New unemployment claims jump to nearly 1 million, the highest level since August

Unemployment rate remains at 6.7%, employers cut 140,000 jobs last month -  ABC News

The number of new unemployment claims filed last week jumped by 181,000 the week before to 965,000, the largest increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

It was the largest number of new unemployment claims since August.

An additional 284,000 claims were filed for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the insurance for gig and self-employed workers.

The weekly report is President Trump’s last before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. Biden will inherit a labor market badly weakened by the coronavirus pandemic and an economic recovery that appears to have stalled: 140,000 people lost their jobs in December, the first decline in months, with the U.S. still down millions of jobs since February.

The dire numbers will serve as a backdrop for Biden as he formally unveils an ambitious stimulus package proposal on Thursday, which could top $1 trillion, and is expected include an expansion of the child tax credit, a $2,000 stimulus payment, and other assistance for the economy.

Democrats were already using the weak labor to argue about the necessity of more aid.

Economists say that the economy’s struggles could be explained, in part, by the delay Congress allowed between the summer, when many fiscal aid programs expired and December, when lawmakers finally agreed on a new package after months of stalemate.

The number of new jobless claims has come down since the earliest days of the pandemic, but remains at a extremely high level week in and week out.

The total number of continuing people in any of the unemployment programs at the end of the year was 18.4 million, although officials have cautioned that the number is inflated by accounting issues and duplicate claims.

The increase in claims is not entirely unexpected. As the aid package passed by Congress in December kicks in, including a $300 a week unemployment supplement, some economists expected that to result in more workers filing claims.

Economy loses 140K jobs in December, first losses since April

https://thehill.com/policy/finance/533242-december-jobs-report

57% of Unemployed Americans Blame COVID-19 for Job Loss - New Jersey  Business Magazine

The economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first reported losses since April, as the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent.

Economists expected a small jobs gain of nearly 50,000. The drop is the latest sign of a weakening economy amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. All in all, the economy remains about 10 million jobs below its pre-pandemic levels.

“There’s not much comfort to be taken from the stable unemployment rate, given that millions of Americans have left the labor force with nearly 11 million listed as officially out of work,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.

“Between the human and economic tolls taken by the pandemic, these are some of the darkest hours of this soon-to-be yearlong tragedy.”

The biggest losses were concentrated in leisure and hospitality, a sector particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, which lost an astonishing 498,000 jobs.

State and local government payrolls shed 51,000 jobs. Congress deferred passing state and local aid in its latest COVID-19 relief bill.

But the overall loss would have been worse had it not been for gains in professional and business services, which added 161,000 jobs; retail trade, which added 120,500 jobs; and construction, which added 51,000.

Some demographic groups have been hit harder by the economic downturn.

The unemployment rate for Hispanics rose to 9.3 percent in December, while Black unemployment remained elevated at 9.9 percent. The rate for whites was 6 percent, and for Asians it was 5.9 percent.

Over a third of jobless people have been unemployed for over 27 weeks.

Twenty states raise minimum wage at start of new year

https://thehill.com/policy/finance/532279-twenty-states-raise-minimum-wage-at-start-of-new-year?rnd=1609675645

These 20 states will raise their minimum wage by January 1 - WRCBtv.com |  Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Twenty states and dozens of localities increased their minimum wage on Friday, giving a financial boost to many frontline workers during the pandemic.

New Mexico will see the largest jump, adding $1.50 to its hourly minimum and bringing it up to $10.50. Arkansas, California, Illinois and New Jersey will each increase their minimum wages by $1.

Alaska, Maine and South Dakota will increase wages by just 15 cents an hour, while the rate in Minnesota will rise by half that, at 8 cents, to $10.08 an hour.

Additional increases are scheduled for elsewhere this year, with most changes taking effect on July 1.

Low-income earners, like much of the country’s workforce, have seen their wages remain relatively stagnant for decades when inflation is taken into account. Proponents say the new raises will help reduce poverty and offer much-needed pay hikes to some of the most vulnerable workers.

