Cluster Newsletter vol. 5: Riddle Me This

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash
October 16, 2019

Hi there,

There has been a jump in headlines about labor marketplaces as of late, and it's caught our attention because, well, that's what Cluster is all about. RigUp Inc., an Austin-based startup operating a marketplace for contract workers in the energy sector, surged to a $1.9 billion valuation after receiving a $300 million Series D investment from Andreessen Horowitz. The venture capital firm also just led a $15 million Series A in Incredible Health, a hiring platform for nurses. We expect to see more venture-backed labor marketplaces being founded to serve industries where hiring qualified talent is a challenge.

In aerospace news, Elon Musk and NASA claim SpaceX could fly its first crew in 2020. It's kind of a big deal since it'll mark the first time a private company gets to shuttle American astronauts to the ISS. We cover the story below. And while we're on the subject of Elon – he reminds his Twitter followers that there are, in fact, two words that rhyme with orange. Keep scrolling for more and we'll see you in a fortnight!

Kim Taylor
CEO, Cluster

Total Manufacturing Jobs - September 2019

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2017 Total Solar Eclipse - International Space Station

Source: Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls

The US Economy Is All Over the Place

  • Is the economy good or bad right now? Well, a little from column A, a little from column B. Good news is that the unemployment rate fell to 3.5% last month and the share of adults who are working is the highest it’s been in 12 years.
  • Good-ish news: the economy added 136,000 jobs last month, and has averaged 154,000 per month over the last half-year. While down from the 223,000 per month notched in 2018, it’s expected given the low unemployment rate, i.e., a lot of people are already working.
  • Not so good news: Worker pay has plateaued with average hourly earnings actually down a penny last month. This year, average hourly earnings are up 2.9%, which is far from impressive especially given the low unemployment rate.  
  • Wage growth is decelerating when it should be accelerating as employers, theoretically, should be offering higher and more competitive pay to attract talent. That's not happening.  
  • And things aren’t looking too hot for the manufacturing sector which added 3,000 jobs a month over the last six months. In contrast, it added 22,000 a month in 2018. The likely culprits – a slowing global economy and the ongoing trade war. more here >>

SpaceX Aims to Send NASA Astronauts into Space Next Year

  • In 2011, America's Space Shuttle shut down, forcing NASA to rely on Russia’s Soyuz rockets to transport crew members to the ISS at a cost of roughly $85 million per seat. In a bid to lower the cost, NASA enlisted commercial companies SpaceX and Boeing to develop launch vehicles capable of carrying American crews into space.  
  • But the Commercial Crew program has been besieged by delays, to the consternation of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine who expressed his frustration in a now-infamous tweet. The agency had expected Commercial Crew to start sending astronauts up in 2017, but no dice.
  • When told the tweet by a reporter during last month's unveiling of SpaceX's Starship, Musk shot back, “Did he say Commercial Crew or SLS?” – a jab at NASA’s long-delayed rocket that’s also supposed to take people into deep space.
  • The two men now appear to be on friendly terms and believe that SpaceX's Crew Dragon could launch astronauts as early as the beginning of 2020, depending on the success of tests to come later this year.
  • Naturally, the most pressing concern with shuttling humans is safety. An explosion onboard Crew Dragon in April threw a wrench into the program. While NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aren’t concerned about riding in the launch vehicle, both Bridenstine and Musk are committed to reducing the risk to American lives. more here >>

Today’s roundup was written by Lawren Henderson with contributions from Kim Taylor and Justin Parker in Los Angeles.

Tweets from Elon

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Upcoming Events in SoCal

Oct 17 & 18: Darkness Surrounds Us: The Other 95% of the Universe
The von Kármán Auditorium at JPL
Pasadena
JPL’s von Kármán Lecture Series presents a discussion with astrophysicists on how astronomers are working to map the universe’s dark matter so they can see the effects of dark energy. Info

Oct 29:  Founders to Futurists: 50th Anniversary of the Birth of the Internet
UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
Westwood
It’s the internet’s 50th birthday! Join some of the biggest names in business and tech including Mark Cuban, Jamie Dimon, Peter Thiel, and Ashton Kutcher as they discuss their visions for the future of the internet. Info

Check out our calendar for all the latest SoCal events here

Pivot!

Source: NASA

The first Saturn I rocket arrives at Kennedy Space Center. 1961