person,” she said. “There is no excuse for a woman — her entire lifetime — having to put up with verbal abuse and having to put up with sexual abuse just to get a tip to make a living.”

It’s a big reason why she’s pushing for a $15 minimum wage and ending the currently accepted subminimum wage offered to tipped workers.

The Fight for $15, a movement dedicated to raising the federal minimum wage, was a key talking point during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

But in the months since Democrats have gained control of Washington, their attempts to raise the minimum wage have sputtered. Attempts to include a minimum-wage hike in the COVID relief package failed. The Biden administration did what it could, raising the minimum wage for federal workers to $15 an hour.

“The minimum wage itself is woefully inadequate,” Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., told ABC News. “There’s no county in the United States where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.”

Scott, who introduced the Raise the Wage bill in the House, also emphasized that it would eliminate the subminimum wage.

“So the idea,” he said, “is to have everybody make at least the minimum wage as their base salary — and if they make tips over and above that, that’s fine.”

While some Republicans believe the minimum wage should gradually increase over time, others have said they fear that raising it could lead to job loss, higher prices or force small businesses to close.

But in 30 states and the District of Columbia, lawmakers have stepped in and passed a minimum wage above the $7.25 federal mandate.

When it comes to restaurants, though, margins are already slim and overhead costs are high.

At Virtue, an upscale Southern restaurant in Chicago, Erick Williams said that most of his waitstaff can make at least $50,000 a year.

Recently, the city of Chicago raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour and its subminimum wage to $9 an hour, the latter a win for restauranteurs like Williams.

“No business can sustain higher costs and lower profitability and remain in business,” he told ABC News.

But he also acknowledged that the current policy won’t solve the issues facing so many Americans like Schweitzer and more needs to be done.

“I imagine we would identify restaurants that are not bad actors, that are not earning their wages on the backs of their servers and allowing women to be subjected to abuse at tables,” he said. “I think those are the ones that need to be regulated differently.”

As the Fight for $15 continues, Scott told ABC News that debate on the House floor isn’t over and that Republicans still haven’t offered any concrete alternatives.

“They didn’t offer any,” said Scott, adding that they perhaps could “support something less, and then maybe we can negotiate something in the middle. But we haven’t — they haven’t — passed anything yet.”

Meanwhile, Schweitzer will continue working full time and receiving government assistance just to make ends meet.

“When I hear a lawmaker say that he does not want to raise the minimum wage,” Schweitzer said, “he is telling me he does not care about 50% of America. That’s it. He does not care about us.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Air travel exceeds pre-pandemic levels for first time heading into July Fourth weekend

Mina Kaji andAmanda Maile, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Thursday marked a major pandemic milestone — air travel exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time as people took to the skies for the July 4th holiday.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported it screened 2,147,090 nationwide Thursday, surpassing the checkpoint volume for the same day in 2019 by 58,330.

It’s a remarkable recovery from the height of the pandemic when fewer than 100,000 people were flying in the U.S. each day.

Experts predict airlines will carry the most passengers since the start of the pandemic this weekend.

Domestic destinations like Las Vegas, Miami and Orlando are the most popular, according to the travel booking site Hopper. The Caribbean and Mexico are the most popular international destinations, according to Hopper economist Adit Damodarn.

“July 4th is the most searched weekend of summer 2021 thus far,” Damodarn said.

American Airlines is operating nearly 5,500 daily flights between Thursday and Monday, with the busiest travel days being Thursday and Friday, a spokesperson said.

United Airlines expects to fly 2 million customers from Thursday to Tuesday, with Thursday and Monday anticipated to be its busiest days. Delta Air Lines said approximately 2.2 million customers are expected to fly with the airline between Friday and Tuesday.

The busiest airports will be Chicago O’Hare, LAX, and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, according to Hopper. The busiest day to depart is Friday and the busiest day to return will be Monday.

“Travel is back,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told ABC News.

“July 1 is going to be the busiest day since COVID started, but it’ll only have that record for four days because July 5 is going to break it. It’s just another indication of how we really are on the road to recovery,” Kirby said.

TSA warned of staffing shortages at more than 100 airports last month and continues to ask for volunteers to help meet demand.

“Because of the fact that you know there are shortage and staffing, you know they’re going to be long lines, just be patient,” Everett Kelley, president of AFGE, the union that represents Transportation Security Officers, told ABC.

TSA has said it hopes to hire 6,000 new officers to handle the summer travel boost.

It has resorted to offering recruitment incentives such as $1,000 to officers who accept employment with the agency.

They say they are prepared to handle the increased traveler volume this weekend.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Southwest Airlines canceled 2,600 flights in June; crews say they’re exhausted


(NEW YORK) — As Americans flock back to air travel, airlines are scrambling to retrain crew and staff airport operations positions — the job hasn’t been easy with flight cancellations piling up.

