Trump advisor Kevin Hassett says 3.2% GDP growth ‘absolutely’ sustainable this year, could even go higher – CNBC

The “blockbuster” economic growth in the first quarter is “absolutely” sustainable, Kevin Hassett, an economic advisor to President Donald Trump, said Friday on CNBC.

First-quarter gross domestic product grew by 3.2%, according to an initial reading by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the economy for that period. It was more than expected and was the first time since 2015 that first-quarter GDP topped 3%.

Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said that the Trump administration had already been forecasting 3.2% economic growth for this year.

“Maybe we would revise it up,” he said on “The Exchange, referring to the 2019 forecast. “The [first-quarter] number was three-tenths lower because of the government shutdown and … the first quarter tends to be low because the winter weather isn’t really accounted for right in the statistics.”

“You add that all together, this is really blockbuster news and suggests that the risks on the upside are very high for GDP this year,” he added.

The surge in growth was driven by a smaller trade deficit and the largest accumulation of unsold merchandise since 2015. Those are both seen as temporary boosters that could ultimately weigh on the economy later this year. Because of that, Morgan Stanley economists are forecasting that GDP will slow to 1.1% in the second quarter.

Hassett agreed that when there is a lot of growth in inventories, it should give people pause about the next quarter. However, he said in this case there is no need for concern.

“Incomes are growing at a very high rate and consumption has not been,” he said. “Our expectation is that the shelves are being filled but they’re going be emptied out and production isn’t going to go down they way it normally does when you get an inventory spike.”

“The consumers are having their consumption catch up with income,” he added.

Hassett isn’t the only Trump administration official taking a victory lap. Earlier Friday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow called the 3.2% GDP growth “a blowout number.” However, he still insisted the Federal Reserve should cut interest rates.

“The inflation rate continues to slip lower and lower,” Kudlow told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Friday. “Even according to the Fed’s own spokespeople, from the chairman on down, that could open the door to a target rate reduction.”

— CNBC’s Michael Sheetz and Reuters contributed to this report.

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‘My Whole Life Is On Hold’: As Walmart Eliminates Greeters, A Dream In Limbo – NPR

In February, Justin Kelley was among the workers at about 1,000 Walmarts who learned that their jobs as people greeters would be eliminated. Like Kelley, many of them were workers with disabilities who found themselves in limbo.

Alina Selyukh/NPR

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In February, Justin Kelley was among the workers at about 1,000 Walmarts who learned that their jobs as people greeters would be eliminated. Like Kelley, many of them were workers with disabilities who found themselves in limbo.

Alina Selyukh/NPR

One weekend in February, Justin Kelley, 33, made the biggest financial commitment of his life. He paid a friend to start custom-building an airboat. He had dreamed of owning one since an early age.

“That’s my level playing ground. It’s my freedom,” Kelley says. Onshore, he uses a walker to get around and a wheelchair at work, because he has cerebral palsy. But on an airboat on a Florida lake? “To me it’s the one place that, when I’m in that seat, you don’t see that walker. You don’t see the chair. … It’s my escape. It’s my happy place.”

But two days after putting down money for the boat, Kelley found out his job was in jeopardy. He was one of the greeters at about 1,000 Walmart stores who were told their positions would be eliminated in late April. That gave them about 60 days to get reassigned or take severance and leave.

“My whole life is on hold,” Kelley says, sitting on the wooden steps to his house in Lake Wales, Fla. “Everything I’ve worked for is at a standstill.”

Walmart Is Eliminating Greeters. Workers With Disabilities Feel Targeted

Walmart Chief Responds To Furor Over Treatment Of Greeters With Disabilities

Since 2016, Walmart has been replacing greeters with “hosts,” more focused on security and assisting shoppers. But for current greeters like Kelley to qualify for the new front-door jobs, they now must meet new criteria. That includes, for example, lifting 25 pounds or climbing a ladder.

One, two, three — Kelley counts more than a half-dozen surgery scars on his legs — hamstring, ankle, “they shattered my shin to try to straighten that foot,” he says, matter-of-factly. He can lift and climb, if he has to, in a private setting, adjusting his body. But doing this regularly and safely for work? Kelley doesn’t qualify.

According to Walmart, the majority of greeters who “expressed interest in another role” will transition to new positions within those 60 days. “In some cases, we were able to identify roles very early in the process,” spokesman Kory Lundberg says, “but for others the 60-day transition has helped people look at all of their options to help them make the best decision for them.” (Note: Walmart is one of NPR’s financial sponsors.)

As Kelley sits on his porch, it’s Day 49 of his wait for a call from HR. He says he has a great manager, who is fighting to find him a new position. But Kelley also has someone who wants to buy his boat.

“So do I start selling my stuff that I just bought?” Kelley says. Selling the boat would float him for a while. But he spent five years saving up for it. “Do I take my dream right now and just go buy for-sale signs? What do I do?”

Kelley’s predicament will sound familiar to other greeters with disabilities. In recent weeks, a dozen workers and their families shared similar accounts — of uncertainty, hope and the anxiety of waiting for a corporate decision. Kelley doesn’t know that as he speaks, his fate has actually already been decided. He will know it in a matter of hours.

A day in the life

Airboating is big in Central Florida, where citrus groves are webbed with lakes and swamps. These boats are flat, with a giant propeller in the back and usually an airplane engine. They can run on shallow water and even patches of dry land in the marshes.