“Minimum wage increases income levels, reduces poverty, so I think it’s pretty clear that it improves conditions in the lower end of the wage distribution,” said Daniel Kuehn a research associate at The Urban Institute.

Localities are also boosting their minimum pay. Flagstaff, Ariz., will see wages rise from $13 an hour to $15, as will Burlingame, Calif

In some municipalities, the increases are dependent on business size. Hayward, Calif., for example, will follow the same wage hike as Burlingame, but employers who 25 or fewer workers will need to raise wages from $12 an hour to $14.

Varying minimum wages across localities, Kuehn said, lets governments take into account different cost-of-living conditions.

“I think the ideal policy would include a lot of local variation, but that doesn’t mean a federal floor isn’t helpful,” he said.

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. In recent years, the goal of a $15 minimum wage has become a standard progressive policy.

House Democrats in July 2019 passed a bill that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 gradually through 2025, but the measure died in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“While families work hard to make ends meet, their cost of living has surged to unsustainable highs, inflation has eaten nearly 20 percent of their wages and the GOP’s special interested agenda has left them behind,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the time.

“No one can live with dignity on a $7.25 an hour wage,” she added.

The issue is back in the political spotlight again with Tuesday’s runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years.

The Democratic challengers are arguing that the federal minimum wage will only increase if they win both races.

“If the federal minimum wage kept up with the cost of living, it would be even higher than $15,” Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff said last week. “The basic premise is that anybody in this country working a single full-time job should be bringing home enough money to sustain themselves and then some.”

But critics argue that minimum wage increases could slow job growth by raising labor costs for employers, an issue of particular concern during the fragile recovery from the coronavirus recession.

“A dramatic increase in the minimum wage even in good economic times has been shown to be harmful,” said Michael Saltsman, the managing director for the Employment Policy Institute, a think tank tied to the restaurant and hospitality industry.

“In the current climate, for many employers it could be the final nail in the coffin,” he added.

Saltsman argued that increasing anti-poverty programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit are better policies than wage increases. The tax credit essentially operates as a government subsidy for low-wage work, shifting the onus of paying the extra wages from businesses to taxpayers.

Kuehn said there is little evidence to suggest that small and gradual increases of the minimum wage have significant effects on employment.

“The minimum wage increase levels we see get passed are not large enough to have significant employment effects,” he said.

But he concedes that it’s harder to predict the effects of a quick nationwide boost toward $15.

“I think it’s important to note that since we’ve never had a federal increase of that magnitude, there’s a lot we don’t know,” he said. “With something of that size, you would worry about low-wage places like Mississippi or Alabama.”

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in 2019 projected that a gradual increase to $15 through 2025 would mean “1.3 million workers who would otherwise be employed would be jobless in an average week in 2025.”

But it also specified a range of possible outcomes, including no job losses on the low end and as many as 3.7 million jobs lost on the high end.

The report found that 27 million people would see higher income, and that the poorest families would have wages rise as much as 5.2 percent.

Researchers such as Kuehn are adamant that businesses can handle increasing wages at moderate levels, even in the midst of a global health crisis.

“It certainly doesn’t make businesses’ lives easier, but businesses aren’t struggling right now because of wage costs,” he said.

“They’re hurting because of the pandemic.”

Jobless claims remain high

An estimated 803,000 people applied for unemployment aid for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday, showing the economy’s persistent weakness as new drama swirls over Washington’s response to the crisis. The figure was a slight decrease from the previous week but still much higher than normal.

The new Labor Department data show how weak the economy is, particularly the labor market. The surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths in the past few months has cooled the partial economic recovery from the summer.

Retail sales have weakened, and hiring has slowed markedly. The travel and tourism industries have not recovered much of the business lost since March, and thousands of companies — particularly restaurants and bars — have closed. U.S. household spending slipped in November, marking the first drop since April.

After months of stop-and-start negotiations, the bipartisan stimulus package finally offered some hope for households and businesses fighting to make it through the winter.

