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Why Kentucky is the epicenter of the Great Resignation

Welcome back to Insider Weekly! Hope you’re having a relaxing holiday weekend. I’m Matt Turner, the editor in chief of business at Insider. 

The labor shortage has been one of the defining trends of 2021. 

To understand why, and what it might take to solve it, Insider’s economy team zoned in on Kentucky, the epicenter of the Great Resignation. They spoke with workers, business owners, economists, and local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

Based on their conversations, they identified four distinct and often overlapping factors driving the labor shortage. A Kentucky Democrat said the labor shortage was “cultural.” A Kentucky Republican recommended temporarily suspending unemployment benefits to get people back to work.

While the series makes clear that the labor shortage hits differently wherever you are, it’s also clear that what’s happening in Kentucky reflects a national story affecting businesses, workers, the economy, and politics. And it’s not going away anytime soon. Read on for a Q&A with Executive Editor Josée Rose and Deputy Editor Nick Lichtenberg on the series. 

Also in this week’s newsletter:

  • Facebook’s sinking reputation has meant it has to pay even more to hire and retain talent.
  • Top investors share the healthcare and biotech startups set to take off in 2022.
  • Even though Merrill Lynch’s business is booming, insiders say the firm isn’t what it used to be.

Let me know what you think of all our stories at [email protected].

Subscribe to Insider for access to all our investigations and features. New to the newsletter? Sign up here.  Download our app for news on the go — click here for iOS and here for Android.

Inside the epicenter of America’s Great Resignation

Natosha Via

Nick Lichtenberg and Josée Rose take us behind the scenes of a sweeping series of reports looking at the labor shortage in Kentucky — and what it means for the rest of America.

Why did the economy team home in on Kentucky?

Nick: The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report is the data story of the year. It showed more Americans quitting their jobs than ever before, as well as more job openings than ever before. 

In October, it showed Kentucky’s quit rate was way higher than the rest of the country. Two editors on the economy team, Bartie and Andy, immediately suggested investigating.

Our resident JOLTS expert, Madison, looked into it. She found the thesis was correct: Kentucky was a microcosm of the Great Resignation and the labor shortage. It’s the epicenter.

How do these reports work together to show the impact of the Great Resignation?

Nick: We really wanted a diversity of voices: economists, workers, business owners, and the politicians who represent Kentucky. Madison, Hillary, and Juliana canvassed the state trying to find the stories of real people who are struggling to hire or find good jobs. Ben and Joseph landed interviews with politicians.

We got all these perspectives in three connected articles: the Republican who represents a rural district, the Democrat in thriving Louisville, and the workers and employers on the ground across the state.

What should readers take away from this package? 

Josée: Depending on where you live, the hiring problems can affect you differently and hit you harder. By using real people in a hard-hit state, and then talking to the politicians who help make decisions, we’re showing the big disconnect between the governments (state and federal) and everyday people. We want readers to come away with better insight. These problems aren’t going away anytime soon, and for some, they’ll get worse.

Read all three reports here:

  • Kentuckians lay out the 4 forces driving the state’s labor shortage — and explain why it’s here to stay
  • A Kentucky Democrat says solving the labor shortage is ‘cultural’
  • A Kentucky Republican on how to solve the labor shortage: ‘Temporarily suspend the unemployment program’

Facebook’s souring reputation

MZ   Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD:AFP via Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook’s reputation has taken so many hits. Scandals and missteps have forced the company to pay out more generous compensation to hire and retain workers, according to former employees, industry recruiters, and data reviewed by Insider.

The tech giant is giving larger equity awards than Google, and compensation for Facebook engineers has jumped since 2020. Still, some tech workers worry that a job at Facebook will follow them for the rest of their careers.

Here’s what ex-employees say about the Facebook’s ‘brand tax.’

The future leaders in healthcare and biotech

healthcare startups taking off in 2022 2x1

Rachel Mendelson/Insider

Insider asked top investors to select the healthcare and biotech startups most likely to take off in 2022. 

Some startups that made the cut: 54gene aims to address the knowledge gaps that have made it harder to develop drugs, specifically for people from Africa; Babyscripts created software that lets medical professionals remotely monitor pregnant and postpartum patients; and Artios Pharma is developing a class of therapies geared toward sabotaging cancer cells.

See the full list of 34 companies.

Behind the scenes of Merrill Lynch’s evolution

Collage of the Merrill Lynch bull with President Andy Sieg on the right and CEO Brian Moynihan on the left 2x1

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management; John Lamparski/Getty Images; Associated Press; Rachel Mendelson/Insider

The legendary brokerage is setting records and training a new generation. But at the same time, Merrill Lynch is losing longtime advisors who were once its “thundering herd.”

Former staffers remember a bygone era at the firm, and many expressed pride and loyalty in working there — one even launched a “Mother Merrill” website dedicated to company nostalgia.

Merrill is facing a reckoning as it adapts to a new era of Wall Street.

More of this week’s top reads:

  • Real estate is due for a shake-up. Here are 30 rising stars reimagining how homes are sold and buildings are made.
  • Black women face an uphill battle for raising capital. Six founders who’ve raised $6 million or more shared how they crafted their pitch decks.
  • Better CEO Vishal Garg started as a visionary startup leader. Now, he’s the poster child for bad bosses.
  • Meet the five powerful network execs working behind the scenes to find the next generation of news talent.
  • Insider spent three days at a real-estate conference to learn why investors were so eager to buy homes and turn them into rentals.
  • From our Block Street interview series: An investor earned $5,000 within a few hours of playing in a metaverse. Here’s how he did it.
  • Have you ever wondered where a billionaire’s money goes when they die? This is what happens.
  • Gene-editing experts see 2022 as a make-or-break year for CRISPR — the technology holds the potential to cure certain genetic diseases.

Compiled with help from Phil Rosen.

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