U.S. economy suffers job losses as COVID-19 ravages restaurants, bars



FILE PHOTO: Construction workers wait in line to do a temperature test to return to the job site after lunch, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

January 8, 2021

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy shed jobs for the first time in eight months in December as the country buckled under an onslaught of COVID-19 infections, suggesting a significant loss of momentum that could temporarily disrupt the recovery from the pandemic.

The plunge in nonfarm payrolls reported by the Labor Department on Friday was concentrated in the coronavirus-sensitive leisure and hospitality sector, which lost nearly half a million jobs. But with other industries including retail, manufacturing and construction performing better, the economy is unlikely to tip back into recession.

Nearly $900 billion in additional pandemic relief approved by the government in late December will probably provide a backstop. More fiscal stimulus is expected now that Democrats have gained effective control of the U.S. Senate, boosting the prospects for President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. There is also optimism the rollout of coronavirus vaccines will be better coordinated under the incoming Biden administration.

Congress on Thursday formally certified Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election, hours after hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. The employment report is one of the final scorecards delivered during the Trump presidency and stands as a reminder of the tumultuous economic crisis that marked his last months in office.

“This is a pause in the recovery, not a full-on stall,” said Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial in New York.

Payrolls decreased by 140,000 jobs last month, the first decline since April, after increasing by 336,000 in November. The economy has recovered 12.4 million of the 22.2 million jobs lost during the pandemic. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 77,000 jobs would be added in December.

COVID-19 cases in the United States have jumped to more than 21 million, with the death toll exceeding 357,000, according to a Reuters analysis.

The leisure and hospitality sector lost 498,000 jobs last month, with employment at bars and restaurants tumbling 372,000, accounting for three quarters of the drop. Restaurants and bars in many states, including New York and California, were shut during the holidays to slow the spread of the virus. Excluding the leisure and hospitality sector, payrolls rose at roughly the same pace as in November.

There were also decreases in private education jobs as many universities and colleges closed after the Thanksgiving holiday. Government employment declined for a fourth straight month, with losses spread across federal state and local governments.

But retail employment rose by 121,000 jobs. Factories hired 38,000 workers and construction payrolls increased by 51,000 jobs. There were also gains in employment in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, health care and wholesale trade industries.

Weak payrolls joined soft consumer confidence and spending in underscoring the brutal impact of the coronavirus on the economy, which sank into recession in February. The data increases the likelihood of another rescue package by March.

Stocks on Wall Street were trading mostly higher on hopes of more government money. The dollar rose against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices were trading mostly lower.

SOME SILVER LININGS

With the virus hollowing out lower-wage industries, average hourly earnings surged 0.8% after gaining 0.3% in November. The average workweek dipped to 34.7 hours from 34.8 in November.

Though the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7% in December, that was because of people misclassifying themselves as being “employed but absent from work.” Without this misclassification, the jobless rate would have been about 7.3%.

Despite last month’s job losses, the labor market is steadily improving. A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, fell to 11.7% from 12.0% in November.

The number of people who have permanently lost their jobs declined by 348,000 to 3.370 million. That was the biggest drop since December 2010. Still, it will probably take years for the scars from the pandemic to heal. Nearly 4 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six weeks, accounting for 37.1% of the jobless in December.

“These scarring effects pose downside risks to the recovery and could lead to elevated long-term unemployment and weakened labor market attachment for years to come,” said Lydia Boussour, a senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York.

The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, remains at a depressed 61.5%. The employment-to-population ratio, seen as a measure of an economy’s ability to create jobs, held at a low 57.4%.

Economists are optimistic employment will rebound in the months ahead and accelerate through 2021 amid expectations for increased inoculations and additional fiscal stimulus, including more infrastructure spending under the Biden administration.

“Savings are burning a hole in many people’s pockets after having to avoid travel, in-person dining and entertainment for nearly a year,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Hiring could ramp up quickly once COVID cases are more under control.”

Many economists have upgraded their 2021 growth estimates following the recent relief package and two runoff elections in Georgia this week that gave Democrats effective control of the U.S. Senate. Biden’s party maintained its control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 3 election.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)



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Despite Chaos and Big Losses, Republicans Still Control Most of Georgia


“I think that an overwhelming majority of the voters will come back our direction and reward us,” Mr. Duncan said. “And if they don’t see that as a valuable trait of their lieutenant governor, then I don’t want to represent them. I’ll be perfectly fine getting defeated if they don’t reward or recognize the value of honesty and integrity. I’m not their guy.”

