Afternoon Coffee: New unemployment claims fall; Tradeshift data shows purchase orders and invoices grow to pre-pandemic levels; Shift from physical stores to e-commerce fulfillment centers a headache

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The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 787,000, a sign that job losses might have eased slightly during the coronavirus crisis, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Labor Department also reported Thursday that the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits fell by 1 million to 8.4 million. It could indicate some unemployed workers are being recalled to their old jobs or are finding new ones. It could also indicate jobless Americans have used up their state unemployment aid — which expires after six months, the article reported.

Congress is in the midst of negotiating another stimulus deal to aid Americans struggling in the COVID-19 economy. Economists expect growth to slow in the final three months of the year if Congress can’t reach a deal, the article said.

Tradeshift data shows purchase orders and invoices surge to pre-pandemic levels

In another indicator of the coronavirus era, new Tradeshift data showed that the number of purchase orders and invoices exchanged across global supply chains rose by 15% in the third quarter after a second quarter decrease, according to Tradeshift's latest Index of Global Trade Health released this week.

The report from the procure-to-pay provider is based on analysis of transaction data flowing between buyers and suppliers across the Tradeshift network, suggesting activity levels in major supply chain hubs in the West and China are finding more stabilization after a tumultuous period.

Eurozone transactions grew by the largest margin, up 26% in Q3, according to a press release announcing the report. Trade in the U.S. grew 17%, exceeding the global average. Transactions on the Tradeshift platform grew 24% in July, but month-on-month activity fell by 12% in August, indicating the economy has had different levels of growth and contraction.

“Global  lockdown restrictions created a pressure-cooker environment for supply chains,” Christian Lanng, CEO of Tradeshift, said in the press release. “When the restrictions began to ease, we saw orders start to surge in June. This momentum continued into July before tailing off rapidly as supply lines normalized. Order volumes on our platform are comfortably ahead of where they were in Q2, but supply chains will need to hit a higher gear again in Q4 before we can to point to a sustainable recovery. The next few months will be critical.”

Survey shows 41% of companies felt unprepared for moving to e-commerce fulfillment centers

A survey from GobalTranz and Edelman found that 41% of companies felt unprepared for shifting store locations into fulfillment centers to fit e-commerce needs, according to Supply Chain Dive.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered companies’ strategies greatly, with the survey finding 90% of respondents enhanced their e-commerce capabilities and 87% adopted omnichannel operations as a result of the pandemic. With stores shutting down, retailers had to scramble to change their fulfillment operations, the article reported.

Shifting to more e-commerce poses new operational and logistical challenges for retailers, however.

"You're talking about a greater number of orders going out from a higher number of locations," Karen Tyndall, GlobalTranz’s director of customer solutions, told Supply Chain Dive. "And for the parcel carriers that are arranging those types of pickups, that can be a challenge in and of itself."

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