If Trump does not sign the bill, up to 14 million Americans would lose unemployment aid after Christmas. An eviction moratorium will expire at the end of the year, and $25 billion in emergency rental assistance will not get out the door. Billions of dollars for nutrition assistance, aid for small businesses, child care, transportation services and more will be in jeopardy, and the government will shut down on Dec. 29.

Trump did not play much of a role in the economic relief talks that resulted in Congress passing the $900 billion stimulus package. In the video Trump posted Tuesday night, his main complaint was that he wanted the $600 stimulus checks in the package to be increased to $2,000. This would add $370 billion to the measure.

Democrats quickly rallied around Trump’s demand, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to try to hold a vote on it as soon as Thursday. But it could be virtually impossible to pass such a measure through Congress with unanimous support, leaving the entire bill’s future uncertain.

The stimulus package would extend unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week, beginning as soon as Dec. 27 and run at least through mid-March. The measure also would extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — which targets part-time and gig workers who did not qualify for state unemployment insurance benefits — for 11 weeks.

Wednesday’s data showed nearly 400,000 new claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Cartoon – The Current Line

Northern CA News, Sports & Politics | The Sacramento Bee

Unemployment claims rose sharply last week as economic crisis grinds on

U.S. Unemployment Claims Rise Amid Coronavirus Surge - WSJ

Applications for jobless benefits resumed their upward march last week as the worsening pandemic continued to take a toll on the economy.

More than 947,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was up nearly 229,000 from the week before, reversing a one-week dip that many economists attributed to the Thanksgiving holiday. Applications have now risen three times in the last four weeks, and are up nearly a quarter-million since the first week of November.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the week’s figure was 853,000, an increase of 137,000.

Nearly 428,000 applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for regular state benefits.

Unemployment filings have fallen greatly since last spring, when as many as six million people a week applied for state benefits. But progress had stalled even before the recent increases, and with Covid-19 cases soaring and states reimposing restrictions on consumers and businesses, economists fear that layoffs could surge again.

“It’s very clear the third wave of the pandemic is causing businesses to have to lay people off and consumers to cut back spending,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist for the career site Glassdoor. “It seems like we’re in for a rough winter economically.”

Jobless claims rose in nearly every state last week. In California, where the state has imposed strict new limits on many businesses, applications jumped by 47,000, more than reversing the state’s Thanksgiving-week decline.

The monthly jobs report released on Friday showed that hiring slowed sharply in early November and that some of the sectors most exposed to the pandemic, like restaurants and retailers, cut jobs for the first time since the spring. More up-to-date data from private sources suggests that the slowdown has continued or deepened since the November survey was conducted.

Every month, we’re just seeing the pace of the recovery get slower and slower,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist with the job site Indeed. Now, she said, the question is, “Are we actually going to see it slide backward?”

Many economists say the recovery will continue to slow if the government does not provide more aid to households and businesses. After months of gridlock in Washington, prospects for a new round of federal help have grown in recent days, with congressional leaders from both parties signaling their openness to a compromise and the White House proposing its own $916 billion spending plan on Tuesday. But the two sides remain far apart on key issues.

The stakes are particularly high for jobless workers depending on federal programs that have expanded and extended unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Those programs expire later this month, potentially leaving millions of families with no income during what epidemiologists warn could be some of the pandemic’s worst months.

Hospital workforce tracker: layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/hospital-workforce-tracker-layoffs-furloughs-and-pay-cuts/576890/

Hospital workforce tracker: layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts | News Break

Many hospitals are temporarily or permanently reducing the size of their workforce as they grapple with depleted revenues and the thorny question of when they can return to normal operating capacity. Here’s a tracker to follow the latest updates.

Hospitals across the country, financially battered as they face the dual challenges of sick COVID-19 patients and a precipitous decline in patient volume, are struggling to balance quickly shifting staffing needs. While some face and others brace for intense demand, many have announced furloughs of specialists and others that work in elective surgeries that have been drastically scaled back.