When Mr. Trump is taken out of the equation, Republicans’ fundamentals are indeed strong in Georgia, at least for the immediate future. Every statewide elected office in state government is currently in Republican hands. And Democrats, who had hoped to make big inroads in the state legislature, netted only two State House seats and one State Senate seat in November’s elections, leaving Republicans with comfortable majorities in both houses.

That means that Republicans this year will control the decennial redrawing of state legislative and congressional district maps, giving them the ability to protect their own and create new problems for some sitting Democratic office holders. In the legislative session that begins Monday, Republicans are promising to impose strict new limits on voting in the wake of record voter turnout.

Republican legislators and state officials have discussed eliminating no-excuse absentee voting, which surged in popularity in the pandemic. They have also considered eliminating drop boxes for absentee ballots, curbing unsolicited absentee ballot applications and requiring a photo identification requirement for mail-in ballots.

Georgia’s Republican House speaker, David Ralston, said he was unlikely to support eliminating no-excuse absentee voting. But any attempts to curtail the current system are likely to be cited by Democrats as examples of voter suppression, a charge they have leveled against Mr. Kemp, a former secretary of state, for years.

Moreover, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, one of the two Democratic Senate victors this week along with Jon Ossoff, will have to run for re-election in 2022, because, in defeating Senator Kelly Loeffler, he is technically finishing out the term of the retired former Senator Johnny Isakson. He is likely to be a top target for national Republicans.

The activists who have been helping drive turnout and bolster Democrats know they have their work cut out for them.

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Dollar drops on first trading day, portending more losses ahead


The dollar’s weakness is likely to be most notable “against the emerging markets FX complex, which should have cyclical upside and is still relatively cheap.”

The world’s reserve currency fell on the first trading day of 2021, foreshadowing more losses to come, after a slew of improving Asian manufacturing data bolstered risk assets.

The dollar hit 2018 lows against currencies including the Chinese yuan and the Malaysian ringgit, while also declining against every Group-of-10 peer. Purchasing managers indexes from Japan to Indonesia showed gains for the last month of December, data showed Monday.

“Uncertainty is diminishing and the strong global growth recovery should favor the rest of the world, so we think the USD has some overvaluation to work off,” Patrik Schowitz, global multi-asset strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, wrote in a note. The dollar’s weakness is likely to be most notable “against the emerging markets FX complex, which should have cyclical upside and is still relatively cheap.”

Onshore yuan breached the 6.5 level for the first time since June 2018, while the ringgit crossed the 4 level mark against the dollar. The Indonesian rupiah jumped more than 1%, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars rose.

“China’s growth remains strong while the US and Europe struggle to contain the virus, and that is helping the yuan to extend a rally into the new year,” said Ken Cheung, chief Asia foreign-exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. “We expect the yuan to gain even further from here, as China will lead the world in terms of economic recovery in the first half. The currency may test 6.3 in the coming months.”

Vaccine optimism and hopes for additional US fiscal stimulus has ramped up demand for risk assets and weighed on the dollar. Calls for greenback declines are also gaining momentum with the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and BlackRock Inc. favoring emerging market currencies over the greenback. — Ruth Carson and Tian Chen/Bloomberg








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Oil trims losses after Trump signs aid bill; demand concerns linger


December 28, 2020

By Koustav Samanta

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil pared some of its losses from earlier on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a $2.3 trillion coronavirus aid and spending package but lingering worries about near-term demand weighed on market sentiment.

Brent crude futures were down 25 cents, or 0.5%, to $51.04 a barrel at 0700 GMT, having fallen as much as 1.5% to $50.53 a barrel earlier in the session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 19 cents, or 0.4%, to $48.04 a barrel.

“With President Trump signing the bill, oil has quickly recouped most of its losses today, although both Brent and WTI remain modestly in the red,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

The U.S. president’s move was cheered as it would restore unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and avert a federal government shutdown.

