US layoffs remain elevated as 803,000 seek jobless aid – Long Island Business News


The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 89,000 last week to a still-elevated 803,000, evidence that the job market remains under stress nine months after the coronavirus outbreak sent the U.S. economy into recession and caused millions of layoffs.

The latest figure, released Wednesday by the Labor Department, shows that many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home. Before the virus struck, jobless claims typically numbered around 225,000 a week before shooting up to 6.9 million in early spring when the virus — and efforts to contain it — flattened the economy. The pace of layoffs has since declined but remains historically high in the face of the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

“The fact that more than nine months into the crisis, initial claims are still running at such a high level is, in absolute terms, bad news,” Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at the economic consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc., wrote in a research note. “With the pandemic again worsening, it is likely that claims will remain quite elevated for some time.’’

The latest data on unemployment claims came on the same day that the government reported that consumer spending — the principal driver of the economy — fell in November for the first time since April. The 0.4% drop, coming in the midst of the crucial holiday shopping season, added to concerns that weak consumer spending will slow the economy in coming months. Economists suggested that the viral crisis, combined with diminished income and colder weather, likely led Americans to pull back in November.

Also on Wednesday, the government said that sales of new single-family homes sank 11% from October to November, though purchases remain up nearly 21% from a year ago. Boosted by rock-bottom mortgage rates, housing has proved resilient since the health crisis erupted last spring.

Another report Wednesday showed that orders to U.S. factories for high-cost manufactured goods rose a moderate 0.9% in November, with a key category that tracks business investment plans showing a gain. The rise in orders for durable goods, which are items that are expected to last at least three years, followed even stronger gains in recent months. The pace of orders has now nearly regained its pre-pandemic level.

In its report on applications for unemployment aid, the government said the total number of people who are receiving traditional state benefits fell to 5.3 million for the week that ended Dec. 12 from a week earlier. That figure had peaked in early May at nearly 23 million. The steady decline since then means that some unemployed Americans are finding work and no longer receiving aid. But it also indicates that many of the unemployed have used up their state benefits, which typically expire after six months.

Millions more jobless Americans are now collecting checks under two federal programs that were created in March to ease the economic pain inflicted by the pandemic. Those programs had been set to expire the day after Christmas. On Monday, Congress agreed to extend them as part of a $900 billion pandemic rescue package.

On Tuesday night, though, President Donald Trump suddenly raised doubts about that aid and other federal money by attacking Congress’ rescue package as inadequate and suggesting that he might not sign it into law.

The supplemental federal jobless benefit in Congress’ new measure has been set at $300 a week — only half the amount provided in March — and will expire in 11 weeks. A separate benefits program for jobless people who have exhausted their regular state aid and another benefits program for self-employed and gig workers will also be extended only until early spring, well before the economy will likely have fully recovered.

A tentative economic recovery from the springtime collapse has been faltering in the face of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases: An average of more than 200,000 confirmed cases a day, up from fewer than 35,000 in early September. Hiring in November slowed for a fifth straight month, with employers adding the fewest jobs since April. Nearly 10 million of the 22 million people who lost jobs when the pandemic hit in the spring are still unemployed.

According to the data firm Womply, closings are rising in some hard-hit businesses. For example, 42% of bars were closed as of Dec. 16, up from 33% at the start of November. Over the same period, closures rose from 25% to 29% at restaurants and from 27% to 35% at salons and other health and beauty shops.

The number of jobless people who are collecting aid from one of the two federal extended-benefit programs — the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don’t qualify for traditional benefits — rose by nearly 27,000 to 9.3 million in the week that ended Dec. 5.

The number of people receiving aid under the second program — the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides federal jobless benefits to people who have exhausted their state aid — fell by nearly 8,200 to 4.8 million.

All told, 20.4 million people are now receiving some type of unemployment benefits. (Figures for the two pandemic-related programs aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.)

States and cities have been increasingly issuing mask mandates, limiting the size of gatherings, restricting or banning restaurant dining, closing gyms or reducing the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses, all of which has slowed economic activity. With vaccines now beginning to be gradually distributed, though, optimism is rising about 2021.

Months from now, economists say, the widespread distribution and use of the vaccines could potentially unleash a robust economic rebound as the virus is quashed, businesses reopen, hiring picks up and consumers spend freely again.

Until then, the limited aid Congress has agreed to won’t likely be sufficient to stave off hardships for many households and small companies, especially if lawmakers balk at enacting further aid early next year. And a widening financial gap between the affluent and disadvantaged households will likely worsen.

“Recession risks are very high,″ said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “I do think the economy’s going to start losing some jobs here. Unemployment will probably go higher. The only thing that will save us from recession is that $900 billion fiscal rescue package.″





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Kenmore elevated to QFA Division 1 Hart Sport Cup.


