Unemployment claims jumped to 419,000 last week, a sudden increase reflecting an unsettled labor market

Unemployment claims jumped last week, as the delta variant of the coronavirus sparked rising caseloads around the country and renewed fears about the potential for more restrictions and business closures.

The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 368,000, the third time in six weeks that they had ticked up, according to data from the Department of Labor.

Economists said the uptick was concerning but cautioned that it was too early to tell whether it was a one week aberration or telegraphed a more concerning turn for the labor market.

“The unexpected bump in claims could be noise in the system, but it’s also not hard to see how the rise of the covid-19 delta variant could add thousands of layoffs to numbers that already are double what they were pre-Covid,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Overall, unemployment numbers have been falling gradually from the peaks at other stages of the pandemic, but they are still well above pre-pandemic averages.

The jobless numbers have provided a jarring catalogue about the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic — spiking to records as the pandemic unfolded in March 2020, and remaining at historic high levels throughout most of 2020.

The coronavirus surge last fall helped precipitate a rise in claims that saw the labor market, as seen in the monthly jobs report, slide backward too.

But until recently, the last few months been marked by strong jobs growth and a sense of optimism as vaccinations picked up, giving economists hope that the country was back on track to recovering the nearly 7 million jobs it is still down from before the pandemic.

Now, the delta variant is driving an alarming increase in covid-19 cases around the country, according to public health officials: the number of new cases increased more than 40 percent in the last week, sending jitters through the stock market, and is raising questions about whether state and local health authorities will reinstitute restrictions to slow the virus’ spread.

A new mandate in Los Angeles county to wear masks indoors has sparked protests and anger from local officials, as other counties where cases are increasing mull similar actions.

Frick said that the report showed the potential for unemployment claims to start trending upward after months of steady declines.

“There’s definitely a correlation, however loose, that the rise in covid does cause a rise in claims,” he said. “My fear is that the rise in the delta variant could cause claims to go back up…Certainly one week doesn’t show that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see claims rise.”

Texas for example, where cases have grown 54 percent in the last week, lead the way with an increase of 10,000 new claims.

However, there are also lots of signs that the economy continues to rebound despite rising caseloads.

The more than 2.2 million people that the Transportation Security Administration said it screened at airports on Sunday was the most since late February 2020 — and nearly three times the amount it was on the same day last year.

Restaurant dining has largely rebounded in recent months, at times surpassing the levels from before the pandemic — on Saturday the number of diners was 1 percent higher than the same day in 2019, according to data from Open Table.

Last week, some 12.5 million claims were filed for unemployment insurance overall, according to the most recent numbers — down from 32.9 million filed at the same point last year.

Nevada, Rhode Island and California topped the list of states with the highest number of people on unemployment, the Labor Department said.

Economic concerns in recent months have been more focused on the ways that workers are still held back from filling some of the more than 9 million job openings in the country, than unemployment, with high hopes that school re-openings in the fall will help many parents get back into the labor force.

Margins remain narrow for US hospitals

Facing a financial squeeze, hospitals nationwide are cutting jobs

Not including federal relief aid, hospital operating margins remained narrow in March at just 1.4 percent, according to a recent report from healthcare consulting firm Kaufman Hall. Including federal relief aid, the median hospital operating margin was 2 percent. 

Although margins remained narrow in March, hospitals saw year-over-year margins starkly increase. In particular, operating margin increased 14.5 percentage points year-over-year in March, without federal relief aid. 

The sharp increase was attributed to measuring March 2021 performance against the same period last year, when hospitals faced losses amid national shutdowns of elective procedures. 

Kaufman Hall noted that the median operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margin also rose 13.3 percentage points in March, compared to March of 2020. 

“We expect to see additional margin gains in the months ahead, especially in comparison to record-poor performance in the early months of the pandemic,” said Jim Blake, managing director at Kaufman Hall. Over the course of 2021, however, we project hospital margins could be down as much as 80 percent, and revenues down as much as $122 billion compared to pre-pandemic levels, as hospitals continue to feel the dire repercussions of COVID-19.”

Hospitals also saw their adjusted discharges, emergency room visits, adjusted patient days and average length of stay increase year over year in March, Kaufman Hall noted. 

Cartoon – Open the U.S. Now

A. Christian van Gorder: George Washington meets a viral pandemic | Board  Of Contributors | wacotrib.com

The COVID-19 relief package: Where the money goes

https://www.politifact.com/article/2021/mar/19/covid-19-relief-package-where-money-goes/?fbclid=IwAR0WSCs9C4Rz9x6n-mlIsg7RY4KYM3byEZ3GdoYp3VWB0AIM8s0p_UUzinU

May be an image of text that says 'American Rescue Plan Act Where the money goes (In $billions) Other $129 Transportation $58 COVID/Public health $143 Stimulus Stimuluschecks checks $410 Schools $169_ Unemployment $242 Families $352 State/local aid $360'

IF YOUR TIME IS SHORT

  • The Democratic bill has $410 billion in stimulus checks and $360 billion in aid to state and local governments.
  • Expanded unemployment benefits cost $242 billion.
  • School spending is nearly $170 billion spread out over 10 years.