Thousands of healthcare workers at hospitals big and small have been asked not to return to work, and it’s still unclear how soon non-essential services will return. While some governors announce plans to reopen businesses, others have extended stay-at-home orders.

Most recent data from the U.S Bureau of Labor doesn’t cover the second half of March or early April, but during the first half of March, the healthcare industry shed 43,000 jobs — reversing a decade of growth in the sector. According to BLS data, the industry added 49,000 jobs in March 2019.

“Even our emergency room has seen a significant drop in patients coming in,” Sue Philips, an ICU nurse at Palomar Pomerado Health in Northern San Diego, told Healthcare Dive.

Phillips is a spokesperson with National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses union. Palomar Health, which runs three medical centers in northern San Diego County, recently instituted 21-day temporary layoffs of 221 employees.

On April 28, Palomar announced that most of those layoffs were becoming permanent. The system laid off 5% of its workforce, eliminating 317 positions. Fifty of those employees were clinical RNs, mostly in part-time positions, and the rest spread across the organization ranging from clerical staff to technicians.

Due to a 50% decrease in patient volumes, Palomar lost $10 million in revenue in March alone, according to a statement. In April the system said it stands to lose $20 million or more.

“I’m an ICU nurse, so my job is pretty much protected,” Phillips said. “But you didn’t think you were expendable until you became expendable, and that’s a hard pill for nurses and caregivers to swallow.”

Congress has attempted to financially support struggling hospitals through ongoing coronavirus relief legislation, approving some $175 billion thus far. But without knowing what will come next, hospitals are attempting to remain nimble while reining in one of their most costly expenses — paying employees.

The following information is based on publicly reported data, along with interviews with hospital representatives and union members.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but features nonprofit and for-profit hospital systems that reported revenue above $10 billion in 2019. It also takes a look at smaller, more regionally based systems that have announced similar cutbacks.

Click on link above to use the dropdown to find a company.

As healthcare job growth slows, some look to restructure long-term operations

Healthcare job losses reached staggering levels amid stay-at-home orders and the widespread cancellation of elective procedures when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit this spring. Dentists and ambulatory services were particularly hard hit.

While the industry has since recovered many of the 1.3 million jobs lost this April, it’s still 527,000 short from February levels, and monthly gains have slowed since, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, some of the major hospitals that issued furloughs or layoffs early in the pandemic are now further reducing the size of their workforce.

The stagnation will likely continue, as companies “don’t hire as many people, then lay some people off to also try and save money, because worse times may be ahead,” said Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner and senior labor economics adviser at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

One example is Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White, which laid off 3% of its workforce, or 1,200 employees in May. It’s now laying off a third of its corporate finance staff, though some impacted employees are being offered positions with a third-party vendor, the system said in a Monday statement.

Providence Health & Services laid off 183 employees in mostly administrative roles as a result of transitioning work to a third-party vendor, while five employees were laid off “as a result of business need,” according to a WARN notice letter the system sent to an Oregon state agency Nov. 16. It previously issued an unknown number of furloughs across its 51-hospital system.

And Utah-based Intermountain Health said it would cut 250 business-related jobs by offering 750 employees voluntary separation packages on Oct. 13.

The moves come even while hospitals are stretched to the brink from the highest surge of coronavirus cases the country has yet seen. In the past few weeks, many have halted elective procedures and paid steep rates for temporary nursing staff, further straining finances.

And other healthcare establishments, such as some doctor’s offices and medical labs, are still struggling to get reluctant patients back in.

A recent Labor Department survey covering the onset of the pandemic through September found among all healthcare businesses, 64% experienced a decrease in demand while only 13% experienced an increase in demand.

In November, healthcare businesses overall added 46,000 jobs in — fewer than the 58,000 jobs added in October; 53,000 in September; and 75,000 in August, according to BLS data.

Hospitals added about 4,000 jobs in November and are about 100,000 jobs short from February.