The economy won’t suffer the worst-case scenario following the pandemic, if the most recent signs are predictive.
Employers added 2.5 million jobs in May, the Labor Department reported Friday in a report that shocked forecasters, who expected millions more in job losses.
The details of the report suggest that workers who were laid off as social distancing began are beginning to get rehired and that aspects of the government effort to keep them connected to their old jobs are working.
“Given that the data for this month’s report were collected toward the beginning of May, at a time when only limited ‘reopening’ measures had begun, it is possible that a significant portion of the job gains can be attributed to the impact of the Payroll Protection Program, which allows firms to bring laid-off workers back on their payrolls,” said Doug Duncan, the chief economist for Fannie Mae, referring to the Small Business Administration forgivable loan program.
The leisure and hospitality sectors, the same industries that had seen extreme rates of layoffs as the pandemic struck, saw job gains of 1.2 million, following losses of 7.5 million in April. The retail sector gained 368,000 in May, after a loss of 2.3 million in April. The manufacturing, healthcare, and education sectors all saw job gains in May as well.
In total, 7.7 million people went from the ranks of the unemployed into employment, by far the highest such monthly move on record, suggesting that businesses were rehiring their workers en masse.
The country needs that to continue happening on a massive scale: The vast majority of unemployed workers in May, more than 15 million, said that they were only “temporary” job losers. The worst-case scenario would be that they didn’t get their jobs back. That scenario looks less likely now, although there are still no guarantees that the 15 million will return to their jobs. Unless nearly all of them can get rehired, the United States faces an extremely painful recession.
Also on Friday, stocks soared in anticipation of a stronger-than-expected rebound, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 3%. The index is now only about 8% off its pre-pandemic high.
The Republican National Committee will resume in-person get-out-the-vote operations as states reopen and fears about the coronavirus begin to subside. The RNC gathered volunteers in March for the voter turnout operations, which then transitioned to digital platforms such as texting, phone messaging, and livestreams. The move comes as President Trump prepares to resume campaigning for the November election.
Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said Friday that protests are “a perfect setup for further spread” of the coronavirus, as large groups of people are standing close to one another for hours on end. Chanting and shouting without wearing a protective mask can increase transmission of the coronavirus, and as police have used irritants and tear gas to disperse crowds, more people are sneezing, coughing, and touching their faces.
“It’s a delicate balance because the reasons for demonstrating are valid. And yet, the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk, so the only thing we can do as public health officials is to keep warning people be careful,” Fauci said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged all New Yorkers to get tested for the coronavirus, especially those who participated in protests this week.
“If you have been at one of these protests, I want to strongly urge you to get tested. It has been a real concern that people have gathered in close proximity,” de Blasio said Friday. “I want to keep reminding people: It is dangerous to be close together, and people must keep social distance.”
The Arizona health department reported 1,579 new coronavirus cases Friday, the most ever confirmed in a single day. The three highest daily number of new cases reported have come in the last four days, with the previous high of more than 1,100 reported Tuesday. The high rate of increase reflects a lag in obtaining results from diagnostic tests from the time they were first performed, according to AZCentral.
The Brazilian health ministry recorded a record 1,437 daily coronavirus deaths Thursday, putting the country’s death toll at 34,021. Brazil is now trailing the U.S. and the United Kingdom in the number of fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Brazil overtook Italy as the third in the world in the number of deaths due to COVID-19.
The World Health Organization is advising people to wear protective masks at all times, a departure from older guidelines that said only sick people and caregivers need to wear masks.
Nursing home occupancy dropped by nearly 10% from late last year to late May. The decline in occupancy “reflects many factors including virus-related deaths, deaths from other causes and a steep drop in new admissions,” according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Of the 110,909 confirmed coronavirus deaths in the U.S., 40,600 have occurred in nursing homes.
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