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Jobs open up for homeless people in UK labour market squeeze By Reuters

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© Reuters. Zara Asamoah poses for a photograph at Arriva Rail London office, Watford, Britain, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Paul Childs

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By William Schomberg

WATFORD, England (Reuters) – When Zara Asamoah graduated early in the coronavirus pandemic, she had no fixed abode and her chances of finding work looked remote.

Now, thanks to an acute lack of job candidates as Britain’s economy reopens and to support from Beam, a crowd-funding charity that helps homeless people into work, Asamoah has a job with a London railway operator and lives in a shared house.

“It’s taken a huge pressure off of me ” said the 25 year-old, who found it hard to apply for jobs without a stable address, and to get a home without regular income.

Globally, a shortage of people to fill jobs after the pandemic wrought changes to labour markets is worrying central banks who fear wage demands will fuel inflation already at multi-decade highs.

In Britain, the problems are exacerbated by a drop in EU workers after the country left the European Union. Vacancies are the highest on record. As a result, organizations that work with people employers were long wary of, including homeless people as well as other typically marginalised groups such as ex-offenders, say more opportunities are opening up.

Beam estimates interest from employers in its services has tripled since the start of the pandemic. It has ramped up operations to help nearly 30 people a month into jobs so far this year, compared with about 3 a month in 2019, before the pandemic.

While firm numbers of how many homeless people are now being drawn into the workplace are hard to come by, the potential pool of labour is large.

In December, charity Shelter estimated 274,000 people were homeless in England, most of them like Asamoah crashing with friends and family, rather than sleeping rough.

VACANCIES SURGE, WORKFORCE SHRINKS

Britain’s ratio of 4.1 vacancies to 100 employee jobs is a record.

During the pandemic many older workers took early retirement and young people opted to stay in education. In late 2021, the share of 16-64 year-olds not in work and not looking for it stood at 21.2%, up from 20.2% in early 2020, government data shows, equivalent to around half a million missing workers.

Sonali Punhani, chief UK economist at Credit Suisse (SIX:), said the problem was currently even more acute in the United States, where emergency welfare payments have sidelined many workers.

But Brexit meant Britain’s recovery would likely be slower.

“Workers will come back over this year but I don’t think participation will come back to pre-pandemic levels,” Punhani said.

Emily Hocking, head of talent acquisition for buses and trains at Arriva Group, the parent of Arriva Rail London which hired Asamoah, said the situation was “incredibly tough” for employers.

“Brexit, COVID – it’s completely changed the landscape,” she said.

Faced with candidate shortages that were “not sustainable,” Arriva looked for more hires from new sources. After a successful trial between Beam and its London unit, Arriva now plans a national-level partnership.

A WEEK TURNS TO YEARS

As well as the high demand for labour, organizations such as Beam are key to breaking the cycle that keeps homeless people out of work.

Asamoah was first left without a fixed address in 2016 when her mother was evicted over rent arrears. She stayed first with her boyfriend at the time, then a family friend, then her sister, doing only occasional part-time work.

“A week turned into two weeks. Two weeks turned into a month. A month turned into a year,” she said. “I realized that we were just not going to get the family home back.”

Asamoah stuck to her film-making course at university despite the upheaval. After graduating in 2020, she was struggling again to find somewhere to stay when her local council put her in touch with Beam.

Crowd-funding of just over 3,000 pounds ($3,936) got Asamoah into a shared house a year ago and covered the cost of a laptop and other expenses. Beam coached her on job interviews and introduced her to employers, including Arriva.

Alex Stephany, Beam’s founder, said companies could meet the challenge of worker shortages by doing “the right thing for society” and hiring ethically and diversely.

Interventions Alliance, an organisation that helps former offenders find jobs, said it was now much easier to place its clients with a wider range of companies, including transport and hospitality businesses that were previously reluctant.

“There is now much more openness,” said Suki Binning, the group’s executive director for justice and social care.

For Fox Group, a haulage and construction firm in Blackpool, northwest England, there is potential in nearby Kirkham Prison.

A shift to online shopping in the pandemic made drivers some of the most sought-after workers, compounding the loss of about 4% of Fox’s drivers and construction staff after Brexit.

Fox currently employs two former inmates of the prison and seven others who are allowed out to work during the day. In the next few weeks, Fox will open an academy to train and potentially hire 45 inmates as machinery drivers on day release and once they are fully released.

“It’s a bit of a no-brainer,” director Lee Hardy said. “There are loads of guys out there who want to work and we’ve got work that we can offer.”

(Changes status of Beam to social enterprise from charity)

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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