U.S. military shoots down suspected Chinese surveillance balloon

A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media.

Chase Doak via Reuters

The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been transiting across the country for several days, according to NBC News.

Department of Defense officials have not yet confirmed the balloon being shot down.

The high-altitude balloon, which is estimated to be the size of three school busses, was floating over U.S. territorial waters when it was taken down. TV footage shows the balloon bursting in a small explosion before falling into the water. Officials will attempt to recover the debris, according to NBC News.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina and closed additional airspace on Saturday afternoon. The departures were paused “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” a representative told CNBC.

President Joe Biden broke his silence about the balloon for the first time Saturday, telling a group of reporters, “We’re going to take care of it.”

The balloon was initially spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday. Defense officials said the Pentagon considered shooting down the balloon earlier this week but decided against it after briefing Biden. The decision was made in consultation with senior leaders, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Biden concluded that the U.S. would not shoot down the balloon because debris from it could cause damage on the ground, a Pentagon official said. Moreover, any information the balloon collects would have “limited additive value” compared with China’s spy satellites.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that the balloon was a civilian weather airship intended for scientific research that was blown off course. It described the incident as a result of a “force majeure” for which it was not responsible.

This claim was summarily dismissed by U.S. officials. A senior Pentagon official told reporters Thursday night that the object was clearly a surveillance balloon that was flying over sensitive sites to collect intelligence.

“We have noted the PRC statement of regret, but the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law and is unacceptable that this has occurred,” the official said.

The presence of the balloon prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to indefinitely postpone what was to be an already tense trip to China on Friday.

The visit was intended to reinforce communication and cooperation between the two countries as tensions have deepened over China’s increasing military aggression toward Taiwan and closer alliances with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Instead, Blinken told China’s director of Central Foreign Affairs Office, Wang Yi, in a phone call Friday that the balloon was an “irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose of the trip,” according to a readout of the discussion.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

—CNBC’s Christina Wilkie and Amanda Macias contributed to this report

How end of Netflix password sharing will change the way families watch

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Is sharing a Netflix password cybercrime?

It will soon become, mostly, a thing of the past if the world’s largest streaming service has its way. After experimenting with a plan to crack down on password sharing in Latin America, Netflix will launch the U.S. version of this subscription identification tracking technology in March, but has been quiet on the details of how it will work. That is, until earlier this week, when a Netflix FAQ page change picked up on by the press indicated that any user watching from an account’s non-“primary location” could receive a temporary code to verify use for up to seven days maximum — to cover legitimate account user travel. But that FAQ page was later updated again to remove those details and the company told The Streamable, the first to identify the FAQ change, it was a mistake and still only applied to the Latin American countries where Netflix has piloted the approach.

Whatever turns out to be the U.S. market truth, what’s at stake is the future of the 100 million-plus households the company says share passwords, more than 40% of the company’s 231 million paid memberships. And beyond that, how all of the media companies migrating the last generation of linear cable subscriptions to the internet handle a financial environment in which there is a more pressing need to generate returns on the high costs of streaming. The days of Netflix’s Twitter account and HBO’s former chief Richard Plepler saying a media company’s primary goal was getting people “addicted” to streaming are over. Back in 2014, allowing people to share passwords was a “terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers,” Plepler once told BuzzFeed. A decade later, the next generation’s time to pay has come.

And yes, it looks like the crackdown may include families who share passwords with kids who are away at college.

Netflix’s terms of use limit sharing of passwords to people who live together in the same location, indicating that college kids may not be allowed. There’s a fine point here: College students often don’t change their permanent address until after they graduate. Even two analysts who follow Netflix acknowledged that their college-aged children are piggybacking on the family Netflix account for now. 

“I have a daughter in college in Florida who uses a TV to watch – that will cost I suspect $5 more per month,” said Rich Greenfield, who follows Netflix for LightShed Partners. “If she only watched on laptop or phone, I suspect it would be no incremental cost. I suspect most parents will suck up the extra cost. Whereas friends and extended family will have to get their own accounts.”

“Almost everyone I know who password-shares, it’s with their families,” said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. “My kids are in college, so that’s legit. I support them. She’s part of my household. The day [my daughter] is on her own, she can get her own password.” 

