The coronavirus crisis threw at least 2.1 million Americans out of work last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, stoking fears Thursday that the scourge is doing deep and potentially long-lasting damage to the U.S. economy.
Amid a few glimmers of hope, most of the latest economic news from around the globe was likewise grim, as some of the world’s most populous countries continued to report rising infections and deaths.
The confirmed U.S. death toll topped 100,000, the highest in the world, on Wednesday.
The latest job-loss figures from the U.S. Labor Department bring to 41 million the running total of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March.
There were some encouraging signs: The overall number of Americans currently drawing jobless benefits dropped for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million. And first-time applications for unemployment have fallen for eight straight weeks, as states gradually let stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up factories again.
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But the number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment is still extraordinarily high by historical standards, and that suggests businesses are failing or permanently downsizing, not just laying off people until the crisis can pass, economists warn.
“That is the kind of economic destruction you cannot quickly put back in the bottle,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7 per cent in April, a level not seen since the Depression, and many economists expect it will be near 20 per cent in May.
The figures come amid an intensifying debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits, provided under rescue legislation passed in March but set to expire July 31.
Democrats have proposed extending the payments, while Republicans have argued that the extra money could discourage laid-off workers from returning to jobs that pay less than they are getting on unemployment.
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Kelly Kelso, a 30-year-old roadie from Nashville for the rock group Foreigner, got her first unemployment check last week after more than eight weeks of waiting. She said she is still receiving far less in benefits than the $1,250 per week or more that she made on tour.
Though she is reluctant to leave the music industry, she said, “I have a cosmetology license. If all else fails, I could go back to doing hair.”
Another looming storm cloud: Economists say the sharp loss of tax revenue for state and local governments is likely to compound the damage from the shutdowns by forcing additional public-sector layoffs in the coming weeks.
Those layoffs have just recently started showing up in the weekly jobless claims report. Washington state, for example, reported layoffs of government employees.
Job cuts are also appearing far beyond the initially hit industries such as restaurants and stores, a sign that the damage is spreading even as businesses reopen. Washington state said it saw layoffs in insurance, and New York state reported job cuts by information technology companies.
Economists say many of the jobs lost are never coming back, and double-digit unemployment could persist through 2021.
And as discouraging as the numbers are, the real picture may be worse. The government counts people as unemployed only if they’re actually looking for a job, and many Americans probably see no point in trying when so many businesses are shut down.
Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are struggling after air travel plummeted early in the outbreak. Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 U.S. jobs through layoffs and buyouts, many expected to be in the Seattle area. European budget airline Easyjet said it will cut up to a third of its 15,000 employees. American Airlines plans to eliminate about 5,100 jobs.
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Amtrak likewise announced it will lay off about 20 per cent of its 18,000 workers amid a collapse in train ridership.
A number of European countries have strong safety-net programs that are underwriting the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll instead of adding them to the ranks of the unemployed. But the economic damage is mounting there, too.
Nissan is rolling back production in Spain in a move the government said could lead to 3,000 direct job cuts and thousands more losses at the automaker’s suppliers. And French unemployment claims jumped 22 per cent in April, with 843,000 more people seeking work.
Elsewhere around the world, India saw another record daily jump in coronavirus cases. Russia reported a steady increase in its caseload, even as the city of Moscow and provinces across the vast country moved to ease restrictions in sync with the Kremlin’s political agenda.
And South Korea reported its biggest jump in infections in more than 50 days, a setback that could erase some of the hard-won gains that have made it a model for the rest of the world.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.7 million people and killed over 355,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths.
The true dimensions of the disaster are widely believed to be significantly greater, with experts saying many victims died without ever being tested.
Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Alberta First Nation monitors hundreds for COVID-19, sets curfew – Canada News – Castanet.net
A First Nation in southern Alberta has implemented a curfew as its health workers monitor more than 200 people for signs they may have developed COVID-19.
Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said in video messages posted on Facebook that as of Thursday there were 21 known COVID-19 positive cases with links to the community west of Calgary, and that five separate and unrelated case clusters had been uncovered in the previous 12 days.
Crowfoot said that as of Wednesday, 258 Siksika Nation members were under “active investigation and daily followup” by the community’s health services team — a number he said had quadrupled in only three days.
On Friday, councillors approved a temporary curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, with exceptions that Crowfoot said can be made on an as-needed basis for work or other reasons.
Crowfoot encouraged Siksika Nation members to co-operate with health officials if they call, and to avoid non-essential travel to nearby cities.
He said the risk of community transmission is high and that each new case cluster makes it even harder to contact trace and isolate people fast enough.