“With trading volumes thinned by the holiday week, oil is likely to remain below the radar in coming days. That said, the signing of the U.S. stimulus bill, with the possibility of an increased size, should put a floor under oil prices in a shortened week,” Halley said.

But a new highly infectious variant of the coronavirus, which was first seen in Britain and has now been detected in several other countries, has led to mobility restrictions being reimposed, fuelling concern over demand recovery.

The oil market would be taking cues from the virus situation as it develops in coming days, market watchers said.

“With the world now urgently launching mass vaccination programmes, the near-term fate for oil market might be how quickly vaccines can close the gap in the race to contain the new variant,” Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, said in a note.

“Any complication on the pandemic front, whether its vaccine logistical, or lockdown related, could be met with more selling as January oil demand is on less solid footings, especially if the virus situations worsen more than anticipated post-holiday, ultimately handcuffing lawmakers.”

(Reporting by Koustav Samanta; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Stocks fall on worries about virus’ spread, but pare losses


Stocks are falling Monday as a new, potentially more infectious strain of the coronavirus has countries around the world restricting travel from the United Kingdom, raising worries that the economy is about to take even worse punishment

The S&P 500 was 0.3% lower in afternoon trading, on pace for a second straight drop after setting a record on Thursday. But the index pared its loss as the day progressed, recovering from an earlier 2% drop.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 56 points, or 0.2%, at 30,236, as of 2:17 p.m. Eastern time, after erasing an earlier 423 point loss. The Nasdaq composite was 0.2% lower.

It’s a busy day of trading, with plenty of forces pushing and pulling the market. Thin trading ahead of a holiday-shortened week may also be exacerbating moves, analysts said. Crude oil prices were also dropping on worries about disappearing demand, and Treasury yields slipped.

One big factor for the market is Congress, which finally appears set to act on a $900 billion relief effort for the economy. House and Senate leaders are planning to vote Monday on the deal, which would include $600 in cash payments sent to most Americans, extra benefits for laid-off workers and other financial support.

Economists and investors have been clamoring for such aid for months, and a recent upswing in momentum for talks had stock prices rising in anticipation of a deal. Analysts said some traders may be selling now to lock in profits, with the compromise all but assured and prices close to the highest they’ve ever been. Even after Monday’s drop, the S&P 500 is back only to where it was earlier this month.

Across the Atlantic, negotiators blew past a Sunday deadline set for talks on trade terms for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. Investors have been fixed on the progress of those talks because a Brexit with no deal could cause massive disruptions for businesses on New Year’s Day.

Monday is also the first day of trading for Tesla since joining the S&P 500 index. The electric-vehicle maker surged so much this year, nearly 731% as of Friday evening, that some critics say its price doesn’t make sense. But its inclusion in the benchmark index triggered $90.3 billion in trades, as the company instantly became the sixth-biggest in the S&P 500. Tesla slumped 4.8% Monday.

The market’s focus, though, was centered nearly 3,500 miles to the east of Wall Street, where U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday that he was placing London and the southeast of England in a new level of restrictions after scientific advisers warned they detected a new variant of the coronavirus. There is no evidence that the new strain’s mutations make it more deadly, but it seems to infect more easily than others.

Two COVID-19 vaccines have already been approved for the United States, and regulators around the world have also either approved or are considering usage of the vaccines. Hope that widespread vaccinations will nurse the economy back to some semblance of normal has been a big reason for surging prices across markets worldwide.

But for now, vaccinations are only for health care workers and other high-risk populations. It will be a while before a more widespread rollout can get life around the world closer to normal, and surging numbers of coronavirus counts and deaths in the meanwhile are setting the global economy up for a bleak few months.

The worries hit stock markets hardest in Europe, where France banned U.K. trucks from entering for a period of 48 hours. Other countries around the world also halted flights from the United Kingdom.

France’s CAC 40 fell 2.4%, and Germany’s DAX lost 2.8%. The FTSE 100 in London dropped 1.7%.

All the new restrictions on movement also sent travel-related stocks on Wall Street to sharp losses. Cruise operator Carnival dropped 1.4%, Norwegian Cruise Line fell 1.7% and American Airlines lost 2.7%.

Stocks of energy producers were also weak on worries that heightened travel restrictions could mean even fewer airplane seats filled and fewer miles driven by automobiles.