Netflix spokeswoman Kumiko Hidaka declined to say how Netflix plans to address college students specifically. The company’s terms of use require people to live at the same location to share a password.

In testing in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, Netflix uses information such as IP addresses, device IDs and account activity from devices signed into the Netflix account to identify persistent sharing outside of a household. The company’s terms of use already require customers to agree to Netflix tracking this information in order to deliver the service. 

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In the U.S., where subscribers are allowed to use their subscriptions while traveling, the service already uses similar methods to question whether subscribers signing on from hotels or Airbnbs are who they say they are. In cases like those, the company will send the primary account holder a code that must be entered in order to go forward, which is what the since-deleted FAQ page explained, with the maximum request period for the temporary code set at seven days.

The quick solution to this, for many password sharers, is a quick text chain from the subscriber to the friend or child using the account. Kid tells mom and dad they’re about to log on, Netflix sends the code to the main account holder, and the parents send it to the kid, who enters it. Pachter said in an interview before the FAQ page update and deletion that Netflix could restrict this by imposing a short time limit on how fast the person trying to get onto the service could respond to the authentication effort. But the FAQ suggested the bigger time limit may be related to the maximum number of days that this can work.

Greenfield, more than Pachter, said that he expected Netflix to crack down on the college-age shared-password users. Netflix may use the college market as a key target for an extra-user plan, which adds $2.99 a month to bills and is now offered in Costa Rica, Peru and Chile for customers who want to add up to two friends or family members not living with them to their account.

The result could resemble the way Spotify works, where cheap add-on plans are available, or the forthcoming plan could resemble cell-phone plans that let friends and family bundle lines in exchange for lower rates.

“I don’t think I’d pay $15 apiece,” Pachter said, but he might absorb a lower rate into the family package. “I’d tell them to figure it out with your roommate. But I’m not going to not pay $16.99 [for the family]. What am I going to do – save $4?”

The company ought to leave college students alone, Pachter said, and focus on getting them to sign up independently upon graduation.

Pachter also isn’t a fan of the plan as it was briefly revealed, which he said overlooks details about how many families use Netflix. The leaked method included a 31-day lapse for any device not logged on to a primary location’s home network. But in his own home, for example, little-used TVs across many rooms might be challenged when guests or kids returning from college try to log them on.

“When Netflix blocks access to those devices at the same location, it’s going to annoy me,” Pachter said. “Also, this plan may backfire for paying customers who don’t use the service for a few months. They could get blocked and decide it’s easier to quit.'” 

In Latin America, users in nations where the password-sharing enforcement is being tested who don’t qualify to be added as an extra member on an existing account can get their own for $8.99 a month. In the U.S., the cheapest option is the Basic with Ads plan, introduced in November, at $6.99 a month. The ad-supported plan isn’t available in Peru, Costa Rica or Chile yet.

Netflix announced this week several enhancements to its premium plan related to audio quality and download permissions across more devices.

Netflix’s plan is likely to include cheap options to appeal to consumers who need “a little bit of a nudge” to set up their own account, co-chief executive officer Greg Peters said in a Jan. 19 conference call.

“Part of it’s just what we call casual sharing, which is, you know, people could pay, but, you know, they don’t need to,” Peters said. “And so, they’re borrowing somebody’s account.”

Advertisers are really excited about Netflix ‘at the right price,’ says MNTN CEO Mark Douglas

27-year-old pays $1,850 to live in a former NYC laundromat

While Sampson Dahl’s ex-girlfriend thought the old laundromat he was considering as a potential new apartment was “disgusting,” he saw the potential for a great live-work space. He moved in a month later.

“I don’t think a space needs to be a perfect representation of what we hope a simple mind looks like,” Dahl tells CNBC Make It. “I think a space should be an imperfect representation of the people who are in it at that moment in their lives.”

The 27-year-old production designer is no stranger to living in commercial spaces; he used to live in a warehouse in Chicago, so he knew going into his apartment hunt that he wanted to repeat that experience.

“I like the freedom of a commercial space, even though there are definitely fewer tenant rights,” he said. “Something feels more ethical about moving into a vacant storefront that’s been empty for years than taking up an apartment in some residential neighborhood that you’re not familiar with.”

Dahl found the former laundromat in Maspeth, Queens, in an online forum in 2019 and has been living in it since then.

