Friday, November 6, 2015
US payrolls climb most this year; Toyota invests $1bn in artificial intelligence; Religious children found to be meaner
1 US payrolls climb most this year (Gulf News) US employment in October surged by the most this year, wage growth accelerated and the jobless rate fell to 5 per cent, signs of labour-market durability Federal Reserve policymakers are looking for as they consider a year-end boost in borrowing costs.
The addition of 271,000 jobs exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists and followed a revised 137,000 gain in September, a Labor Department report showed. The median forecast called for a 185,000 advance. Average hourly earnings climbed from a year earlier by the most since July 2009.
In the wake of sluggish job gains the prior two months, October’s advance allays concerns that an abrupt hiring slowdown would hinder the expansion’s progress as economies overseas strive to gain traction. Further improvement in the job market is a precondition for Fed officials, who last month held out the possibility of a December interest-rate increase.
The report also showed diminishing labour-market slack. The number of Americans working part-time because of a weak economy fell to 5.7 million in October, the lowest since June 2008. The unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate Labor Department survey of households, is the lowest since April 2008.
The underemployment rate — which includes part-time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want to work but have given up looking — fell to 9.8 per cent, the lowest since May 2008. The participation rate, which shows the share of working- age people in the labour force, held at 62.4 per cent.
2 Toyota invests $1bn in artificial intelligence (San Francisco Chronicle) Toyota is investing $1 billion in a research company it's setting up in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence and robotics, underlining the Japanese automaker's determination to lead in futuristic cars that drive themselves and apply the technology to other areas of daily life.
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said the company will start operating from January 2016, with 200 employees at a Silicon Valley facility near Stanford University. A second facility will be established near Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
The investment, which will be spread over five years, comes on top of $50 million Toyota announced earlier for artificial intelligence research at Stanford and MIT. Toyota said its interest extended beyond autonomous driving, which is starting to be offered by some automakers and being promised by almost all of them.
Toyota has already shown a robot designed to help the elderly, the sick and people in wheelchairs by picking up and carrying objects. The automaker has also shown human-shaped entertainment robots that can converse and play musical instruments. As the world's top auto manufacturer, Toyota already uses sophisticated robotic arms and computers in auto production, including doing paint jobs and screwing in parts.
Toyota, which has gone through troubled times with massive recalls and the 2011 tsunami in northeastern Japan, has the cash these days to invest in the future. On Thursday, it kept its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March 2016 unchanged at 2.25 trillion yen ($18.5 billion), as profit rose on cost cuts and the benefits of a weak yen.
3 Religious children found to be meaner (Harriet Sherwood in The Guardian) Children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study. Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality. They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.
“Overall, our findings ... contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the world, published this week.
“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”
Almost 1,200 children, aged between five and 12, in the US, Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa participated in the study. Almost 24% were Christian, 43% Muslim, and 27.6% non-religious. The numbers of Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and other children were too small to be statistically valid.
The study also found that “religiosity affects children’s punitive tendencies”. Children from religious households “frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions”, it said. At the same time, the report said that religious parents were more likely than others to consider their children to be “more empathetic and more sensitive to the plight of others”.
The report pointed out that 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious. “While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and pro-social behaviour, the relation between religion and morality is a contentious one,” it said.