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Where Are Businesses Closing in the US?

Source: Yelp

The number of total business closures in the United States dropped in July 2020 — but the figure remains high, with more than 132,500 closures so far this year. Of that amount, 15,742 businesses permanently closed since mid-June. Data from Yelp shows that the restaurant industry had the highest number of closures in July, surpassing the retail industry. 

Most of these closures are occurring in large cities — Los Angeles and New York City had the largest amounts of business closures. Similarly, large U.S. states such as California (29,351 closed businesses), Texas (11,118 closed businesses) and New York (8,731 closed businesses) all experienced a large number of closures since the start of the pandemic. Many of these cities and states have been major hot spots during the pandemic.

As businesses start to reopen, and consumers test their comfort levels, recreational activity is expected to grow and help bounce back struggling industries. However, cases continue to rise in certain parts of the U.S., causing consumer interest and business closures to continue to move at an unpredictable pace.

The Metaverse: Regulating an Uncharted Territory

The metaverse is an immersive digital universe that will transform the way societies interact, work, and live. Presently, this decentralized platform is highly unregulated; while some existing regulations may apply, they often lack specificity to protect users from unique harms. 

Some of the biggest legal issues in the metaverse include data privacy and cybersecurity (almost one in two users are concerned about identity privacy), fraud, and intellectual property (IP) loss. While some existing laws may apply to the metaverse (personal data protections, IP, and contract law), they often fall short in the virtual realm due to anonymity and jurisdictional complications. Some governments have expanded the scope of existing regulations (U.S.’s Bank Secrecy Act), and others have enacted new regulations (UAE’s Virtual Asset Law) to specifically address metaverse concerns. 

The metaverse is expected to grow at a CAGR of 50.7% from 2022-2030. As regulators play catch-up, they must strike a balance between enabling innovation and protecting users from harm. All stakeholders — lawmakers, regulators, architects of virtual spaces, and businesses — will need to work together to appropriately regulate this rapidly evolving landscape. 

One Year After Taliban Take Power, Afghanistan’s GDP Plummets

Source: Financial Times

One year after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops, Afghanistan’s gross domestic product has sharply declined and food insecurity has risen. The UN Development Program estimated that Afghanistan’s GDP fell 20% in 2021 and will shrink another 5% this year. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund estimate that the country’s GDP could fall by up to 30%.

Afghanistan’s economic decline has been exacerbated by mismanagement under the government, rising inflation, and the collapse of the country’s banks. Even before the Taliban took over, 75% of Afghanistan’s economy was dependent on foreign aid — much of this aid has now been cut off by Western sanctions that have also frozen billions in foreign reserves. 

As a result, 37% of Afghan households say that they don’t have enough money for food. More than four out of five households say they have significantly lost income since the change in regime. However, the World Bank reports that employment has increased at the national level, driven largely by an expansion of employment in rural areas.

Taiwan and China’s Economies Are Inextricably Linked

Tensions between the U.S. and China remain high following last week’s visit by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the first in 25 years by a top U.S. official. Despite Taiwan’s fraught diplomatic relationship with China, the two countries’ economies are  inextricably linked, reports Investment Monitor.

China is Taiwan’s biggest export partner, with a value of more than $515 billion of goods between 2017-2022, more than double that of the United States. Taiwan’s main export to China is semiconductors — in 2020, China spent more on chips than on oil. 

Taiwan’s electronic exports dwarf any other industry and were valued at more than $844 billion between 2017-2022. Electronics also attract the most foreign direct investment, bringing in more than 16% of all greenfield FDI projects between 2019-2020. While strained trade relations between the U.S. and China have prompted some U.S. companies to relocate from mainland China to Taiwan, the recent rise in tensions may make Taiwan a riskier prospect for foreign investors.

Employees Don’t Want to Be in the Office on Friday

Fridays are the emptiest days in the office in the United States as the majority of hybrid workers choose to work from home on the last day of the week, new data shows. Security service provider Kastle Systems found that only 30% of U.S. workers swipe into the office on Fridays. In comparison, 50% of workers came into work on Tuesday, the highest turnout of the week.

Employers worldwide are experimenting with flexible work arrangements as the pandemic continues and workers make clear their preference for working from home. A U.K. survey shows that 80% of workers say that working from home at least once a week has a positive impact on their lives. Seventy-five percent say that they believe the world is never going back to a traditional five-day work week.

Some companies are experimenting with giving employees Fridays off. In the U.K., more than 70 companies are part of the largest trial of a four-day work week ever. In the U.S., tech companies like Kickstarter, Thred Up, and Bolt are moving to a Monday to Thursday work week for good.

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