Kelley has been enamored with airboats since he was a teenager, going fishing, hunting, just cruising. Of all the sounds in the world, the boat’s roar is one that calms him down. Around here, you could ride for hours, even days, and never hit the same spot twice, Kelley says. “We can go see water buffalo, axis deer, turkey, hog, gator. Just pure God’s country.”

Growing up, Kelley says, he often felt that people thought his parents were mean for how they pushed him to be self-sufficient. Like if you can’t climb into a truck yourself, you can’t go on a trip. Now, he says, he thanks them for that all the time.

“Everything I’ve worked for is at a standstill,” Kelley said.

Alina Selyukh/NPR

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Alina Selyukh/NPR

“Everything I’ve worked for is at a standstill,” Kelley said.

Alina Selyukh/NPR

In fact, he spends so much time outdoors and on the town, he says he goes through walkers “like they’re going out of style” — three times faster than he is prescribed new ones.

“Luckily for me, most of my friends are welders, so we’ll fix it, rig it to work,” he says. “Or my mom and dad, that’ll be my Christmas present … a walker.”

Today, he is climbing into the passenger seat of a sedan in his sandy driveway. A friend is driving him to work — Kelley’s Walmart is almost 9 miles away, and Kelley doesn’t live near public transportation. So he stitches together rides from friends and $12 Ubers, getting ready hours in advance in case a ride falls through and the closest Uber is 20 minutes away.

“It’s not like my life goal [is] to live off a disability check. I don’t want housing; I don’t want free medical stuff. I want to be able to say I paid for all that myself,” Kelley says. His dream is classic: stable work, a house, wife and kids, a couple of acres with a barn for his boat.

After some false starts at other jobs after high school, Kelley spent a year looking for work before getting hired at Walmart. He has been there nine years.

“For me to say that I work for a company [where] I got a 401(k), I got a chance to get insurance, that meant a lot to me,” Kelley says. “I take a lot of pride in that.”

Finally, news

At the store where he works, every other shopper seems to know Kelley by name. On the way in, people stop to chat about fishing, weekend plans, kids and of course boats. On the way out, they have their receipts ready for Kelley to check. Shoppers keep greeting him even after he clocks out and waits outside for an Uber home.

“I love him to death; he’s a good guy,” says Ronald Smith, who came by to get medicine for his wife. “Even if you came there with an attitude, you start off with a good vibe right then — that’s my friend, I’m going to have a good time shopping.”

Every day he’s in, Kelley asks his bosses if they have heard about his job from corporate. On most days, they haven’t. But on Day 49 of his wait, they do have news. And it’s good.

Walmart is reassigning Kelley. Like many other greeters with disabilities, Kelley will now help shoppers in the self-checkout area.

Lundberg, the Walmart spokesman, says, that overall, “greeters have accepted jobs in nearly 50 different roles in stores, from the new customer host position to cake decorator.” He says the purpose of the 60-day process was to give workers and stores time to review all options and needed accommodations and find the best fit “in an effort to better serve the customer.”

Kelley signed his offer on the spot.

“He came in last night, he was so happy,” says Haley Seagraves, whose family shares a house with Kelley. Her husband and Kelley became best friends after meeting through Walmart. “[Kelley] kept smiling, and I said, ‘Why are you so happy?’ And he was like, ‘Because I love this job!’ “

Kelley is excited for stability. Though he is also already worrying about lining up rides for a new schedule. But he is grateful.

“Big weight lifted off my shoulders,” he says, and laughs. “There ain’t no boat for sale no more, that’s for sure.”

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McDonald’s is partnering with AARP to hire older employees – CNN

New York (CNN Business)Unemployment is historically low, so McDonald’s is targeting a new employee demographic: Older Americans.

The fast food chain said on Wednesday that it is partnering with AARP, a nonprofit interest group for aging Americans, to help attract workers who are aged fifty or above. That demographic makes up just 11% of the workforce at corporate-owned stores, according to the company.
McDonald’s (MCD) hopes that the new recruitment tactic will attract workers for breakfast and lunch shifts, in particular. Now, McDonald’s tends to attract younger workers who either can’t work mornings because of school, or prefer not to start early in the day. Hiring older workers is also a way to attract talent as US unemployment, now at 3.8%, hovers near all-time lows.
McDonald’s has posted positions to its AARP site. The AARP Foundation is helping match candidates with open jobs at McDonald’s through its Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income, unemployed people aged 55 and older find work, and through its Back to Work 50+, which also helps older job seekers. The process is being piloted in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina, with a national rollout planned for this summer. McDonald’s would like to fill 250,000 jobs.
For the company, the program is also a way to boost diversity, said Melissa Kersey, McDonald’s US Chief People Officer.
“Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to success of business,” she told CNN Business. “We believe age is also an important part of that.”
With the labor market so tight, fast food chains have been getting creative in their attempts to attract workers. Earlier this month, Taco Bell announced that it would host nearly 600 “hiring parties” with free food, swag and Instagram-friendly photo props to help fill thousands of open jobs. The parties are planned for this week.
Companies may also be particularly interested in hiring older workers.
Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resiliency programming at AARP, told CNN Business that about 1,000 companies including McDonald’s have signed AARP’s employer pledge program, which requires signatories to publicly state that they “recognize the value of experienced workers” and “recruit across diverse age groups.” Major employers like Google (GOOGL), CVS (CVS), Macy’s (M) and others have signed the pledge.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve seen an acceleration of companies signing,” Weinstock said. “I think the word is getting out about the quality of older worker,” she added. “There’s also a labor shortage, and so this is an opportunity for employers.”
McDonald’s plans to encourage members of other demographics to apply using different recruitment tactics moving forward, Kersey said.

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