U.S. Businesses Face Jan 4 Deadline To Get Workers Vaccinated

File photo of health worker preparing to inoculate a person with a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
PHOTO: Narinder NANU / AFP

 

Strict rules intended to push tens of millions of American workers into receiving vaccines against Covid-19 will come into effect on January 4 of next year, President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Thursday.

The mandates targeting businesses with more than 100 employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors represent the most aggressive steps Washington has taken thus far against the virus and its Delta variant, which has hobbled the country’s economic recovery in recent months.

“The single consistent deadline across all three requirements is January 4, 2022,” when any employee covered by the requirement must either receive their final vaccination dose or submit to at least weekly Covid-19 testing, a senior administration official said.

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Biden announced the mandate in September amid growing concern over the country’s flagging vaccination rate, leaving federal agencies to finalize the rules that have already attracted criticism from the Republican opposition and some industry groups.

The regulations will affect more than two-thirds of the country’s workforce, the senior administration official said, and join mandates announced by major employers in the country as well as some states.

“The bottom line is vaccination requirements work,” the official said, predicting the rules would “lead (to) millions of Americans getting vaccinated, protecting workers, saving lives, strengthening our economy and helping to accelerate our path out of this pandemic.”

 

– ‘Turning point’ –

The world’s largest Covid-19 outbreak is among the stones that have weighed down Biden’s presidency in recent months.

His Democratic party suffered a humiliating defeat in Virginia’s governorship election this week, while lawmakers in Congress have yet to reach an agreement on two spending bills Biden has put at the center of his policies.

Economic growth soared and millions went back to work after Biden took office in January just as Covid-19 vaccines became widely available, but third-quarter growth slumped and September’s hiring was the weakest of the year as the Delta wave sent infections soaring and made businesses cautious.

The president on Tuesday hailed a Food and Drug Administration decision to allow people aged 5-11 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a “turning point” that will affect up to 28 million children.

Convincing reluctant adults to get a widely available vaccine is another matter. While some businesses including major air carriers have imposed their own vaccine requirements, the Republican House lawmakers compared the mandate to a “dictatorship.”

The governor of Texas went as far as to put a ban on Covid-19 vaccine mandates for any entities in the state, including private companies.

The Society for Human Resource Management released a poll last month saying 90 percent of employers surveyed would find it difficult to implement the mandate, and asked the government to seek public comment before imposing the rules.

US Employment Jumps 201,000 In August, Jobless Rate Steady At 3.9%

In this file photo taken on June 1, 2018, a ‘hiring’ sign is posted on the window of a business on June 1, 2018 in San Francisco. Hiring surged in the US in August, and employers increased wages by the most in nearly a decade as the jobs markets showed no sign of slowing, the government reported on September 7, 2018. PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Pay for American workers saw its biggest bump in nearly a decade last month amid a surprise late-summer hiring spree that offered no sign jobs markets could be cooling, the government reported on Friday.

The unexpected job gains, which saw jobs sprout up in construction, transportation, wholesale trade, finance and healthcare, was a shot in the arm for President Donald Trump, who was beset this week by reports his staff had actively sought to undermine him.

The US economy added 201,000 new jobs, well above analyst expectations, while the unemployment rate held steady at an already-low 3.9 per cent and wages gained ground on inflation.

Ahead of crucial elections in November, the White House — which had been at pains this week to counter reports of flagging wage growth — will surely welcome news that average worker pay grew by 2.9 per cent compared to August of last year, the biggest increase since June 2009, and in line with consumer inflation.

But the strong gain in pay will also solidify expectations for the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates this year to keep a lid on inflation, something that has drawn Trump’s ire.

Long awaited wage growth

The August employment gain appeared even larger given a downward revision to July’s comparatively weak numbers.

The strong hiring report also brought average gains to 196,000 per month over the past year.

Professional and business services added 53,000, bringing job gains for the sector to 519,000 since August of last year.

The hiring momentum was not shared by all, however, as jobs in auto manufacturing, retail and utilities fell.

The mining sector, an industry central to Trump’s economic agenda, ticked slightly higher with 6,000 jobs added.

The labour force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio also weakened slightly.

The August result is also subject to revision in the coming months.

But the bright spot for the month was surely the bump in average hourly worker pay, which jumped 10 cents over July’s rate to add 0.4 per cent, about double what economists had been expecting and the largest month-to-month increase since December.

Analysts had warned that technical factors could produce a deceptively weak reading since August had more total working days than prior months.

Weak wage increases had threatened to undermine the message of incumbent Republicans ahead of November’s mid-term elections that December’s sweeping tax cuts would produce dividends for working Americans.

AFP