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The Frequency of Costly Weather Disasters Is Increasing

2021 was among the busiest years for climate disasters in the United States. According to analysis of NOAA/NCEI data by Climate Central, there have been 18 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each as of October 8, 2021 — well above the average of seven events per year. 

The change in frequency between events has dropped from 82 days in the 1980s to just 18 days, on average, in the last five years (2016-2020). For 2020, NOAA tracked 22 events that cost the nation a combined $95 billion in damages. Of the billion-dollar events, a record seven were linked to tropical cyclones, 13 to severe storms, one to drought, and one to wildfires.

This finding, attributed to climate change, reflects a global trend of more people living within floodplains and on land prone to wildfires. Faced with rising uncertainty, those seeking protection against these risks are increasingly turning toward non-traditional insurance schemes, including reinsurance and captive insurance.

Macron Loses Majority in French Legislative Elections

President Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the French National Assembly after voters gave more seats to the far left and right in Sunday’s legislative elections. President Macron’s centrist coalition held onto 245 seats in the lower Parliamentary house, well short of the 289 seats needed to maintain a majority. The loss of dozens of seats will cause friction in the president’s second term as he negotiates with opposition parties.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon successfully brought together more mainstream left parties with the Communist and Greens into an alliance called NUPES (New Ecological and Social Popular Union). NUPES now has 131 seats in the Assembly, making it the largest opposition force in France.

Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party also gained ground, turning eight seats into 89. Le Pen, who lost the presidential election to President Macron in April, helped win the record number of seats for the National Rally with her efforts to attract voters during her presidential campaign.

Employees Are Happiest Working From Home

The vast majority of workers prefer to work from home rather than return to the office, shows a new study from the Policy Institute and King’s College London. The survey of over 2,000 London-based workers reveals that 75% of workers believe that we’re never returning to the previous model of working full-time in an office. 

Eight out of 10 workers say working from home at least once a week has a positive impact on their lives. The top benefits of working from home include no commute, being able to manage home and social responsibilities, less stress, and less exposure to COVID-19.

Women (84%) are more likely than men (76%) to say that remote work has improved their quality of life, and their ability to manage responsibilities at home. Older workers are also more likely than younger workers to experience a positive impact. Contrary to popular assumption, there is no significant difference between introverts (82%) and extroverts (79%) who enjoy working from home.

Black American Unemployment Rate Is Double That of White Americans

For over 40 years, Black Americans have had an unemployment rate twice as high as white Americans, reports the Economic Policy Institute. As of May 2022, the unemployment gap remains unchanged: Black Americans had an unemployment rate of 6.2%, compared to white Americans at 3.2%.

The usual factors cited to explain this gap—differences in education, experience, or skills—fall short of explaining the racial inequality in the labor market without factoring in discrimination. The 2:1 ratio between Black and white workers remains the same, despite gains in educational and skill attainment by Black Americans over the past four decades.

This disparity also extends to wages. In 2019, the average Black worker earned 24% less per hour than the average white worker. Controlling for differences in education, experience, and geography still left Black workers earning 14% less than white workers. This racial wage gap has grown larger over time; in 1979, Black workers earned 8% less than white colleagues. 

Rice Prices Are Rising Amid Global Food Crisis

The price of rice continues to rise for the fifth consecutive month as global food prices soar to record highs, reports the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rice, a staple food throughout much of the world, has been more resilient against the price increases affecting other food commodities because of abundant harvests. But international rice prices have been rising since the beginning of the year and are now 11% higher than they were at the end of 2021.

Food prices have been rising precipitously around the world, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, higher energy and fertilizer costs, and other factors like food export bans. Wheat, another global food staple, has been particularly affected by the Ukraine crisis, with prices rising 55% since last year. Steep wheat prices could lead to an increased demand for rice, potentially pushing rice prices higher as the conflict continues.

The FAO warns that countries are expected to spend a record $1.8 trillion importing food this year, placing low-income countries at high risk for a food crisis.

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