May 25, 2024

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Jobless Claims Fall as Labor Market Continues Slow Recovery: Live Updates

8 min read
Coronavirus caseloads have been dropping amid vaccination efforts, but until employers and consumers feel that the pandemic is under control, economists say, the labor market won’t fully recover.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

New claims for unemployment fell last week, the government reported on Thursday, the latest sign that the labor market’s recovery, however slow and unsteady, is continuing.

A total of 710,000 workers filed first-time claims for state benefits during the week that ended Feb. 20, a decrease of 132,000, the Labor Department said. In addition, 451,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits, a decline of 61,000.

Neither figure is seasonally adjusted. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 730,000, a decline of 111,000.

Although initial jobless claims are nowhere near the eye-popping levels seen last spring, they are still extraordinarily high by historical standards. There are roughly 10 million fewer jobs than there were last year at this time.

Coronavirus caseloads have been dropping amid efforts to get vaccines to people who are most vulnerable. But until employers and consumers feel that the pandemic is under control, economists say, the labor market won’t fully recover.

“Until people feel this is sustained and that there’s not another huge wave coming, I can’t imagine we’re going to see big changes in jobless claims for a while,” said Allison Schrager, an economist at the Manhattan Institute.

Leaders at the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department have said that the damage to the labor market is much deeper than has been reflected in published government figures. They estimate that the true unemployment rate is closer to 10 percent than to the 6.3 percent recorded in the Labor Department’s most commonly cited measure.

Testifying before Congress this week, Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said: “The economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain.”

Those hardest hit are in the service industry, particularly in restaurants, hospitality, leisure and travel. At the career site Indeed, job postings over all are 5 percent higher than they were a year ago, with demand greatest for warehouse and construction workers and drivers, said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the company.

“We need job postings to stay elevated above prepandemic baseline to pull people back into the labor market,” she said.

An AMC theater near Times Square. Shares in AMC, a company that has struggled through the pandemic, have been hyped on Reddit’s Wallstreetbets forum.
Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Shares in GameStop were up 45 percent in premarket trading on Thursday, following another surge in the share price of the video game retailer that was at the center of a retail trading frenzy last month. On Wednesday, GameStop’s shares doubled to $91.71 and the volume of trading was more than 10 times the level of the previous day.

Some of the popular posts on Reddit’s Wallstreetbets forum, where users have been hyping up certain stocks in memes, read “ROUND 2!” and “THE COMEBACK!!!!!” Other meme stocks also rose: AMC shares gained 17 percent in premarket trading, and BlackBerry, Nokia and Koss were also among the gainers.

Earlier this week, GameStop announced its chief financial officer would leave the company next month. The company is under pressure from a large shareholder to shift from a brick-and-mortar business to a digital and e-commerce firm.

  • Futures of U.S. stock indexes were little changed before the latest weekly report on state unemployment benefit claims. Economists expect a fall in the number, but the levels are still high by historical standards.

  • Bond yields continued to jump. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose 5 basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 1.43 percent. This month, the yield has climbed 37 basis points.

  • Analysts at Bank of America raised their forecast for bond yields, expecting the 10-year yield to be at 1.75 percent at the end of the year because of stronger economic growth. Last month, they forecast 1.5 percent for year-end.

  • Federal Reserve policymakers have been playing down concerns about inflation. In a second day of testimony to lawmakers on Wednesday, the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, reiterated his message that a short-term jump in inflation, which is expected this year, is different from sustained higher inflation. And so the central bank could keep its easy money policies for awhile. Separately, the vice chair, Richard Clarida, said monetary policy was “entirely appropriate not only now, but — given my outlook for the economy — for the rest of the year.”

  • Most European stock indexes were higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.3 percent.

  • Shares in Mondi, a British company which sells packaging and paper products, dropped 1.2 percent after Bloomberg reported it was looking into a takeover of its rival DS Smith. Shares of Smith were up 6.6 percent.

Senator Bernie Sanders said Walmart’s profits continued to be supported by taxpayers, who are paying for the health care and food expenses of the company’s lowest-paid workers.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

With the debate over raising the federal minimum wage heating up, Senator Bernie Sanders is putting the spotlight on some of the nation’s largest employers and their pay practices in a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Walmart and McDonald’s, which have not yet raised their starting wages to $15 an hour, will be the primary focus of Mr. Sanders’s scrutiny.

Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent, plans to highlight research by the Government Accountability Office showing that Walmart and McDonald’s are among the companies with the highest number of employees qualifying for Medicaid and food stamps in many states.

“One of the scandals in the current economy is that there are millions of workers working for starvation wages,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview this week.

The chief executives of Walmart and McDonald’s were invited to attend Thursday’s hearing of the Senate Budget Committee but declined. W. Craig Jelinek, the chief executive of Costco, which pays some of the highest wages in the retail industry, is the only top executive who agreed to testify.

“A small percentage of our work force may come to us on public assistance and we welcome them,” Walmart said in an email to Mr. Sanders’s office last week. “We hire them, train them and give them the chance to earn a paycheck. And we are immensely proud of their work and their continued efforts to successfully support themselves and their families.”

McDonald’s responded in a similar vein in a letter to Mr. Sanders’s office on Tuesday: “We appreciate the findings of the G.A.O. report that identify a small percentage of our work force that may utilize public assistance, and we work to prepare them for career opportunities both inside and outside of the McDonald’s system.”

In its letter, McDonald’s added that its average wage was nearly $12 an hour, but the company did not provide its starting wage nor respond to a follow-up request from The New York Times for the number.

Last week, Walmart said that it was raising the wages of 425,000 workers and that about half of its work force in the United States would earn at least $15 an hour. But the company’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, stopped short of saying whether the company would eventually extend a $15 minimum to all employees.

Mr. Sanders said Walmart’s profits continued to be supported by taxpayers, who are paying for the health care and food expenses of the company’s lowest-paid workers and further enriching the retailer’s founding family and large shareholders, the Waltons.

“I think the American people really should not have to subsidize through their taxes the wealthiest family in the world,” Mr. Sanders said. “We are going to make that point over and over and over again.”

A $52 million campaign promoting Covid-19 vaccinations began on Thursday morning.
Credit…Ad Council

A broad promotional effort to combat Covid-19 vaccine skepticism began rolling out on Thursday, backed by the nonprofit advertising group Ad Council and a coalition of experts known as the Covid Collaborative.

The campaign, “It’s Up to You,” encourages Americans to seek out facts about the available vaccines. The Ad Council commissioned research that concluded that 40 percent of the public had yet to decide whether to be vaccinated as soon as possible. In Black and Hispanic communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, 60 percent of people do not feel fully informed, according to the study.

Public service announcements will appear in English and Spanish on television, social media and other platforms. More than 300 companies, community groups and public figures — including Facebook, iHeartMedia, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN — contributed to the $52 million push, as did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several spots point viewers toward a landing page,, using messages such as “Getting back to the moments we missed starts with getting informed” and this one: “You’ve got questions. That’s normal.” A punchy video from Google shows animated arms with colorful post-vaccination bandages coalescing into the shape of the United States, while an offering from Verizon juxtaposes scenes of human connection with images of weddings and graduations conducted over video chat.

The Ad Council endeavor is one of several concurrent campaigns aimed at raising awareness and acceptance of the vaccines, including efforts from vaccine producers such as Pfizer and Moderna.

NBCUniversal built a vaccination push around the informational site, while the #ThisIsOurShot campaign features health care workers who have been vaccinated. In Britain, an ad debunking myths about the vaccine was broadcast simultaneously across several television channels this month, focusing on ethnic minority communities.

If confirmed as U.S. trade representative, Katherine Tai will need to fill in the details of the Biden administration’s “worker-focused” trade approach.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The Biden administration is hoping that its nominee for U. S. trade representative, Katherine Tai, who is scheduled to appear for her confirmation hearing on Thursday morning before the Senate Finance Committee, can serve as a consensus builder and help bridge the Democratic Party’s varying views on trade, Ana Swanson reports for The New York Times.

Ms. Tai has strong connections in Congress, and supporters expect her nomination to proceed smoothly. But if confirmed, she will face bigger challenges, including filling in the details of what the Biden administration has called its “worker-focused” trade approach.

As trade representative, Ms. Tai will be a key player in restoring alliances strained under former President Donald J. Trump, as well as formulating the administration’s China policy, where she is expected to draw on prior experience bringing cases against China at the World Trade Organization.

She will also take charge on decisions on matters that divide the Democratic Party, like whether to keep or scrap the tariffs Mr. Trump imposed on foreign products, and whether new foreign trade deals will help the United States compete globally or end up selling American workers short. | Newsphere by AF themes.