Southwest canceled 2,687 flights in June according to flight tracking site In that same period, United canceled 189, Delta 106, and American canceled 2,423.

Southwest has blamed weather and a temporary IT outage in mid-June, but documents obtained by ABC News and conversations with flight crews detail more than just weather problems.

“Southwest is facing labor shortages, from the ramp to customer service agents to our flight attendants, pilots, and a lot of those are, they’re having trouble filling,” Southwest captain and president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, Casey Murray told ABC News.

American has explained its recent problems citing staffing shortages, telling customers to expect up to 80 cancellations a day through July 15.

Besides cancellations, Southwest also saw 34,250 delayed flights in June, significantly higher than United which saw just 8,440 delayed flights during the same period. Delta delayed 11,057 flights in June, while American Airlines delayed 20,418, according to FlightAware.

Southwest flight attendant and union president Lyn Montgomery has been flying for Southwest for 29 years, and says this is the worst she’s ever seen.

“It’s the lowest morale we’ve ever seen. We are normally a pretty happy workforce who work for Southwest Airlines and have always taken pride in that, but right now morale is at the lowest it’s ever been,” Montgomery told ABC News.

As Americans began to travel for Father’s Day weekend, more than 20% of Southwest flight attendants called in sick, according to internal documents obtained by ABC News. Many of those sick calls were due to fatigue, according to Montgomery.

The airline is now offering flight crews up to double pay to pick up open shifts through July 7, the airline acknowledged.

On Thursday, Southwest had scheduled 3,445 flights scheduled but canceled 212 of them.

In a statement to ABC News Southwest said: “Our People are expert problem solvers persevering with fewer options available to them right now as we deal with a combination of disruptive weather, very full flights, and a flight schedule built for nonstop, point-to-point travel. We’re aware of the frustration this disruption is having on our Employees and Customers. We apologize and we are dedicated to doing better.”

Captain Murray said as more pilots come out of training, cancellations should subside. Southwest does have new flight attendants in training as well, but airline training programs take weeks to months before new hires work their first shifts.

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Unemployment rate rises to 5.9% as 850,000 jobs added in June


(WASHINGTON) — U.S. employers added 850,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the latest figures released Friday by the Labor Department show, exceeding economists’ expectations.

Economists had expected to see more than 700,000 jobs added in June, a jump from the revised 583,000 added in May.

The biggest increases in employment last month occurred in leisure and hospitality, public and private education, professional and business services, retail trade, and other services, according to the Labor Department.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly from 5.8% in May to 5.9% in June.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why business leaders need a ‘wake-up call’ to take burnout seriously right now, experts say


(NEW YORK) — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, another health crisis has been lurking.

It affects people of all backgrounds and in some cases can have profound impacts on their health.

Burnout in the American workforce, which surveys indicate was a widespread problem even before the pandemic, is an issue that employers and managers can no longer afford to ignore as many companies contemplate return-to-office strategies and the future of work in general.

“This is a historic time; we’ve never been through anything like this. Our mental health and our physical health are really being taxed,” Darcy Gruttadaro, the director of the American Psychological Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, told ABC News. “If there was ever a time to raise these issues, it’s now.”

“If you’re experiencing burnout and you’re trying to ignore it, that will eventually catch up with you,” Gruttadaro warned.

Burnout is also killing people, new data indicates. Last month, the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization said that working long hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000. In a statement accompanying the study, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus linked the COVID-19 pandemic to “blurring the boundaries between home and work,” which resulted in longer hours for many — and thus a higher risk of premature death.

And if that isn’t enough for business leaders to take action, experts note that burnout is also linked to plummeting productivity, poor retention and other factors that can impact a company’s bottom line.

Data shows that pandemic-battered workers are now leaving their jobs at some of the highest rates ever. The share of workers who left their jobs in April was 2.7%, marking the highest “quits rate” since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping records, according to data released by the agency earlier this month.

Here is what experts say defines burnout, why it’s been exacerbated by the pandemic, and what can be done to address it:

What burnout is and why it’s been magnified by the pandemic

While the term has been used colloquially for decades, the World Health Organization used three factors — energy depletion or exhaustion, distance or cynicism to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy — to define burnout as an occupational phenomenon for the first time in 2019. It is not classified as a medical condition.

“Burnout is when an individual is experiencing high levels of stress — and usually a person becomes cynical and kind of distant from their job. They just really are not feeling good about their job at all,” Gruttadaro said. “And then the third big area is their efficiency or their ability to perform their job really drops.”

It does not just have to do with workload, however, but also whether there is a sense of fairness in the workplace and the amount of control workers have over their tasks. While the self-help industry and employers may place the blame on the individual, experts say it usually has more to do with the workplace than a specific employee.

