US adds 4.8 million jobs as unemployment falls to 11.1%

Economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added a substantial 4.8 million jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1%, as the job market improved for a second straight month yet still remained far short of regaining the colossal losses it suffered this spring.

The nation has now recovered roughly one-third of the 22 million jobs it lost to the pandemic recession. And with confirmed coronavirus cases spiking across the Sun Belt states, a range of evidence suggests that a job market recovery may be stalling. In those states and elsewhere, some restaurants, bars and other retailers that had re-opened are being forced to close again.

The re-closings are keeping layoffs elevated: The number of Americans who sought unemployment benefits barely fell last week to 1.47 million. Though that weekly figure has declined steadily since peaking in late March, it’s still more than double the pre-pandemic peak set in 1982. And the total number of people receiving jobless aid remains at a sizable 19 million.

California has re-closed bars, theaters and indoor restaurant dining across most of the state. Florida has also re-closed bars and beaches. Texas has reversed some of its efforts to reopen its economy. New York has paused its plans to allow indoor dining.

Credit and debit card data tracked by JPMorgan Chase show that consumers reduced their spending last week after having increased it steadily in late April and May. The reversal has occurred both in states that have reported surges in COVID-19 and in less affected states, said Jesse Edgerton, an economist at J.P. Morgan.

Nationwide, card spending fell nearly 13% last week compared with a year ago. That’s worse than the previous week, when year-over-year card spending had fallen just under 10%.

And Kronos, which produces time management software, has found that in the past two weeks, growth in the number of shifts worked has slowed in the Southeast and is now rising at just half the rate of the Northeast.

“The pace of recovery is starting to slow,” said Dave Gilbertson, an executive at Kronos. “We are expecting to see more of a plateauing over the next couple of months.”

Thursday’s jobs report is based on data gathered in the second week of June, which helps explain why the figures reflect an improving trend. Last week’s plateau in work shifts will instead affect the July jobs figures, to be released in early August.

McDonald’s has paused its reopening efforts nationwide, and Apple says it will re-close 30 more of its U.S. stores, on top of 47 that it had already shut down for a second time.

Economists have long warned that the economic benefits of allowing businesses to reopen would prove short-lived if the virus wasn’t brought under control. Until most Americans feel confident enough to dine out, travel, shop or congregate in groups without fear of infection, restaurants, hotels and retailers will lack enough customer demand to justify rehiring all their previous workers.

Still, some bright spots in the economy have emerged in recent weeks. Manufacturers expanded in June after three months of shrinking, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, said Wednesday. New orders are flowing in, and factories are adding more jobs, the ISM said.

And record-low mortgage rates are encouraging more home buyers. Purchases of new homes rose sharply in May. And a measure of signed contracts to buy existing homes soared by a record amount, a sign that sales should rebound after falling for three straight months.

Trump says he looks like Lone Ranger in a mask and likes it

WASHINGTON (AP) — After long resisting wearing a mask in public, President Donald Trump said Wednesday he thinks it makes him look like the Lone Ranger — and he likes it.

“I’m all for masks. I think masks are good,” Trump told Fox Business in an interview. “People have seen me wearing one.”

Trump’s comments came a day after Republican lawmakers suggested that he wear a mask in public to set a good example for Americans.

“If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” Trump said in the interview.

Trump has long resisted being photographed in a mask. In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures were difficult to maintain.

Trump immediately undercut the CDC guidance by flatly stating that he wouldn’t be following it, suggesting it would be unseemly for the commander in chief to wear a mask as he meets with heads of state.

On Wednesday, he sounded a different tone, saying, “I had a mask on. I sort of liked the way I looked. OK. I thought it was OK. It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK.

“It looked like the Lone Ranger,” he continued, a reference to the fictional law-and-order character from the American Old West who wore a black eye mask. “I have no problem with that, and if people feel good about it, they should do it.”

In recent days, many Republicans and members of the White House coronavirus task force have been more outspoken in advocating for Americans to wear face masks in public settings as infections have surged in huge swaths of the South and West.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, said last week that he would pursue a federal mask mandate, if elected. In the interview, Trump suggested a federal mandate was unnecessary and continued to frame mask wearing as a matter of choice.

Even so, Trump criticized Biden for wearing a mask while he is some distance away from his audience and for speaking through the covering at times.

“When there’s nobody around, I don’t see any reason to be wearing it,” Trump said in a separate interview Wednesday on “America This Week.”

About the virus, Trump continued to characterize it as a nuisance that he hopes will just go away.

“I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope,” Trump said on Fox Business.

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway noted Wednesday that Trump is regularly tested for the coronavirus, as are his aides. White House visitors and members of the news media who are in close proximity to him and Vice President Mike Pence are also tested.

“I’ve said wear them, the first lady has said wear them, the president’s administration has said wear them,” Conway said.

Trump also told Fox Business that people have seen him wearing a mask. But only one image has surfaced of the president wearing a mask. He donned it for a behind-the-scenes tour of a Ford facility in Michigan in May. Reporters were not allowed to accompany Trump on the tour.

Afterward, he told reporters he had worn a mask in a “back area” only because “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”

Other world leaders, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron, have worn masks in public to encourage their use.

Trump on Wednesday also continued to push back against the notion that some states may have been too quick to open up. Several states, including Florida, New York and Texas, have paused or slowed down reopening amid the recent increase in confirmed cases.

Trump suggested Democrats are hyping concerns about the spike to politically damage him.

“I think the Democrats would like to see the country stay closed as long as possible because they figure that’s probably good for the election, because it would be bad a little bit for jobs, and maybe a lot for jobs,” Trump said.

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