AFL Queensland has today announced that the Kenmore Bears have been granted a licence to play in the QFA Division 1 Hart Sport Cup for season 2021.

With Noosa having being elevated to the QAFL, the Division 1 competition will be an eight-team competition in 2021, with the return of the Caloundra Panthers after sitting out 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and the promotion of the Kenmore Bears.

After being granted a provisional division 1 licence in 2020, Kenmore did an outstanding job in strengthening their club throughout 2020. They laid a strong platform for 2021, headlined by them winning both the Reserves and Senior grade Premierships in the QFA Division 2 South competition.

Leigh Harding, Competition Manager QFA, said Kenmore had done everything asked of them to rubber stamp their promotion.

“We were candid with Kenmore about the areas we felt they needed to strengthen to make the step up in 2021 and to their credit they did a fantastic job of making sure they were ready on all fronts and even added some silverware in the process ,” Mr Harding said.

Kenmore President, Terry Mumford, said the Bears were looking forward to embracing the challenges stepping up into the Division 1 competition brings.

“We have some really exciting times ahead, with a new facility about to be constructed and now this elevation into Division 1. 

We are extremely proud of the way the club embraced 2020 and we look forward to seeing the growth within our club over the coming years,” Mr Mumford said.





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Trebek remembered for grace that elevated him above TV host


Alex Trebek never pretended to have all the answers, but the “Jeopardy!” host became an inspiration and solace to Americans who otherwise are at odds with each other.

He looked and sounded the part of a senior statesman, impeccably suited and groomed and with an authoritative voice any politician would covet. He commanded his turf — the quiz show”s stage — but refused to overshadow its brainy contestants.

And when he faced the challenge of pancreatic cancer, which claimed his life Sunday at age 80, he was honest, optimistic and graceful. Trebek died at his Los Angeles home, surrounded by family and friends, “Jeopardy!” studio Sony said.

The Canadian-born host made a point of informing fans about his health directly, in a series of brief online videos. He faced the camera and spoke in a calm, even tone as he revealed his illness and hope for a cure in the first message, posted in March 2019.

“Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this and I’m going to keep working,” Trebek said, even managing a wisecrack: He had to beat the disease because his “Jeopardy!” contract had three more years to run.

Trebek’s death came less than four months after that of civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, also of advanced pancreatic cancer and at age 80. Trebek had offered him words of encouragement last January.

In a memoir published this year, “The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life,” Trebek suggested that he’s known but not celebrated, and compared himself to a visiting relative who TV viewers find “comforting and reassuring as opposed to being impressed by me.”

That was contradicted Sunday by the messages of grief and respect from former contestants, celebrities and the wider public that quickly followed news of his loss.

“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” tweeted “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings. “Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family — which, in a way, included millions of us.”

“It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life. You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex,” James Holzhauer, another “Jeopardy!” star, posted on Twitter.

Recent winner Burt Thakur tweeted that he was “overwhelmed with emotion.” When he appeared on Friday’s show, Thakur recounted learning English diction as a child from watching Trebek on “Jeopardy!” with his grandfather.

The program films weeks of shows in advance, and there was no immediate reply from Sony about how many shows with Trebek are completed and if they will air.

“Jeopardy!” bills itself as “America’s favourite quiz show” and captivated the public with a unique format in which contestants were told the answers and had to provide the questions on a variety of subjects, including movies, politics, history and popular culture.

They would answer by saying “What is … ?” or “Who is …. ?”

Trebek, who became its host in 1984, was a master of the format, engaging in friendly banter with contestants, appearing genuinely pleased when they answered correctly and, at the same time, moving the game along in a brisk no-nonsense fashion whenever people struggled for answers.

“I try not to take myself too seriously,” he told an interviewer in 2004. “I don’t want to come off as a pompous ass and indicate that I know everything when I don’t.”

The show was the brainstorm of Julann Griffin, wife of the late talk show host-entrepreneur Merv Griffin, who said she suggested to him one day that he create a game show where people were given the answers.

“Jeopardy!” debuted on NBC in 1964 with Art Fleming as emcee and was an immediate hit. It lasted until 1975, then was revived in syndication with Trebek.

Long identified by a full head of hair and trim mustache (though in 2001 he startled viewers by shaving his mustache, “completely on a whim”), Trebek was more than qualified for the job, having started his game show career on “Reach for the Top” in his native country.

Moving to the U.S. in 1973, he appeared on “The Wizard of Odds,” “High Rollers,” “The $128,000 Question” and “Double Dare.” Even during his run on “Jeopardy!”, Trebek worked on other shows. In the early 1990s, he was the host of three — “Jeopardy!”, “To Tell the Truth” and “Classic Concentration.”