Mickey Todiwala. Photo by CNBC Make It

Dahl found the former laundromat in Maspeth, Queens, in an online forum in 2019. A former tenant added a small kitchen that gives Dahl enough space to have a sink, stovetop, and toaster oven. The laundromat hasn’t been in working order since 2005.

When he first moved in March 2019, the rent was $1750, and he paid two months’ rent up front and an $875 security deposit. In 2021, his rent went up to $1850, and on average, he pays $120 for electricity and $60 for the internet.

Dahl is in production design, and one of the perks of the job is access to a lot of free furniture after the projects are done, so he’s used that to decorate the space.

“This space enables some [my] hoarding tendencies, but I try to be as decorative with it as possible,” Dahl says. “While most of the stuff is technically trash, and a lot of it was free, I try to curate it in the way that is most comfy to me.”

Dahl sleeps in a lofted bed that cost him $25 to make.

Mickey Todiwala. Photo by CNBC Make It

For Dahl, his favorite part of living in the former laundromat is the sense of community he gets from his neighbors because it reminds him of his childhood. The 27-year-old grew up on a commune in Texas that he described as “not a cult [but] a nonprofit humanitarian organization that did disaster relief and homeless outreach.”

“I think that really molded this kind of open door policy that I’ve had and maintained my adult life. That’s how my mom always lived,” he says.

It’s because of that philosophy that Dahl has made it so that his living space is open to others. He even has his fridge and communal swing out front. That community feeling has proved essential for Dahl, especially after he was mugged in the neighborhood a couple of months ago.

“People are looking out for me more than I’m looking out for myself, and that’s a true community. I knew true community as a child, and I know it again now,” he says.

Dahl has the space divided into different areas like the “songwriting” and “piano station” as it’s meant to be a place where creativities can come together.

Mickey Todiwala. Photo by CNBC Make It

Although Dahl loves the space he created, which also includes a songwriting and organ station, he says he only lives there because it’s what he can afford right now, but he hopes to move out and have it continue to be a collaborative studio space.

“It’ll just be an open store for whoever wants to come in and learn to paint or continue a painting or learn to record a song or continue a song. It’s for beginners and people who are already passionate about what they do,” Dahl says.

“Living in a storefront has taught me resourcefulness in a way I’ve never known before. I really can’t be too picky about what comes my way; I just have to make the best of it. And that’s the greatest skill I could ask for, he added.

“It’s nothing I could teach myself; it’s something you can only learn from life. That’s really in line with the life philosophy I have.”

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I raised 2 successful CEOs and a doctor. Here’s the No. 1 parenting style that turns kids into narcissists

A lot of parents today think the best way to educate kids is to be in total control. This is the foundation of “helicopter parenting,” a very involved parenting style in which kids have little or no control of their daily activities.

Studies have indicated that kids with helicopter parents who have high expectations for academic performance, or who overreacted when they make a mistake, tend to be more self-critical, anxious and vulnerable.

But my biggest problem with helicopter parenting? It places no importance on kindness and turns kids into narcissists.

Too many parents are only focused on winning, convinced that if their kids aren’t perfect, they will fail in life. And if their kids fail, they fail as well. It’s a very selfish and narrow way of thinking.

Why kindness matters in parenting

How to teach kindness at a young age

Kindness is a way of living, and not something you do a few times a year on Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Here are my tips for raising kind and caring kids:

  1. Make “thank you” a common phrase in the home. I taught my daughters to always thank me, thank each other, and thank everyone who did something for them.
  2. Help them find outlets in their communities. Look around. What problems need solutions? How can your children participate? They could care for the elderly, join environmental cleanups, be a mentor, or help at a soup kitchen. 
  3. Model it yourself. If you are grateful for what you have, your kids will be, too. If you’re always complaining, expect them to do the same. 
  4. Have them write thank-you notes. My daughters would regularly write letters to their grandfather in Poland. Some were pretty trivial, but they were sharing their lives with him: “I went to the park today and played with my friend Jessica. I miss you.”
  5. Get them a gratitude journal. It will be fun to read years later. “I am grateful for a ladybug I found today.” “I am happy that my sister shared her ice cream.”
  6. Play pretend at home. All you have to do is give your child the start of a story, a piece of clothing, or a toy — and she will invent her own characters. When kids pretend to be someone else, they learn what it feels like to be in another person’s shoes. It gets them to think outside their own lives, a necessary state for having empathy.
  7. Treat them with kindness when they mess up. We may think that yelling and spanking works, but it only creates anger and guilt. Kids also tend to follow the model and get angry and yell when someone else makes a mistake. 