Amid the market’s few gainers was Nike, which rose 4.7% after reporting stronger revenue and profit for its latest quarter than analysts expected.

Financial stocks were another rare source of resilience, after the Federal Reserve said Friday that the 33 largest banks look healthy enough to survive a sharp downturn. The Fed also permitted buybacks of company stock, with some limits.

Goldman Sachs rose 6.8% after it said it expects to begin buying back its stock again next quarter. Goldman Sachs and Nike are two of the 30 stocks in the Dow, and their big moves higher left it faring much better than measures of the broader stock market.

In Asian stock markets, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.2% after Japan’s Cabinet approved a record annual budget of 106.6 trillion yen ($1.03 trillion) for the coming fiscal year, which begins April 1.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.7%, South Korea’s Kospi recovered from early losses to gain 0.2% and stocks in Shanghai rose 0.8%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.94% from 0.93% late Friday.

———

AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.



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Why Some States Are Predicting Higher Revenue Amid Job Losses


As Congress has spent the last few weeks debating aid to state and local governments, a number of states have announced surprising news: Their finances no longer look quite as bad as they had feared in the uncertain early days of the pandemic.

States are still broadly hurting from the economic crisis. But California now expects a one-time windfall this fiscal year. Wisconsin said it might still be able to sock away some revenue in its rainy day fund. Maryland nudged up its projected revenues, for the second time this fall. And Minnesota now forecasts a surplus.

This good news reflects in part the dire economic expectations of six months ago; even modest numbers look good now compared with the worst fears written into state budgets in the spring. And state officials say they’ll still need federal help, as they expect the pandemic’s effects to drag on for years and to batter local governments. Federal help, after all, is part of what has buoyed them so far.

The states with rosier forecasts also complicate the political fight in Washington over state aid, which has held up agreement on a year-end stimulus deal. Republicans have characterized state aid as a bailout for profligate blue states. But many states that are looking better now have among the most progressive tax structures in the country, and that is part of what has rescued them this year.

This recession, distinct from many before it, has piled its worst effects on low-wage workers. That means that state budgets that rely the most on wealthier residents to fund government haven’t been hurt as much by an economic crisis that left the well-off largely unscathed.

“We have a recession for low-wage earners, and we have just a weird situation for everyone else,” said Peter Franchot, the comptroller for Maryland, which announced last week a $64 million increase in estimated revenues this budget year, compared with September estimates (which were up $1.4 billion from May).

Forecasters and state officials say they didn’t see this coming back in May and June, when they drafted budgets imagining a severe downturn that might look more like the Great Recession — with broad layoffs among manufacturing workers, with a slumping stock market, with economic pain spreading into white-collar offices and middle-class subdivisions.

In typical recessions, when unemployment rises steeply, state revenues fall steeply, too. But the relationship between the two has been much weaker this year. Effectively, the inequality inherent in the Covid recession has insulated many states from worse fiscal effects.

But that doesn’t mean that everything is fine.

“Despite the progressive tax structure, despite the wealth that we have in Maryland, despite the fact that we’re back within a safe harbor of tax revenue collection, the suffering is just completely unacceptable,” said Mr. Franchot, who has called for Maryland to enact its own stimulus apart from Congress.

In California, which has a progressive income tax, state revenues collected this year through October were down only modestly from that same timeline in 2019. Texas, which has no state income tax and what is considered among the least equitable tax systems in the country, has been in a more precarious position.

While Texas does not rely on taxes from the volatile energy sector to finance its base budget, decreased oil and gas production and lower prices have also contributed to the drop in overall tax revenue.

Florida and Nevada, which rely heavily on tourism (which has been harmed by the pandemic), also have no income tax. And Florida is among the few states that never moved to capture sales taxes on online transactions after a 2018 Supreme Court decision expanded that power for states. (In Texas, the ability to tax e-commerce has been a salve in this moment, adding about $1.3 billion in the last year.)

From the start of the pandemic in March through October, tax revenues in 38 states were down 5 percent or less from the same period the year before, according to data from the Urban Institute. When states gave far graver projections in the spring, they didn’t have past experiences to draw on and tried to be conservative in their estimates, said Lucy Dadayan, a senior research associate with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

“To be fair, they didn’t have any information,” Ms. Dadayan said. “Yes, the revenues are stronger than compared to initial forecasts prepared right after the pandemic in the spring. But that doesn’t mean revenues are performing well.”

