The bottom line
There are now more female billionaires than ever. Of the 2,208 people with a nine-figure fortune on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, 256 of them are women—just 12 percent, but a record high.
Despite bigger paychecks thanks to tax reform, U.S. consumers in February decreased retail spending for the third consecutive month. Last month’s retail sales contracted 0.1 percent from January, to $492 billion, according to the Commerce Department. It is the first time since April 2012 that retail sales have declined for three straight months.
The U.S. imported 53.1 percent of its fresh fruit in 2016, up from 23.1 percent in 1975, according to the Agriculture Department. The share of imported fresh vegetables was 31.1 percent, up from 5.8 percent in 1975.
The New York Times
High heels are becoming a little less fashionable. Sales of the shoes fell 12 percent last year, while sales of women’s sneakers rose 37 percent, to $2.3 billion. Analysts believe factors behind the shift include more-casual workplaces; more Americans working from home; and more Americans walking to work.
The Washington Post
Thanks to a rule in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, U.S. companies have begun revealing the gap between their median worker’s pay and their CEO’s annual compensation. At the insurance company Humana, the median employee made $57,385 while the CEO made 344 times that much, or $19.8 million. Whirlpool’s median worker was a full-timer in Brazil earning $19,906 a year, while the CEO made $7.08 million, or 356 times as much.
The Wall Street Journal
United ditches bonus lottery
From the start, it was an “epic blunder,” said Noam Scheiber in The New York Times. When United Airlines announced last month that it would replace monthly bonuses with a lottery for a few expensive prizes, including $100,000 in cash and a Mercedes-Benz, the backlash from workers was swift. Executives apparently thought that swapping out the incentive program—which awarded workers up to $375 a month if the airline met certain goals—for a sweepstakes would “build excitement”; instead they got a deluge of “hostile comments” and quickly reversed course. The use of “game-like techniques for motivating employees” is becoming increasingly popular, in part because studies have suggested that games can be “cheaper and more effective at motivating workers than straight cash.” But the United fiasco offers a lesson: Firms get into trouble when they try to shift from cash to “more psychic income.”