Government data on Thursday is expected to show that new state claims for unemployment insurance continued to decline last week as the improving public health situation and the easing of pandemic-related restrictions allowed the labor market to continue its gradual return to normal.
Applications for unemployment benefits remain high by historical standards, but they have fallen significantly in recent weeks after progress stalled in the fall and winter. Weekly filings for state benefits, which peaked at more than six million last spring, fell below 700,000 for the first time in late March; economists expect the Labor Department on Thursday to report that filings were under 600,000 for a third consecutive week.
“In the last few weeks we’ve seen a pretty dramatic improvement in the claims data, and I think that does signal that there’s been an acceleration in the labor market recovery in April,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the employment site ZipRecruiter.
Economists should get a clearer picture of the labor market’s progress on Friday, when the Labor Department will release data on hiring and unemployment in April. The report is expected to show that employers added about one million jobs last month, up from 916,000 in March. The leisure and hospitality industry, which was hardest hit by the initial phase of the pandemic last spring, has led the way in the recovery in recent months, a trend that forecasters believe continued in April.
Many employers have said in recent weeks that they would like to hire even faster but have struggled to find enough workers. Some have blamed enhanced unemployment benefits for discouraging people from returning to work. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana said his state would pull out of a federal program offering enhanced benefits to unemployed workers and would instead pay a $1,200 bonus to recipients when they find new jobs.
Economic research has found that unemployment benefits can reduce the intensity with which workers search for jobs. But most studies find that the impact on the overall labor market is small, especially when unemployment is high. And Mr. Zhao and other economists say there are other reasons that labor supply might be rebounding more slowly than labor demand. Many potential workers are juggling child care or other responsibilities at home; others remain cautious about the health risks of returning to in-person work.
“I think we will see labor supply improve pretty dramatically in the coming months as the pandemic abates,” Mr. Zhao said.
Wall Street futures were higher on Thursday, while European shares were mixed, as investors prepared for the latest data on the health of the U.S. labor markets and digested an assortment of corporate earnings reports.
S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 percent. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index was 0.2 percent lower, the FTSE 100 in Britain was 0.2 percent higher. The Dax in Germany gained 0.1 percent.
The Labor Department will today reveal its weekly tally for new state claims for unemployment insurance. The number is expected to decline, an indication that pandemic-related restrictions on businesses are easing as health conditions improve.
Oil futures fell after recent gains, with West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark, down 0.6 percent to $65.25 a barrel. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes were unchanged.
President Biden’s surprise announcement that he would support efforts to waive intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines caused share prices for some pharmaceutical companies to tumble. But the United States has come under increasing pressure to allow more companies to make the vaccines as the virus continues to spread in countries like India and South Africa.
On Thursday, shares of BioNTech, the German firm that developed a successful vaccine with Pfizer, continued to fall in trading in Germany. The stock has tumbled 15 percent since the White House announcement. The Maryland-based drug maker Novavax, which is expected to seek U.S. approval for its vaccine soon, fell 5 percent on Wednesday, and has fallen another 4.5 percent in premarket trading Thursday.
The issue has moved to the European Union, where leaders are under pressure to back the patent waiver, which is a measure before the World Trade Organization.
The British pound rose 0.2 percent against the U.S. dollar as the Bank of England announced it would hold interest rates at 0.1 percent but would slow down the pace of its bond-buying program for the rest of the year. Policymakers also increased their forecasts for the British economy.
Traders have also been watching local elections taking place across Britain on Thursday, which will test the appetite for independence in Scotland. The results won’t be known until Friday.
Consider it a small victory.
Eurostar, the sleek and speedy high-speed train service that ties London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and other cities, will increase as of May 27 its timetable to two trains per day on its once heavily-traveled Paris-London route, up from just one round-trip train per day imposed during the pandemic.
The slightly increased service comes as governments in Europe plan to slowly lift longstanding national restrictions on travel designed to combat the spread of the virus. From a peak of running more than 60 trains a day, Eurostar cut service during the pandemic to one daily round-trip between London and Paris, and one on its London-Brussels and Amsterdam routes.