Everyone needs to be shown and taught kindness so that they can reflect it back to the world, and it starts at home when they are children. That’s is the real meaning of raising successful people and shaping the next generation.

Esther Wojcicki is an educator, journalist, and bestselling author of “How to Raise Successful People.” She is also the co-founder of Tract.app and the chief parenting office at Sesh. Follow her on Twitter @EstherWojcicki.

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Inside Relativity Space’s monster factory 3D-printing reusable rockets

The exterior of “The Wormhole” factory.

Relativity Space

LONG BEACH, California – It was a few days into the new year yet Relativity Space’s factory was anything but quiet, a din of activity with massive 3D printers humming and the clanging of construction ringing out.

Now about eight years on from its founding, Relativity continues to grow as it pursues a novel way of manufacturing rockets out of mostly 3D-printed structures and parts. Relativity believes that its approach will make building orbital-class rockets much faster than traditional methods, requiring thousands less parts and enabling changes to be made via software — aiming to create rockets from raw materials in as little as 60 days.

The company has raised over $1.3 billion in capital to date and continues to expand its footprint, including the addition of more than 150 acres at NASA’s rocket engine testing center in Mississippi. Relativity was named to CNBC’s Disruptor 50 last year.

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The company’s first rocket, known Terran 1, is currently in the final stages of preparation for its inaugural launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. That rocket was built in “The Portal,” the 120,000-square-foot factory the company built in Long Beach.

The inside of “The Wormhole” factory in Long Beach, California.

Relativity Space

But earlier this month CNBC took a look inside “The Wormhole:” The more than one-million square foot facility where Boeing previously built C-17 aircraft is where Relativity now is filling in with machinery and building its larger, reusable line of Terran R rockets.

“I actually tried to kill this project several times,” Relativity CEO and co-founder Tim Ellis told CNBC, gesturing to one of the company’s newest additive manufacturing machines – codenamed “Reaper,” a reference to the StarCraft games — which marks the fourth generation of the company’s Stargate printers.

A closeup look at one of the company’s “Reaper” printers at work.

Relativity Space

Unlike Relativity’s prior Stargate generations, which printed vertically, the fourth generation ones building the main structures of Terran R are printing horizontally. Ellis emphasized the change allows its printers to manufacture seven times faster than the third generation, and have been tested at speeds up to 15 times faster.

The scale of one of the Stargate “Reaper” printers.

Relativity Space

“[Printing horizontally] seems very counterintuitive, but it ends up enabling a certain change in the physics of the printhead which is then much, much faster,” Ellis said.

A pair of the company’s “Reaper” 3D-printers.

Relativity Space

So far, the company is utilizing about a third of the cavernous former Boeing facility, where Ellis said Relativity has room for about a dozen printers that can produce Terran R rockets at a pace of “several a year.”

For 2023, Relativity is focused on getting Terran 1 to orbit, to prove its approach works, as well as demonstrate how “fast we can progress the additive technology,” Ellis said.

“Given the overall economy, we’re obviously being very scrappy still, and making sure we’re delivering results,” he added.

The company’s Terran 1 rocket stands on its launchpad at LC-16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of the inaugural launch attempt.

Trevor Mahlmann / Relativity Space

How Zelle is different from Venmo, PayPal and CashApp

More than half of smartphone users in the U.S. are sending money via some sort of peer-to-peer payment service to send money to friends, family and businesses.

Stocks of payment services like PayPal, which owns Venmo, and Block, which owns Cash App, boomed in 2020 as more people began sending money digitally.

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Zelle, which launched in 2017, stands out from the pack in a few ways. It’s owned and operated by Early Warning Services, LLC, which is co-owned by seven of the big banks and it’s not publicly traded. The platform serves the banks beyond generating an independent revenue stream.

“Zelle is not really a revenue-generating enterprise on a stand-alone basis,” said Mike Cashman, a partner at Bain & Co. “You should think of this really as a little bit of an accommodation, but also as an engagement tool versus a revenue-generating machine.”