Across all of these states, federal stimulus has played a significant role. It’s not that the crisis was exaggerated; it’s that the federal aid really worked.

Stimulus checks and extra unemployment dollars increased the consumption of laid-off workers, which in turn bolstered sales tax revenues. Most states also collect income tax on unemployment benefits. And all this federal support lessened the burden on states to provide a safety net to struggling families, even as federal dollars helped cover many state Covid expenses.

States that rely on higher-income taxpayers have been helped by other unexpected ways this recession has differed from past ones. Consumption has shifted from services, which are hard to consume in person in a pandemic, to goods, which are taxed much more heavily (you pay taxes when you buy a lawn mower, for example, but typically don’t pay taxes if you pay someone to mow your lawn).

In California, forecasters in March never expected the stock market to soar as it has. That has increased capital gains, which are taxed as regular income in the state. And a series of lucrative I.P.O.s — another unexpected mid-recession trend — has added to state revenue, too.

From August through October, collections from California’s personal income, sales and corporate taxes were up 9 percent over the same window last year, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. That’s a reflection of how well the well-off have fared this year. But the resulting budget windfall also exists because the state planned a budget in June for dire times.

“This is really a temporary situation,” said Gabriel Petek, an analyst in the California legislative office who prepared the latest fiscal outlook. The budget effects of this downturn have just been pushed into coming years, he said, when the state expects deficits that could further strain services.

“There’s been a little bit of a narrative that has emerged that the state is doing well fiscally, and it’s true that our revenue picture is better than we thought,” Mr. Petek said. “But really the only reason we’re in a better fiscal position is this one-time difference between what we’re collecting this year and what we assumed in the budget we’d collect.”

California, like other states, still doesn’t know how bad the pandemic’s winter surge will be. In the near term, states won’t be able to draw again on one-time pots like rainy day funds. Eventually, when the public health emergency ends, the federal government will cut extra payments to states to cover Medicaid. And local governments will continue to struggle, as they rely on even less stable revenue sources like parking fees, user fees on public transit, and hotel taxes.

States still face both sides of the pandemic’s built-in inequality — the affluent residents who’ve been sitting tight, buying stocks and new cars, but also the low-wage workers who are struggling.

“Even states that have a lot of rich people often have a lot of low-income people as well,” said Tracy Gordon, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center. State and local governments will ultimately be responsible for the safety net, she added, “and they’re not built to absorb that risk.”



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Adelaide councillors square off over aquatic centre losses in ‘economic rationalisation’ debate


The Adelaide Aquatic Centre’s future teeters on the brink this evening as a city councillor opens discussions to have the much-loved facility closed indefinitely by the end of March 2021.

With the northern Parklands centre performing at 72 per cent of pre-COVID levels, Councillor Jessy Khera will tonight move for the council to consider ending the pool’s operations indefinitely or until a decision is made to recommence operations.

Councillor Alexander Hyde told ABC Radio Adelaide the centre was predicted to make a loss of at least $1 million annually for the next 10 years.

“This year, the centre is estimated to lose $2.8 million, so that’s a substantial loss and over and above what we were expecting,” he said.

“At a time when we are discussing our revenue streams, what our operating deficit is, and whether or not we’re considering putting up rates, which ideally we don’t want to do, it’s certainly a discussion that I think the council needs to have.”

Losses disputed

Councillor Phil Martin, however, disputed such figures and said the centre’s average losses were $600,000 annually and they had been “cut back in the order of $300,000” prior to the pandemic.

He said the centre’s estimated losses had been “exacerbated by its closure during the height of the pandemic”.

The Adelaide Football Club planned to make its swimming pool open to the public.(Supplied)

But Cr Martin said the aquatic centre provided a service to the community, much like a library, and the idea it should be shut down because it was not making a profit was “economic rationalisation gone mad”.

“It’s the facility at which thousands of children every year learn to swim and moreover, this is a facility that provides services for the whole of the city, to disability groups, even to the police,” he said.