There are a few big chunks of money in the American Rescue Plan Act that have generated a lot of news coverage and are pretty well known. In response to a reader’s request, we present the whopping $1.86 trillion spending plan in pie chart form. 

There are the $1,400 checks (or more likely deposits) to many citizens or permanent legal residents and their dependents. That comes to about $410 billion.

Aid to state, local, territorial and tribal governments costs about $360 billion.

The bill boosts and extends unemployment benefits. Add another $242 billion.

Over the next 10 years, the law spends nearly $170 billion on education. That includes $129 billion for K-12 schools — both public and private — and about $40 billion for higher education.

The money for vaccines and corralling the coronavirus became a political talking point. Democrats touted the $20-25 billion they included for vaccine supplies and research. Republicans argued that the bill spent less than 10% of its total cost on COVID-19. 

People will parse the numbers in different ways. Some only count money spent directly on vaccine production. Some look more broadly at the economic damage wrought by the virus. We looked for money that went towards health care, whether that meant improving treatment on tribal lands, adding health care workers at clinics, or anything that reduced the health impacts of the pandemic.

We put the bill’s total public health spending at $143 billion.

Within that, the single biggest line item is $47.8 billion for mitigating the disease, a broad description that includes testing and surveillance. There is also $15 billion for COVID-related health care for veterans, $7.6 billion to help community health centers distribute vaccines, and about the same amount to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for roughly the same purpose.

The chart above lays out how the money breaks down.

All of the amounts so far come to $1.3 trillion over 10 years. The bill’s total cost is $1.86 trillion, which leaves about $500 billion dollars to flesh out.

The law has over $40 billion for child care. Money to keep people in their homes and to house the homeless comes to about $44 billion. There is $10 billion to put food on people’s tables. The expected cost of temporarily boosting the child tax credit is $109 billion.

In our chart, we fold all of that, plus subsidies for pensions and health insurance premiums, into the category of support for families. Our total is $352 billion.

Our last distinct category is transportation. Under that umbrella, we put $30 billion for mass transit, $15 billion for the airline industry, $8 billion for airports, and other related activities. That came to $58 billion.

The catch-all bucket of other spending includes items such as $66 billion for businesses, $50 billion for disaster relief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $7 billion to expand broadband internet.

America’s nightmarish year is finally ending

America's nightmare year of COVID is finally ending

One year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the end of that pandemic is within reach.

The big picture: The death and suffering caused by the coronavirus have been much worse than many people expected a year ago — but the vaccines have been much better.

Flashback“Bottom line, it’s going to get worse,” Anthony Fauci told a congressional panel on March 11, 2020, the day the WHO formally declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic.

  • A year ago today, the U.S. had confirmed 1,000 coronavirus infections. Now we’re approaching 30 million.
  • In the earliest days of the pandemic, Americans were terrified by the White House’s projections — informed by well-respected modeling — that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from the virus. That actual number now sits at just under 530,000.
  • Many models at the time thought the virus would peak last May. It was nowhere close to its height by then. The deadliest month of the pandemic was January.

Yes, but: Last March, even the sunniest optimists didn’t expect the U.S. to have a vaccine by now.

  • They certainly didn’t anticipate that over 300 million shots would already be in arms worldwide, and they didn’t think the eventual vaccines, whenever they arrived, would be anywhere near as effective as these shots turned out to be.

Where it stands: President Biden has said every American adult who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of May, and the country is on track to meet that target.

  • The U.S. is administering over 2 million shots per day, on average. Roughly 25% of the adult population has gotten at least one shot.
  • The federal government has purchased more doses than this country will be able to use: 300 million from Pfizer, 300 million from Moderna and 200 million from Johnson & Johnson.
  • The Pfizer and Moderna orders alone would be more than enough to fully vaccinate every American adult. (The vaccines aren’t yet authorized for use in children.)

Yes, millions of Americans are still anxiously awaiting their first shot — and navigating signup websites that are often frustrating and awful.

  • But the supply of available vaccines is expected to surge this month, and the companies say the bulk of those doses should be available by the end of May.
  • Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all falling sharply at the same time vaccinations are ramping up.

The bottom line: Measured in death, loss, isolation and financial ruin, one year has felt like an eternity. Measured as the time between the declaration of a pandemic and vaccinating 60 million Americans, one year is an instant.

  • The virus hasn’t been defeated, and may never fully go away. Getting back to “normal” will be a moving target. Nothing’s over yet. But the end of the worst of it — the long, brutal nightmare of death and suffering — is getting close.