High levels of stress associated with burnout can manifest in people experiencing depression, anxiety, substance use, heart disease, obesity and a number of other illnesses, according to Gruttadaro.

Reports of depression and anxiety amid the pandemic have spiked significantly, she added, and overdose deaths have also soared — likely showing that many are turning to substance use in high numbers.

The pandemic has been linked to higher rates of burnout for both essential workers and white-collar office workers, many of whom had the privilege of continuing their jobs remotely.

For essential workers, the pandemic brought a myriad of new and chronic stressors related to trying to stay healthy and safe while working on site or getting to and from work, as well as many new restrictions and changes outside of their control at work.

For those who have been working remotely, many reported working longer hours — marked by days spent eating lunch at their desks or working through the time they would have spent commuting. As a shift to remote work blurred the boundaries between being on and off the clock, some data indicates work productivity actually ticked up during the health crisis.

New caregiving responsibilities as schools and day cares shuttered throughout the past year also disproportionately impacted mothers, leading to an alarming exodus of women in the workforce — many of whom cited “burnout” as the reason for leaving or downshifting their careers, one study found.

“Burnout is essentially saying there’s something not healthy, or not fair, in a lot of different places,” Christina Maslach, a professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and a core researcher at the school’s Healthy Workplaces Center, told ABC News.

Maslach noted a feeling of unfairness — in pay, treatment and work assignments — within the workplace is especially linked to burnout.

That sense of unfairness can lead to negative feelings and cynicism toward your work, which often means “that people, in trying to cope with that, are doing the bare minimum rather than their very best,” Maslach added.

Maslach pioneered research on burnout, creating the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a research measure that was a key contributor to the WHO’s later work on burnout.

While there is a common fallacy that burnout and stress is a personal weakness or flaw, Maslach said it usually has to do with an unhealthy work environment rather than an individual not being able to take care of themself.

“It’s rarely something that affects an individual alone; it’s not just about workload,” she added. “It’s about how much control that you have and it’s also affected by the extent to which you get recognized and rewarded for doing good things as opposed to ‘a good day is a day when nothing bad happens.'”

What can be done to address burnout

Maslach warned that many of the solutions to burnout touted by the self-care industry and beyond deal more with coping rather than prevention, and sustainable solutions would require overhauls that tend to be very job-specific but address the root causes of what makes a workplace stressful and exhausting.

“It’s analogous to the canary in the coal mine,” Maslach said. “When the canary goes down in the coal mine and is having trouble breathing, and not surviving and not doing well, you don’t worry about how to make the canary stronger and tougher; you say what’s going wrong in the mine? Why are the fumes getting so toxic that a community can’t survive?”

Gruttadaro said that one thing employers can certainly do, however, is recognize that leadership matters with regards to burnout.

“Leadership sets the culture and organization,” she said, which is why it is so critical to make sure that “managers and leaders are modeling good behavior and not sending emails very late at night, not sending weekend emails all the time.”

Effective communication between managers and workers is also key, Gruttadaro said, such as having check-ins where workers can feel comfortable voicing their concerns to their managers and not just through human resources departments.

Microsoft’s annual 2021 Work Trend Index report warned that business leaders are “out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.” The report found high levels of overwork and exhaustion among employees, but a major disconnect compared to managers. Some 61% of business leaders say they are “thriving” — 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making authority.

At the individual level, Gruttadaro recommended doing what you can control — such as “setting healthy boundaries” — and if you’re working remotely to try and mimic the hours you would do if you were still going into the office.

When it comes specifically to dealing with stress management, Gruttadaro emphasized that exercise and sleep are essential, as well as engaging with activities that you enjoy.

“There are likely to be higher incidence of burnout at jobs in which people don’t have as much control over the activities they do during the day as part of their job,” Gruttadaro added. “So the more that employers offer opportunities for people to find meaning and purpose in their work, and really feel like they’re making a difference and they have some control and there’s a certain level of fairness associated with the way they’re treated during the day — these are all elements of a healthier work environment.”

Some companies, including Bumble, LinkedIn, and Hootsuite, have responded to post-pandemic burnout recently by giving all staff an entire week off.

Maslach added that the present time provides the ideal opportunity for organizations to get creative with solutions that aren’t just treating the symptoms of burnout but creating a work environment that people actually want to be a part of.

“The changes in the pandemic I think underscored an important bottom line, which is the importance of a healthy workplace,” she said. “We have to rethink what makes for healthier environments in which people can do productive, meaningful and valuable kind of work.”

“And if anything, the pandemic is pointing out you could do things differently,” Maslach said. “Let’s get creative, let’s rethink this.”

“It may not be the ‘same old, same old’ going back to normal workplaces,” she said. “How do we learn from this and figure out better ways of doing what we do?”

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