“We realize you have freedom of choice but we don’t have freedom of consequence. If we choose not to follow these guidelines, the consequence may be that we contract the virus and spread the virus further through our community,” Crowfoot warned in a video message posted Thursday.
In a message posted Friday, Crowfoot said his community had met meeting with federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Alberta Indigenous Affairs Minister Rick Wilson to address shortfalls in resources for dealing with the pandemic.
Crowfoot said the community’s annual Sun Dance ceremony was continuing, but that each participant was being tested prior to entering and that health workers were screening people as they came and went.
“It is understandable that people may feel anxious regarding this current situation, but if we continue to stay vigilant to the public health measures and do our best to limit travel and to avoid gatherings we have a chance to slow down the spread on our nation and also give our health team a chance to do their job,” Crowfoot said.
Alberta set to resume public mask distribution program on July 13 – Globalnews.ca
The province is set to launch its non-medical mask distribution program again, following a pause after the first round of handouts.
Starting July 13, Albertans will be able to once again pick up free non-medical masks at A&W, McDonald’s Canada and Tim Hortons locations.
Albertans are encouraged to wear the masks in public as part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Twenty million masks were handed out during the first phase of Alberta’s mask program, which ran from June 8 until June 22.
“The first phase of free mask distribution in Alberta was a huge success and the response was an incredible show of community support,” said Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s minister of health. “Thank you to all Albertans who are doing their part to keep each other safe as we move through Stage 2 of relaunch.”
Another 20 million masks will be handed out in the second phase.
While the province has not made wearing non-medical masks mandatory, it is strongly recommended to wear one when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres from others.
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Along with the restaurant distribution program, the province is also providing masks directly to some organizations and groups, including municipalities without access to a restaurant location, First Nations, seniors’ facilities, shelters, places of worship and transit services across the province. The government also said it has partnered with 7-Eleven Canada to ship the masks out to transit services.
Albertans can contact 211 if they need help getting a mask. More information is also available online.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Alberta restocks supplies of non-medical masks at A&W, McDonald's and Tim Horton's – CTV News
Albertans looking for non-medical masks will be able to pick them up again at drive-thrus at a number of businesses throughout the province later this month.
Officials say the personal protective equipment (PPE) will resume distribution on July 13 after another supply of 20-million non-medical masks became available.
Alberta’s Minister of Health Tyler Shandro called the first phase of the project a “huge success.”
“The response was an incredible show of community support. Thank you to all Albertans who are doing their part to keep each other safe as we move through stage two of relaunch,” he said in a release Sunday.
The first phase of mask distribution saw 20 million masks given to Albertans in June.
In addition to the new supply at drive-thrus, the government says it is also providing more PPE to the following locations:
- Municipalities without easy access to a restaurant partner location
- First Nations and Metis settlements
- Places of worship
- Transit services province-wide, including in Calgary and Edmonton – 7-Eleven Canada is providing no-cost shipping of masks from the government’s warehouses to transit system operators across the province
- Seniors organizations and independent living facilities
- Long-term care and supportive living facilities
- Women’s shelters, homeless shelters and street outreach programs
- Addiction treatment centres
- Other organizations that have highlighted a need for masks
The first supply of non-medical masks began distribution on June 8. They were available, free of charge, at A&W, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons locations throughout the province.
Officials say the masks are intended to be given out equally to all Albertans and it relied on the ‘honour system’ to ensure all residents had a fair chance at receiving one.
It cost the province approximately $15 million to acquire the supply of masks, but Shandro said during the initial announcement that Alberta could not come up with an “unlimited” amount of masks.
“I encourage all Albertans to source their own supply of non-medical masks from local retailers or to consider using a homemade mask when they’re out in their community,” he said. “This allotment of four masks should be considered a supplement to store-bought or homemade masks.”
The City of Calgary also signed onto the plan when it announced it would be distributing a supply of masks through a variety of its partner agencies including the Calgary Police Service, Calgary Transit, and Calgary Housing, among others.
There is no exact number on how many masks will be distributed through those channels this time.
Masks not mandatory
While debate about the effectiveness of masks has been raging ever since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in Canada, the province has stood by the decision not to make them mandatory in public spaces.
“They are an option for situations where maintaining a distance of two metres is not possible,” said a release.
Premier Jason Kenney has also said he would not sign off on any legislation that would require Albertans to wear masks.
“I’ve thought long and hard about it and I really don’t want to end up in a situation where police or bylaw officers are ticketing or arresting people for not wearing a face covering,” he said. “The implications of that are deeply problematic.”
He did, however, recommend people wear them to protect others from becoming infected.
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