Afternoon Coffee: U.S. unemployment rate, new hires fall; Aluminum can producers build plants to meet demand; Turning banana peels into sustainable energy

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in August from 10.2% to 8.4% although hiring slowed the most since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the Associated Press. The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 1.4 million jobs in August, down from 1.7 million in July.

The numbers indicate that the U.S. has recovered about half of the 22 million jobs lost to the pandemic and its economic shocks. The report shows that nearly six months after the coronavirus wrecked the economy, recovery is growing slowly.

Some economists indicate that significant hiring might be hard to sustain as employers operate under a cloud of uncertainty about the virus. The article reported that the economy appears to be growing on two tracks: sectors that are booming and sectors that remain sluggish. That results in an uneven recovery. Manufacturers have enjoyed a solid rebound as the demand for cars, appliances and electronics has risen. Home sales are booming as more people turn to bigger homes, the article said.

Ball Corp. to build new aluminum can plant to meet high demand

Ball Corp. — the glass jar company and a giant in the aluminum can production industry — announced this week that it plans to build a new aluminum beverage packaging plant in Pennsylvania to begin operations in 2021, according to Supply Chain Dive.

Changing demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a shortage of aluminum cans in the market. The shortage might be the result of the lean supply chain that the can industry relies on, the article said. Demand for aluminum has been strong for the soft drink and beer sector, especially as consumers had to buy drinks at stores rather than go out to bars or restaurants during COVID-19 lockdowns.

"Consumer demand has shifted in ways no one could have foreseen six months ago. When bars and restaurants were shuttered in the early parts of Q2, demand for kegs in the U.S. went to zero, and conversely, demand for cans went through the roof," Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley said on an earnings call at the end of July, the article reported.

Our sister site, MetalMiner, breaks down the price of aluminum to let you know when to buy.

Using agriculture waste to create energy

Bananas, coffee, tea and cocoa waste can be repurposed into energy, according to a report from CNBC. Green Heat International is an energy firm that wants to take the waste from sectors like agriculture to generate products like fertilizer or biofuel.

Research has been conducted in Uganda, a country with high agriculture production. Green Heat repurposes the waste in a number of ways. Solid waste products — such as charcoal dust or banana skins — are used to create briquettes. Technology like bio-gas digesters can turn waste into bio-fuel or fertilizer, the article said.

Other parts of the world can also use agriculture waste as energy. “If you have the feedstock to do it, if you have the sun, if you have the bio-mass, yes, you can do it,” Olivier Dubois, senior natural resources officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) told CNBC.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

Spend Matters will be off Monday celebrating Labor Day. Afternoon Coffee will return Tuesday.

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