“If you’re already transacting with your bank and you trust your bank, then the fact that your bank offers Zelle as a means of payment is attractive to you,” said Terri Bradford, a payment specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

One limitation of PayPal, Venmo and Cash App is that users must all be using the same service. Zelle, on the other hand, appeals to users because anyone with a bank account at one of the seven participating firms can make payments.

“For banks, it’s a no-brainer to try to compete in that space,” said Jaime Toplin, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Customers use their mobile-banking apps all the time, and no one wants to cede the opportunity from a space that people are already really active in to third-party competitors.”

Watch the video above to learn more about why the banks created Zelle and where the service may be headed.

New Medicare enrollment rules took effect this year. What to know

Shapecharge | E+ | Getty Images

As of this year, people new to Medicare won’t face big delays in coverage — an unenviable situation that some beneficiaries used to find themselves in.

Thanks to legislation passed in late 2020, months-long delays in certain Medicare enrollment circumstances are now eliminated. Additionally, individuals who missed signing up when they were supposed to due to “exceptional circumstances” may qualify for a special enrollment period.

“It’s really about having access to pretty essential health services,” said Casey Schwarz, senior counsel for education and federal policy at the Medicare Rights Center.

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Delays in coverage meant possibly facing a gap in health insurance — which in turn could have translated into either being unable to get needed care due to financial constraints or paying out of pocket for care, whether planned or an emergency.

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Initial enrollment period gap is eliminated

Your initial enrollment period starts three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after it (seven months total). The new rule makes it so coverage takes effect the month after you sign up if you do so in the latter part of that enrollment window. In the past, some beneficiaries waited up to three months for coverage to take effect.

If you enroll before the month you turn 65, coverage starts the first of your birthday month (that hasn’t changed).

Penalties may still apply for some late enrollment

If you miss your initial enrollment period and don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you generally can only sign up during the first three months of the year during a “general enrollment period.”

Going that route also has meant waiting until July 1 for coverage to take effect. Starting this year, it will be effective the month after you sign up.

However, in that situation, there may still be a late-enrollment penalty. For Part B, it’s 10% of the standard premium ($164.90 for 2023) for each 12-month period you should have been enrolled but were not.

Part D also comes with a late-enrollment fee. It’s 1% of the “national base premium” — $32.74 in 2023 — multiplied by the number of months that you went without Part D since your enrollment period (if you didn’t have qualifying coverage in place of it). 

In both cases, late-enrollment penalties are generally life-lasting.

‘Exceptional’ situations may result in special enrollment

There are situations where … people make mistakes. So these rules allow some flexibility.

Casey Schwarz

Senior counsel for education and federal policy at the Medicare Rights Center

Until this rule change, the only way to qualify was if a government official provided bad information or made a mistake that caused you not to enroll.

“There are situations where … people make mistakes,” Schwarz said. “So these rules allow some flexibility.”

Some qualifying circumstances could include an employer providing inaccurate information about Medicare enrollment, or they were in a situation where it was impossible or impractical to enroll, such as being in a natural disaster or incarcerated.

Hong Kong’s giving away 500,000 flights—here’s what to know

If you’re looking for a fun trip and a free flight, it might be time to turn your eye to Hong Kong.

On Thursday, the city’s leader John Lee announced Hong Kong is giving away 500,000 plane tickets this year to encourage tourism. The giveaway will begin in March and last six months, according to Bloomberg.

Fred Lam, chief executive officer of Hong Kong’s Airport Authority, added that there will be various ways of winning the tickets, including a lottery system and two-for-one purchases. In 2020, the Airport Authority spent $2 billion to buy tickets from airlines, including HK Express, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Hong Kong Airlines. 

Hong Kong will also give away 80,000 flights to city residents this summer, and another to 80,000 residents of the Greater Bay Area in the U.S., Lam said.

It’s all part of the government’s plan to revive the city’s economy after its self-imposed three-year isolation during the pandemic, political turmoil due to controversial security laws going into effect in 2020 and violent protests over brutal police tactics in 2019.

The city’s “Hello Hong Kong” campaign will include events like the Rugby Sevens tournament and a city marathon.