Late last year the facility faced a takeover proposal by the Adelaide Football Club, which wanted to rebuild it as community aquatic centre that would also have housed its headquarters and training centre.

The proposal sparked division among the council and community alike — with some opponents defacing nearby property with graffiti — until the pandemic forced the club to put its proposal on hold.

Pools can be profitable

Former chairperson of Victoria’s Peninsula Leisure, Roseanne Healy, had until recently managed Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre (PARC) on behalf of Frankston City Council.

She said her management group started turning over a profit within two years and said it was possible to do the same at Adelaide Aquatic Centre, which “was not dissimilar” in its size and offerings to PARC.

“We had large indoor water slides, Olympic-sized swimming pools, gym facilities and hydrotherapy,” she said.

“To some extent, we had more constraints, such as parking constraints, which adds another issue.

“There were no other facilities that were making a profit either, so we were highly regarded and often emulated.”

The facade of a rectangular swimming centre at sunset.
The similarly sized Frankston City Council’s aquatic centre in Victoria has been profitable.(Facebook: PARC – Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre)

Ms Healy said PARC serviced the community with local swimming teams, competitions, learn to swim classes, disability group activities, and used its profits to run free learn-to-swim lessons for some children.

“It was all about reframing the narrative of what a facility delivers,” said Ms Healy, who now lives in Adelaide.

“We were focused on delivering profits but we also operated like any other good corporate citizen and gave back to the community.”

Ms Healy said it also monitored “very carefully the level of engagement” its members had with the gym.

She said the centre had benefited this year from the digital services it had in place, such as for its gym, well before Melbourne’s extended lockdown earlier this year.



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US Supreme Court rejects Texas lawsuit aimed at overturning Donald Trump’s election losses in key states



The US Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a bid by Texas to overturn the results of the presidential election, which Republican Donald Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden, in a fresh setback for the president.

The longshot suit lodged late Tuesday against four states key in the 3 November vote – Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – challenged Mr Biden’s victory in each jurisdiction. 

But the Supreme Court, made up of nine justices including three appointed by Mr Trump, said Texas – which voted for the president – “has not demonstrated a judicially cognisable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”

The court’s decision “is an important reminder that we are a nation of laws, and though some may bend to the desire of a single individual, the courts will not,” tweeted Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel.

Biden spokesman Mike Gwin said the ruling was “no surprise.”

“Dozens of judges, election officials from both parties, and Trump’s own Attorney General have dismissed his baseless attempts to deny that he lost the election,” he said. 

The Texas suit had been seen as audacious and legally unsound, given that no one state has any legal right to interfere in another’s voting processes. Even so, it was backed by 106 Republican lawmakers and 17 state attorneys general.

Texas alleged that the results in the other four states were “unconstitutional” because of their heavy use of “fraud-prone” mail-in votes during the coronavirus pandemic.

It offered no proof of significant fraud, and didn’t challenge the use of mailed ballots in states Mr Trump won.

The suit cited numerous alleged examples of potential fraud already rejected by lower courts.

Even so, Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani insisted the allegations were “sound.”

“They have to be tested but that’s what the court is for. They can’t just dismiss it like that,” he told Fox News.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox that the court “dodged” and “hid behind procedure.”

In a tweet following the verdict, President Trump said the court had “let us down” and accused it of having “No Wisdom, No Courage!”

But perhaps the most eyebrow raising reaction came from the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, who slammed the ruling and appeared to suggest the state should secede.

“Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution,” Allen West said in a party statement.

Dozens of court losses

Mr Trump and his allies have filed dozens of lawsuits in several key states, almost all of which have been thrown out by the courts.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court also refused his bid to overturn his loss in Pennsylvania. 

Mr Trump had hoped that the high court, whose bench he has tipped solidly to the right, would intervene in his favour.

In 2000, the Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida, where George W. Bush was only 537 votes ahead of Democrat Al Gore, allowing the Republican to win the election.

Minutes before Friday’s ruling came down Mr Trump released a new TV ad again falsely claiming that the election was stolen, calling it an “outrage” and telling supporters to contact their legislators.

The lawsuit came as all 50 states plus Washington, DC have formally certified their vote tallies, opening the way to convene the Electoral College.

There is no doubt that Mr Biden won the presidency, with state-by-state wins giving him 306 electoral votes to Mr Trump’s 232.