THE BIG DEAL—House passes $1.9T coronavirus relief bill

https://thehill.com/policy/finance/542448-heres-whats-in-the-19t-covid-19-relief-package

Will there be a third stimulus check? Biden's Deputy Press Secretary on American  Rescue Plan: 'The time for bold action is now' - ABC11 Raleigh-Durham

The House on Wednesday passed the mammoth $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which President Biden is expected to sign Friday.

The House approved the relief package in a starkly partisan 220-211 vote, sending the legislation to the White House and clinching Democrats’ first big legislative victory in the Biden era. No Republicans voted for the package and all but one House Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—supported it. The Hill’s Cristina Marcos has more here.

The political split: Unlike the previous relief measures enacted last year, Democrats barely bothered to negotiate with Republicans and pushed the relief package through Congress along party lines using the budget reconciliation process. That allowed them to go as big as they wanted to go without running into a Senate GOP filibuster.

  • Republicans argue the use of a process dodging the filibuster shows Biden wasn’t serious about bringing unity, and House GOP lawmakers on Wednesday warned of the bill’s total cost.
  • But Democrats think Republicans will pay for their opposition to the popular bill and argued that they would oppose anything Biden proposed.

What’s in the $1.9T COVID-19 relief packageAlong with $1,400 direct payments to households, an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, and aid for state and local governments, the package is loaded with other provisions intended to speed up the recovery from the recession and help struggling families fight the impact of COVID-19.

  • Tax credits: The bill increases the child tax credit for households below certain income thresholds for 2021 and makes it fully refundable, and also expands the earned income tax credit for the year.
  • Child care: $15 billion for grants to help low-income families afford child care and increases the child and dependent care tax credit for one year.
  • Pensions: $86 billion to bailout struggling union pension funds.
  • Transportation: $30 billion to bolster local subway and bus systems, $8 billion for airports, $1.5 billion for furloughed Amtrak workers, and $3 billion for wages at aerospace companies.
  • Housing: $27.4 billion in emergency rental assistance, another $10 billion to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, $5 billion in vouchers for public housing, $5 billion to tackle homelessness and $5 billion more to help households cover utility bills.
  • Small businesses: The American Rescue Plan broadens eligibility guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing more nonprofit entities to be eligible, adds $15 billion in emergency grants and also sets aside more than $28 billion in funding for restaurants.
  • ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid expansion: The bill increases ObamaCare subsidies through 2022 to make them more generous, a longtime goal for Democrats, and opens up more fully subsidized plans to individuals. It also would provide extra Medicaid funding to states that expand the program and have yet to do so.

The danger of a fourth wave

Change in new COVID-19 cases in the past week

Percent change of the 7-day average of new cases

on Feb. 23 and March 2, 2021

The U.S. could be in danger of a fourth coronavirus wave - Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.

Where it stands: The U.S. averaged just under 65,000 new cases per day over the past week. That’s essentially unchanged from the week before, ending a six-week streak of double-digit improvements.

  • Although the U.S. has been moving in the right direction, 65,000 cases per day is not a number that indicates the virus is under control. It’s the same caseload the U.S. was seeing last July, at the height of the summer surge in cases and deaths.

What we’re watching: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday rescinded the state’s mask mandate and declared that businesses will be able to operate at full capacity, saying risk-mitigation measures are no longer necessary because of the progress on vaccines.

  • But the risk in Texas is far from over. In fact, its outbreak is growing: New cases in the state rose by 27% over the past week.
  • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also scrapped all business restrictions, along with the state’s mask mandate, on Tuesday. New cases in Mississippi were up 62% over the past week, the biggest jump of any state.
  • The daily average of new daily cases also increased in eight more states, in addition to Mississippi and Texas.

How it works: If Americans let their guard down too soon, we could experience yet another surge — a fourth wave — before the vaccination campaign has had a chance to do its work.

  • The vaccine rollout is moving at breakneck speed. The U.S. should have enough doses for every adult who wants one by May, President Biden said this week.
  • At the same time, however, more contagious variants of the coronavirus are continuing to gain ground, meaning that people who haven’t gotten their vaccines yet may be spreading and contracting the virus even more easily than before.

What’s next: The bigger a foothold those variants can get, the harder it will be to escape COVID-19 — now or in the future.

  • The existing vaccines appear to be less effective against two variants, discovered in South Africa and Brazil, which means the virus could keep circulating even in a world where the vast majority of people are vaccinated.
  • And that means it’s increasingly likely that COVID-19 will never fully go away — that outbreaks may flare up here and there for years, requiring vaccine booster shots as well as renewed protective measures.

The bottom line: Variants emerge when viruses spread widely, which is also how people die.

  • Whatever “the end of the pandemic” looks like — however good it’s possible for things to get — the way to get there is through ramping up vaccinations and continuing to control the virus through masks and social distancing. Not doing those things will only make the future worse.
  • “Getting as many people vaccinated as possible is still the same answer and the same path forward as it was on December 1 or January 1 … but the expected outcome isn’t the same,” Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, told Reuters.