The US Economy
Stock Market Indices
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 33,000, up from 19,000 in April 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged.
The NASDAQ Composite index was 11,000, down from the pandemic peak of 16,000 in November 2022, but still twice as high as the Great Recession in 2018.
The US Inflation was 6.5%, down from from its peak of 9.1% last June, and its highest rate since 1982, as the war in Ukraine drove up energy costs and supply-chain issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic continued to push prices higher.
A Wave of Layoffs Swept the Tech Sector
Microsoft’s 10,000 employee layoff followed Meta / Facebook sacking thousands, Amazon firing 18,000, and Google laying off another 10,000. Other companies with layoffs included Salesforce, Twitter, and Snap. In total, employers in the tech industry cut 50,000 jobs this month, and nearly 195,000 jobs in the past year.
The job cuts mark an abrupt end to rapid hiring in the tech sector in response to their windfalls from the pandemic. But that rapid growth also brought surging inflation that prompted the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates. The higher rates have combined with other factors globally, including the war in Ukraine and China’s Covid-19 lockdowns, to put a damper on the global economy.
AI Fever is Sweeping the World
The AI-powered Large Language Model ChatGPT was released to the public a month ago, and has caught on quickly to the delight of some and the dismay of others. ChatGPT is from OpenAI, one of the world’s most ambitious artificial intelligence labs. Here’s a look at some recent developments.
- ChatGPT: The cutting-edge chatbot is raising fears of students cheating on their homework, and scaring Google with its implications as a chat-bot search competitor.
- DALL-E 2: The system lets you create digital images simply by describing what you want to see. But for some, image generators are worrisomen because they can create fake photos that can spread across social media.
- GPT-3: With mind-boggling fluency, the natural-language system can write, argue and code. The implications for the future could be profound.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
The Russia-Ukraine war continued in January 2023, with no end in sight. The ceasefire that was agreed to in December 2022 quickly broke down, and Russian forces resumed their bombardment of Ukrainian cities. The Ukrainian military continued to resist, and there were reports of heavy fighting in the Donbas region.
In addition to troop transport vehicles, Germany and the United States are sending a few dozen tanks to Ukraine. The United States is building new tanks for Ukraine that will not be delivered until next year.
Top Secret Docu-gate
Top secret documents found in Joe Biden’s home and former office embarrassed the president after he repeatedly criticized Donald Trump for doing the same.
A few months after the FBI raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, top-secret documents were found in Joe Biden’s home in Delaware, and an office he used when he was the vice president. Oops.
Anti-abortion Laws Sweep the Red States
Since the Supreme Court struck down, Rovy Wade, at least 13 states have banned abortions. In states where it’s still legal, clinics are overwhelmed with out-of-state patients. Half of pregnancies are terminated with the day-after pill, which is legal nationally, yet banned in Texas and other states.