The Democrat snagged 51.3 percent of the ballots compared to Mr Trump’s 46.9 percent, a seven million vote margin. 

The Electoral College is set to affirm Mr Biden’s win on 14 December, and he will be sworn in on 20 January.





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COVID-19: Disney job losses hit 32,000 as coronavirus disrupts theme parks | Business News


Disney has ramped up its plans for tens of thousands of job losses as the coronavirus crisis continues to hurt customer numbers at its main US theme parks.

As the United States enjoyed – an albeit COVID-curtailed – Thanksgiving holiday, a regulatory filing showed the entertainment company was to cut 32,000 staff by the middle of next year.

The disclosure followed news of 28,000 job cuts in September though a spokesman confirmed the higher number was a new total – an increase of 4,000 redundancies on the earlier announcement.

Image:
Disneyland is only open for outdoor food customers and shopping amid continuing COVID-19 restrictions

Investors were unable to react to the news as Wall Street was closed for the day.

Leisure businesses have been among the worst affected by pandemic disruption globally – with Disney employing 32,000 and 77,000 people at its parks in California and Florida respectively before the virus struck.

While it has been able to re-open its larger Florida operation, rides and attractions in California have been shut since March.

Much of Florida's economy has reopened - including theme parks
Image:
Visitors to Disney’s parks in Florida must wear face masks

Outdoor food outlets and shopping sites only resumed sales last weekend amid continuing state restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the disease.

The company’s theme parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo remain open though Disneyland Paris has been closed for a month – its second lockdown of the year to date.

It is understood that most of those affected by the layoffs are part-time workers.

Earlier this month, Disney said it was furloughing additional workers in California due to uncertainty over re-opening schedules.

The company revealed a fortnight ago that it had plunged into the red to the tune of $2.8bn (£2.1bn) for the year to 3 October.

The financial pressure has not been limited to its theme parks.

Disney delayed several big-budget cinema blockbusters including its upcoming suite of Marvel superhero films.



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Job losses would have doubled without jobkeeper in pandemic, research finds | Welfare


Research published by Australia’s central bank says jobkeeper stopped 700,000 additional employment relationships being lost in the first half of 2020, and overall job losses would have been twice as large without the wage subsidy.

The paper by Reserve Bank of Australia economists James Bishop and Iris Day, published on Monday, found the wage subsidy rolled out as the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic hit played an important role in cushioning the decline in employment over the first half of the year.

“Our baseline estimate is that one in five jobkeeper recipients would not have stayed employed during this period had it not been for jobkeeper,” it said. “At the aggregate level, this implies jobkeeper prevented at least 700,000 additional employment relationships being lost in the short term.”

Bishop and Day estimated that receiving the jobkeeper payment increased an employee’s probability of remaining employed by about 20%.

The RBA estimate is similar to Treasury’s assumption that Australia’s unemployment rate would have been five points higher if there was no wage subsidy.

Treasury, however, assumed that all the fiscal stimulus provided during the pandemic – cash payments to households, income support and investment incentives for businesses, loan guarantees and regulatory measures – had saved 700,000 jobs, whereas the RBA paper assigned that to jobkeeper alone.

The RBA paper estimated that each employee-employer relationship saved by jobkeeper cost taxpayers $100,000 – a headline figure it said appeared to compare favourably to other wage subsidy schemes, like the paycheque protection program in the United States which had an estimated cost each job of US$224,000.

The authors speculated the difference may derive from tighter targeting of the Australian jobkeeper scheme.

The wages subsidy cost $101.3bn, making it the largest single measure in the Covid-19 stimulus package.

The RBA paper examined the impact of the first six months of the program – from 30 March to 27 September – when the subsidy was paid as a flat $1,500 a fortnight for each eligible employee.

The authors said the subsidy was one of “the largest labour market interventions in Australia’s history”.

Over the opening six months, the program supported 3.5m workers in 900,000 businesses “and undoubtedly played a crucial role in cushioning the decline in employment and incomes over the first half of 2020”.

The jobkeeper payment was accompanied by the jobseeker payment – an effective doubling of Newstart. The Morrison government is cutting both benefits and requiring businesses to requalify for jobkeeper based on their actual earnings.



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