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Activision Blizzard pays SEC $35 million to settle probe

Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 8, 2022, in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Video game developer Activision Blizzard agreed to pay a $35 million settlement over charges it failed to maintain “adequate” controls for collecting and assessing reports of workplace misconduct and that it violated federal whistleblower protection rules, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday.

The SEC claimed workplace misconduct complaints were neither collected nor analyzed as expected by public disclosure regulations. “Moreover, taking action to impede former employees from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation is not only bad corporate governance, it is illegal,” SEC director Jason Burt said.

The settlement is not an admission or denial of wrongdoing but concludes a probe that focused on Activision Blizzard’s standards from 2018 to 2021.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of reports of alleged sexual misconduct at the company, including alleged rape, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2021.

“Mr. Kotick would not have been informed of every report of misconduct at every Activision Blizzard company, nor would he reasonably be expected to have been updated on all personnel issues,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said at the time.

The SEC filing claimed Activision Blizzard required “a significant number” of departing employees who signed separation agreements to tell Activision Blizzard if regulators tried to contact them, or even if those employees wished to make a complaint of their own. Activision Blizzard’s requirement that ex-employees notify the company violated federal whistleblower protections, the SEC claimed.

The SEC noted that it wasn’t aware that of “any specific instances” where an employee was prevented from making a complaint or speaking to regulators.

The SEC order did not explicitly mention Kotick or sexual harassment claims by some employees. Activision Blizzard had been under SEC investigation over the company’s handling of sexual and personal harassment since 2021, the Journal previously reported.

“When the Company received complaints we responded to them appropriately and after the extensive and thorough reviews of workplace policies and procedures, workplace practices, compliance, and company data performed by an array of external company advisors including former EEOC Chair Gilbert Casellas, Skadden Arps, WilmerHale, Paul Hastings and CDF Labor Law LLP, the Board concluded there was never widespread or systemic harassment, retaliation or discrimination at the Company,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. “The Board and advisors also concluded there was no evidence that the Company’s senior executives ignored complaints when they were reported.”

Activision took steps from 2020 to 2022 to enhance procedures for handling employee complaints, the SEC order noted.

“As the order recognizes, we have enhanced our disclosure processes with regard to workplace reporting and updated our separation contract language,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said on Friday.

The company settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission probe in March for $18 million over related claims of retaliation in connection with sexual harassment claims.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission moved to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, which was announced in January 2022, claiming that the deal would violate federal antitrust laws.

Correction: The SEC said it settled with Activision Blizzard over failure to maintain “adequate” controls for assessing reports of workplace misconduct, not harassment.

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Why Black workers are the canary in the coal mine for the U.S. economy

A “We’re Hiring” sign at a Target store in New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Watching labor data on Black workers in the U.S. can offer helpful clues about the strength — or weakness — of the economy, and even signal changes before they show up in the headline print.

That’s because Black workers are more able to find employment in strong labor markets and can be the first to lose their jobs when the economy weakens. Some of this is due to structural racism in the U.S. as well as over-representation of Black workers in low wage jobs and industries that tend to be hit hardest in downturns, such as hospitality and construction.

“Black workers are the canary in the coal mine — are you actually hiring people?” said Bill Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO.

The group generally faces higher unemployment and more difficultly in securing work than their white and Asian peers.

“The Black unemployment rate continues to be the highest, indicating that Black workers are facing more challenges, having a more difficult time securing employment,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy.

The rates of their employment also are more sensitive to the broader economy and move more when changes occur, Wilson said.

“We know that for every one percentage point change in the national unemployment rate, we typically get close to a two percentage point change in the Black unemployment rate,” she said.

Breaking down the U.S. labor market

Other good signs in the report include the labor force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio, both of which increased in January for Black workers.

Spriggs has been closely watching these figures as any lag in Black workforce participation amid an otherwise strong labor market signals that employers aren’t as eager to hire as they say — and that jobs listed as open may not be readily available for workers looking for positions.

“When firms aren’t really hiring, workers that have been looking the longest give up,” he said.

The data on Black workers reentering the labor force and finding jobs has been relatively stable, said Wilson. For now, that’s a good sign that the labor market is indeed strong and benefiting the workers on the margins.

Of course, one month of data does not make a trend, said Wilson. It’s also likely that the January report could be revised lower.

What’s next