The Week in Business: Slowing Job Growth

After many consecutive months of jobs reports showing strong gains, new jobs data on Friday appeared to begin breaking the mold. The economy gained 223,000 jobs last month, a slight decline from the November total of 263,000, which was similar to the September and October numbers. The gradual slowdown is good news for officials at the Federal Reserve, who have long been waiting for a sign that their efforts to cool off the economy are having an effect on the labor market as they fight rapid price increases. But 223,000 is still a comfortable pace of growth, and the central bank has its eye on a much lower target of 100,000 jobs a month.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cryptocurrency executive, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to the many crimes of which he is accused: wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and money laundering, to name a few. Mr. Bankman-Fried, the founder and former chief executive of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange whose collapse resulted in billions of dollars in customer losses, was arrested last month in the Bahamas, where his business was based until recently. He was later extradited to the United States, released on a $250 million bond and ordered to remain in home detention with his parents in Palo Alto, Calif. Mr. Bankman-Fried could reverse course and plead guilty to at least some of the charges, but at the moment he faces a tentative trial date of Oct. 2.

Meta, already struggling with its vision for the metaverse, a plummeting stock price and mass layoffs, ran into another obstacle for its business last week when regulators in the European Union determined that the company was illegally forcing users to effectively accept targeted ads. Because language asking users for their legal consent to use their personal data appears in Meta’s terms-of-service agreement — and because users must accept Meta’s terms-of-service agreement to use its social media services — regulators said the practice amounted to a violation of a landmark data-privacy law that took effect in 2018, limiting companies’ ability to collect information about users without their consent. The decision comes with a fine of 390 million euros, or $414 million, and also requires Meta to outline in the next three months how it will begin complying with the 2018 law. In a statement, Meta said there had been a “lack of regulatory clarity” on ad practices in the European Union.

Tesla’s stock is in free fall. Its sales in the fourth quarter missed the expectations of analysts (who had already lowered their forecasts). It has lost more than $850 billion in market value since its peak in November 2020. And Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, seems to be far more focused on Twitter than he is on the electric vehicle maker he has led since 2008 — or at least that’s what many investors are starting to fear. Mr. Musk has tried to soothe Tesla employees, warning them against fixating on stock prices and repeating bold claims that Tesla would become the most valuable company in the world. But it is likely that analysts will continue to lower their forecasts for the carmaker, which is also facing increasingly stiff competition in the United States and abroad. Last month, for example, Tesla’s sales in China were 20 percent lower than a year earlier. The decline comes as Chinese automakers like BYD become more formidable in the electric vehicle market.

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