The Brussels/Amsterdam route will remain the same with one train in each direction per day, a spokesman said, adding that Eurostar will adapt its timetable should demand increase, which still depends on travel restrictions across its routes.
Eurostar’s future has been thrown into turmoil as pandemic measures led last year to a 95 percent slump in ridership, creating a cash crunch and pushing the iconic company to the brink of bankruptcy.
While some airlines and other tourist-related businesses in Europe have been able to rely on government support during the crisis, Eurostar, an independent train operator, isn’t eligible for direct state aid.
Last month, the company, which is now owned by a consortium that includes the French and Belgium national railways, reportedly secured a deal with its lenders to refinance a debt pile worth £400 million ($553 million). The British government, which in 2015 sold its stake in the rail company, last month declined to back a broader financial rescue package.
A spokesman for Eurostar said it had no new details on a financial rescue, but said that “conversations are still progressing.” The spokesman added that it is “too early to predict a recovery to prepandemic levels, this would be very much dependent on the easing of international travel restrictions which are yet to be confirmed.”
Eurostar trains will continue to maintain some vacant seats onboard to allow for social distancing. The company said it is advising riders to check with their embassies before traveling, and to consult the company’s website for the latest information.
Tim Lorentz, a special-education teacher in Spokane, Wash., loves both cars and boats. He has raced cars and has owned a variety of muscle and exotic vehicles.
“Car guys always want to own or drive a unique car that no one else owns,” Mr. Lorentz said. “I created an eight-passenger convertible. Why not a boat mounted over a convertible? I have never seen another one like it.”
And so the LaBoata was born. Mr. Lorentz, now 65, built it in 2009 using a white 1993 LeBaron a used 17-foot boat he got for $100, Mercedes Lilienthal reports for The New York Times.
The LaBoata was “instant fun,” he said, until he received a letter from the Washington Department of Motor Vehicles canceling his registration and title. The authorities had noticed his converted convertible, and they weren’t amused. He removed the boat shell, drove the car to the D.M.V. and had it reinspected, reinstated and relicensed. He went home and popped the boat back on, and he has had no issues since.
Mr. Lorentz is part of a community that builds cars out of scrap. Kelvin Odartei Cruickshank, who is 19 and lives in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, built, from scratch, a two-person car that looks like a ramshackle DeLorean. It took three years to complete. Mr. Cruickshank used about $200 of scrap metal and parts not normally used in cars because of financial constraints.
Fox News, the cable news giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch, kept its parent company flush in the first three months of the year, notching a slight gain in profit and sales despite a drop in viewers. Altogether, Fox Corporation beat Wall Street expectations with a sevenfold increase in profit to $567 million and a 6.5 percent drop in revenue to $3.2 billion compared with the same period a year prior. But revenue at most of its businesses dropped as fewer viewers tuned into the company’s cable channels and the Fox broadcast network, in part because Fox did not host the Super Bowl this year. Total advertising sales fell 24 percent to $1.2 billion.
Uber said its business was recovering from the slowdown caused by the pandemic, although it continued to lose money. The company said on Wednesday that revenue was $2.9 billion in the first three months of the year, down 11 percent from the same period a year ago. Excluding money earmarked for a settlement with drivers in Britain, Uber’s revenue was $3.5 billion, an 8 percent increase from the previous year that outpaced Wall Street expectations of $3.28 billion.
The New York Times Company recorded its smallest gain in new subscribers in a year and a half. The Times reported a total of 7.8 million subscribers across both print and digital platforms, with 6.9 million coming for online news or its Cooking and Games apps. The company added 301,000 digital customers for the first three months of the year, the lowest increase since the third quarter of 2019. The company reported adjusted operating profit of $68 million, a 54 percent jump from last year, as it generated more dollars from each subscriber, partly because of the expiration of promotional rates as the new year rolled over. Total revenue rose modestly, about 6.6 percent, to $473 million.