“Jeopardy!” made him famous. He won five Emmys as its host, including one last June, and received stars on both the Hollywood and Canadian walks of fame. In 2012, the show won a prestigious Peabody Award.

He taped his daily “Jeopardy!” shows at a frenetic pace, recording as many as 10 episodes (two weeks’ worth) in just two days. After what was described as a mild heart attack in 2007, he was back at work in just a month.

He posted a video in January 2018 announcing he’d undergone surgery for blood clots on the brain that followed a fall he’d taken. The show was on hiatus during his recovery.

It had yet to bring in a substitute host for Trebek — save once, when he and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak swapped their TV jobs as an April’s Fool prank.

In 2012, Trebek acknowledged that he was considering retirement, but had been urged by friends to stay on so he could reach 30 years on the show. He still loved the job, he declared: “What’s not to love? You have the security of a familiar environment, a familiar format, but you have the excitement of new clues and new contestants on every program. You can’t beat that!”

Although many viewers considered him one of the key reasons for the show’s success, Trebek himself insisted he was only there to keep things moving.

“My job is to provide the atmosphere and assistance to the contestants to get them to perform at their very best,” he said in a 2012 interview. “And if I’m successful doing that, I will be perceived as a nice guy and the audience will think of me as being a bit of a star. But not if I try to steal the limelight!”

In a January 2019 interview with The Associated Press, Trebek discussed his decision to keep going with “Jeopardy!”

“It’s not as if I’m overworked — we tape 46 days a year,” he said. But he acknowledged he would retire someday, if he lost his edge or the job was no longer fun, adding: “And it’s still fun.”

Born July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, Trebek was sent off to boarding school by his Ukrainian father and French-Canadian mother when he was barely in his teens.

After graduating high school, he spent a summer in Cincinnati to be close to a girlfriend, then returned to Canada to attend college. After earning a philosophy degree from the University of Ottawa, he went to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Co., starting as a staff announcer and eventually becoming a radio and TV reporter.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1997. Trebek’s first marriage, to Elaine Callei, ended in divorce. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, and they had two children, Emily and Matthew.

Trebek is survived by his wife, their two children and his stepdaughter, Nicky.



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Proud Munster elevated to Storm’s leadership group


Storm coach Craig Bellamy and Munster have long bonded over league but clashed over his off-field behaviour, so when the coach called him into a meeting, Munster’s mind raced.

“I had my hands up ready to go [fight] if he wanted to – when he pulls me into his office it’s not to give me any accolades,” Munster said jokingly.

“He had that voice going that showed he had something serious to talk about.

“Then he said the boys wanted me in the leadership group – I said ‘good gag’ but it turned out to be true.”

Munster credits being around his teammates more and the support of his girlfriend as reasons behind his elevation. It’s a big change from when his career was under threat after he was sent home from a Kangaroos camp in late 2017 for an incident with a teammate at a nightspot.

“It was a little hit to the chest when Bellyache [Bellamy] said the leadership group wanted me in. It gives me a step up in life. I’m 6’4 now,” Munster said with a laugh.

“The last 18 months I’ve been squeaky clean with everything I’ve done on the field and off the field. That shows in the way I’m playing.”

This season has been tough for every club and it’s been 11 weeks ago since the entire Storm team and many of their families relocated to the Sunshine Coast where they will be based for the rest of this campaign.

However, these situations reveal people’s true character and Munster is one of those who have helped keep spirits high.

Practical jokes, lookalikes and other social activities have helped the Storm, as has getting to know each other’s families since they are all based at the same resort.

Even a knee injury didn’t derail Munster’s good form while the Storm have built a 14-3 record and are three points behind first-place Penrith Panthers with three games before finals.

The potential returns of winger Suliasi Vunivalu and prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona are welcome developments for this Sunday’s clash with North Queensland Cowboys although a nagging Achilles injury to fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen will see him rested.

Munster extended his jokes to journalists during his media conference on Wednesday when asked about Papenhuyzen’s absence.

“Is Paps out?” Munster said in fake shock. “Nah, just joking. It’s not ideal with his Achilles but we won’t take any chances with him.”

Munster’s mature approach extends to State of Origin duties after the finals as some players expressed concern their $30,000 fee for each game could be reduced this year despite asking players to spend more time locked away in a hub.

“No one is bigger than the game,” the Queensland regular said. “I’m happy to jump into another bubble as long as it’s ideal and we are not living like prisoners.

“The match payment isn’t one of my massive issues. I want to play if I get that opportunity.”

The Storm play North Queensland Cowboys at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday at 4.05pm AEST.

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