New Amazon center to add 500 Tennessee jobs

Amazon announced Wednesday that it is adding its 10th fulfillment and sorting center in Tennessee, adding 500 more jobs in the state.

Amazon said it is building a 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Clarksville, Tennessee, where employees will pick, pack and ship larger customer items, such as bulk paper goods, sports equipment, patio furniture and larger home goods and electronics. The facility is expected to launch in 2022.

"Amazon is proud to be part of the Clarksville community and make this investment toward workforce and economic advancement in the area," Amazon spokesman Nikki Forman said. "With starting pay of more than $15 an hour as well as comprehensive benefits including health, dental, and vision insurance, plus 401k, paid parental leave and more, we are excited to offer new opportunities to this talented local workforce."

The Clarksville facility is the fourth new facility to be announced in Tennessee in the past 19 months. In 2020, Amazon committed to creating 1,000 jobs at new facilities in both Memphis and Mt. Juliet and most recently in February 2021, the company announced a new fulfillment center project in Alcoa, tacking on an additional 800 new jobs.

Amazon currently operates fulfillment and sortation centers in Charleston, Chattanooga, Lebanon, Memphis, Murfreesboro and Nashville. The company is in the midst of building Amazon Nashville, a new downtown office that will bring more than 5,000 tech and corporate jobs to Nashville.

Since Amazon built its first fulfillment center in the state in Chattanooga in 2010, Amazon has invested more than $13 billion in Tennessee, including infrastructure and compensation to thousands of its employees in the state.


Home construction falls 7% during July

Home construction fell a sharp 7% in July as homebuilders struggled to cope with a variety of headwinds.

The July decline put home construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million units, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the slowest pace since April but was 2.5% higher than a year ago.

Applications for building permits, which can forecast future activity, rose 2.6% in July from the June level to an annual rate of 1.64 million units. It was the first monthly increase in permit applications since March.

Construction starts for single-family homes fell 4.9% in July to an annual rate of 1.11 million while construction of apartments of five units or more dropped 13.6% to a rate of 412,000 units.

Home construction was down in every part of the country except the South where housing starts rose 2.1%. The biggest decline was in the Northeast, a drop of 49.3%, followed by declines of 11.3% in the West and 6.9% in the Midwest.

According to a survey of builder confidence, expectations fell sharply in August to the lowest level in a year as builders struggled with high costs, supply shortages and rising home prices. Expectations dropped five points to a reading of 75 in the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo survey.


Comcast, Viacom join in European streaming

Comcast Corp. and ViacomCBS Inc. have joined forces to launch a new streaming service in Europe, the companies said Wednesday.

The service, called SkyShowtime, is expected to roll out in more than 20 European territories starting in 2022, including Portugal, Spain and Sweden. It will include movies and shows from SHOWTIME, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+ Originals, as well as Comcast-owned Sky Studios, Universal Pictures and Peacock.

SkyShowtime will be a subscription video on-demand service, but the companies did not announce a price they will charge consumers. The partnership will be a joint venture with equal investment by ViacomCBS and Comcast.

With consumers fleeing pay-TV for online streaming, Philadelphia-based Comcast has tried to catch up in the crowded streaming market dominated by Netflix, Amazon, and others. Last year, the company launched Peacock, a streaming service with free and paid tiers that largely carries content from NBCUniversal and live sports such as the recent Summer Olympics.

Peacock will make its international debut this year when it becomes available for European customers of Sky, Comcast's U.K.-based pay-TV provider. That will make Peacock available in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.

As of late July, Peacock had 54 million sign- ups and 20 million monthly active accounts, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during an earnings call. By comparison, Netflix has 209 million subscribers, and more than 175 million Amazon Prime members streamed video within the last year. Disney+ has more than 100 million subscribers.


Federal Reserve eyes dialing back stimulus

Federal Reserve officials last month discussed the idea of beginning to dial back their extraordinary support for the U.S. economy later this year, though they stopped short of a firm decision on a timetable.

The minutes of the Fed's July 27-28 meeting, released Wednesday, indicated that the economic recovery from the pandemic recession was moving closer to achieving the central bank's goals on inflation and employment. As a result, the Fed is edging toward an announcement that it will begin paring the pace of its Treasury and mortgage bond buying, which now amounts to $120 billion a month. These purchases have been intended to lower longer-term interest rates and encourage borrowing and spending.

"No decisions regarding future adjustments to asset purchases were made at this meeting," the minutes said. Still, most of the Fed officials at last month's meeting "noted that, provided that the economy were to evolve broadly as they anticipated, they judged that it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year."

At the same time, while economic progress is being made, the minutes noted that Fed officials expressed concern about the threat posed by rising COVID-19 cases stemming from the highly contagious Delta variant.

Participants noted "that the spread of the Delta variant may temporarily delay the full reopening of the economy and restrain hiring and labor supply," the minutes said.


Disney ends FastPass at Disney World resort

Walt Disney World in Florida is permanently retiring its free, line-skipping FastPass system and for the first time will charge $15 a person for the privilege, opening up a potentially colossal new revenue stream.

Disney World introduced FastPass in 1999. The decision to retire that offering reflects the era: Consumers have become increasingly accustomed to paying surcharges for special access and perks, many of which used to be included in the base price. The airlines have led the stratification.

For most people, Disney vacations are already formidably expensive — entry to one park for one day can easily approach $500 for a family of four. But the company has long signaled that Disney World would eventually charge for what it is now calling Lightning Lane access to rides. Disneyland in California eliminated FastPass in 2017 and began charging $20 for a perk called MaxPass; after the initial displeasure wore off, MaxPass became popular.

Disney World and Disneyland will now offer the same line-skipping options, which the company unveiled Wednesday as part of a broad new digital navigation tool. Called Disney Genie, the free service creates personalized itineraries for visitors based on their selected preferences.

Disney Genie will also integrate other planning features, including mobile food ordering. For the first time, visitors will be shown both current ride wait times and a wait-time forecast.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner