Friday Five | September 23, 2022

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.

1. Fed attacks inflation with another big rate hike and expects more

In its continued battle to fight inflation, the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate Wednesday by three-quarters of a point for a third straight time and signaled more large rate hikes in the future. The Fed’s move boosted its short-term rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, to a range of 3% to 3.25%, the highest level since early 2008. During a press conference, Chair Jerome Powell said that before Fed officials consider halting their rate hikes, they would have to be confident that inflation is moving back down to their 2% target.

“If we want to light the way to another period of a very strong labor market,” Powell said, “we have got to get inflation behind us. I wish there was a painless way to do that. There isn’t.”

At the current Fed’s accelerated pace of rate hikes, some economists are beginning to express concern that it will cause more economic damage than necessary to tame inflation. But others argue that they have yet to raise rates to a level that would restrict borrowing and spending while slowing growth.

Read the full story here.

2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Index dips as small businesses see high inflation persisting

According to the latest MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, small businesses’ concern over inflation has reached the highest level since Q3 of last year. 50% of survey respondents say inflation is the biggest challenge, representing the fifth consecutive quarter of increasing concern over inflation and marking a 31-point increase since this time last year. The report also showed a strong majority of small businesses (71%) believe the worst is still to come with regards to inflation. Overall, small businesses reported to be less confident in both the U.S. economy and their local economic environment and less comfortable with their current cash flow. Read the full report here.

Here are five data points from this quarter’s report that show how badly inflation is hurting small businesses. Read more here.

3. Md. adds 5,500 jobs in August, but unemployment rate climbs 

Data released last Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a jump in Maryland’s unemployment rate to 4.3%, indicating many who left the labor force during the pandemic began looking for work again. This represents a step in the right direction to address the current workforce shortage. The data also showed Maryland added 5,500 jobs in August, with most growth coming from the trade, transportation and utilities sector adding 3,200 jobs. Compared to August 2021, Maryland jobs are up by 72,400, an over-the-year increase of 2.7%.

Read the full story here.

4. What’s motivating Marylanders as they decide how they’ll vote this November

With Election Day right around the corner and Marylanders getting ready to elect a new Governor, three top issues were identified by new polling from Goucher College in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR: crime, education and the economy. Poll participants (748 registered voters) were read a list of issues and asked which of them were in the top three influencing their choice for governor. The economy and taxes ranked in the top three for 64% of those polled, crime and public safety ranked in the top three for 62% of respondents, and public schools and education ranked in the top three for 60%.

Read the full story here.

5. Toll operator chooses construction firm for Beltway, I-270 project

On Wednesday, Australian toll operator Transurban and Australian investment bank Macquarie announced their selection of a lead construction contractor, Tutor Perini Corp., to design and build the first 14-mile segment of toll lanes on part of Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway in Maryland. But first, Transurban would need to secure a 50-year contract with the Maryland Department of Transportation for the private consortium to finance, build and operate the toll lanes in exchange for keeping most of the toll revenue. Governor Hogan has previously said that adding privately financed toll lanes for motorists who want to pay extra to get out of congestion is the only way that state can afford to provide significant traffic relief. Meanwhile, opponents say widening the highways could cause too much environmental damage and be too expensive for motorists.

Read the full story here.

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