The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week to 742,000, the first increase in five weeks and a sign that the resurgent viral outbreak is likely slowing the economy and forcing more companies to cut jobs.
The Labor Department’s report Thursday showed that applications for benefits rose from 711,000 in the previous week. Claims had soared to 6.9 million in March when the pandemic first intensified. Before the pandemic, applications typically hovered about 225,000 a week.
The economy’s modest recovery is increasingly at risk, with newly confirmed daily infections in the United States having exploded 80% over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record. More states and cities are issuing mask mandates, limiting the size of gatherings, restricting restaurant dining, closing gyms or reducing the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses. At least 15 states have tightened curbs on businesses to try to slow infections.
Evidence is emerging that consumers are losing confidence in the economic outlook and pulling back on shopping, eating out and other activities. Spending on 30 million credit and debit cards tracked by JPMorgan Chase fell 7.4% earlier this month compared with a year ago. That marked a sharp drop from two weeks earlier. Consumer sentiment also declined in early November and is down nearly 21% from a year ago, according to a University of Michigan survey.
The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits fell to 6.4 million, the government said, from 6.8 million. That shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts 13 more weeks.
The worsening viral outbreak coincides with the impending expiration of two federal unemployment programs at year’s end that could eliminate benefits for 9.1 million people, according to a report from The Century Foundation. Congress has so far failed to agree on any new stimulus package for jobless individuals and struggling businesses. The cutoff of aid will sharply reduce income for the unemployed, force a further reduction in their spending and perhaps weaken the economy.
One of those programs is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which made self-employed and contract workers eligible for unemployment aid for the first time. PUA was established by a multi-trillion-dollar aid package that Congress enacted in the spring.
The second measure in the stimulus package provided the additional 13 weeks of benefits for unemployed people who have used up their state benefits.
When those two programs expire on Dec. 26, the Century Foundation estimates that 12 million people will lose their benefits. About 2.9 million might be able to transition to a state extended benefit program that can last from six to 20 weeks, the report said. But the rest will lose benefits that average about $320 a week nationally.
The expiration of benefits will make it harder for the unemployed to make rent payments, afford food or keep up with utility bills. Most economists agree that because unemployed people tend to quickly spend their benefits, such aid is effective in boosting the economy.
Cutting off benefits with several million people still unemployed would be unusually early compared with previous recessions. In the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the government extended unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, and the additional aid lasted through 2013. When that program ended, about 1.3 million people lost benefits — a fraction of the number who would lose their aid at the end of this year.
“We’re still down 10 million jobs since the pandemic began,” said Elizabeth Pancotti, co-author of the Century Foundation report and a policy advisor at Employ America, a left-leaning think tank. “We’re heading into the winter, we’re seeing additional business closures, consumer demand is already falling….Cutting off benefits seems inhumane to me.”
In March and April, when the pandemic erupted in the United States, tens of millions of people applied for jobless aid. Though many of them have been rehired or have landed new jobs, those who haven’t found work began exhausting their six months of state aid as early as September.
Most of them would then shift to the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides 13 additional weeks. Yet the Century Foundation estimates that 3.5 million people will have used up all of those 13 weeks before the year ends. An additional 950,000 people will have run out of the 39 weeks provided by the PUA program by then, too.
U.N. chief calls for Afghan ceasefire and inclusive peace
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Tuesday for an “immediate, unconditional ceasefire” in Afghanistan to create a conducive environment for Doha peace talks with the Taliban.
“An inclusive process, in which women, young people and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope of sustainable peace,” Guterres told an Afghanistan conference in Geneva. “Progress toward peace will contribute to the development of the entire region, and is a vital step towards the safe, orderly and dignified return of millions of displaced Afghans.”
US imposes $15,000 Visa bond for visitors from 15 African countries
Citizens of 15 African countries will have to post bonds of up to $15,000 ( £11,000) to visit the US, according to a new temporary travel rule which comes into effect on 24 December.
The six-month pilot program – which targets visitor and business visas – will act as a deterrence to those who overstay their visas, the US state department said.
Outgoing President Donald Trump, who lost a re-election bid earlier this month, made restricting immigration a central part of his four-year term in office.
President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, has pledged to reverse many of the Republican president’s immigration policies, but untangling hundreds of changes could take months or years.
The visa bond rule targets countries whose nationals had an “overstay rate” of 10% or higher in 2019 and will now be required to pay a refundable bond of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000.
While those nations had higher rates of overstays, they sent relatively few travellers to the US, Reuters news agency reports.
The African countries affected are Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde, Burundi.
At last Trump Gives-In Power Transition To Biden
After two weeks of grandstanding, U.S. President Donald Trump has finally accepted to allow a transition of power to his potential successor, Joe Biden.
In a Monday evening tweet, Trump said he had recommended that the General Services Administration (GSA) “do what needs to be done” in that regard. The president’s tweet came amid reports by local media that the GSA has determined Biden to be the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
GSA Administrator, Emily Murphy, sent Biden a letter earlier on Monday to inform him that his transition could now begin. ABC News quoted an unnamed official of the Biden transition team as confirming that the former Vice President had received the letter. With this, the president-elect’s transition team can now access government resources, including funds, for a smooth transition of power.
The GSA is a federal agency responsible for enabling the transition of power from one administration to another, and it controls the funds for the process. By law, the head of the agency must first “ascertain” the winner of a presidential election before setting the transition ball rolling.
But with Trump’s refusal to concede, the GSA administrator, who was appointed by the president in 2017, had held back from starting the process. Murphy had come under fire from Democrats and other critics, who accused her of allowing political influence to interfere in the agency’s independence.
Defending her decision in the letter to Biden, the GSA head denied being influenced by the White House or official of the executive branch of government “I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. “Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” she said.
In his tweet, Trump said he advised the agency to start the process because he did not want Murphy, her family and employees of the GSA to continue to suffer harassment and abuse.
“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. “She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA”, Trump said. The president, who is in court challenging the election results in key battleground states, said his case would continue. “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”
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