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US economy loses a record 20.5 million jobs in April

We have never seen anything like this before. The depth and breadth of the damage inflicted on the United States economy by coronavirus lockdown measures came into sharp, painful focus on Friday with government figures showing a record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April.  Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)…

US economy loses a record 20.5 million jobs in April

We have never seen anything like this before.
The depth and breadth of the damage inflicted on the United States economy by coronavirus lockdown measures came into sharp, painful focus on Friday with government figures showing a record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April. 
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also showed the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7 percent  last month – the highest since the Great Depression.
Behind all of these numbers are real people whose livelihoods have been brutally and tragically disrupted by the pandemic. 
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The data further confirms the overwhelming consensus that the US economy is in the throes of a sharp recession. But in a sobering reality check, the headline numbers likely understate the true scale of the carnage.
“Although the unemployment rate only climbed to 14.7 percent, slightly below expectations, that was principally because the BLS is still having problems with misclassifying absent workers who should have been recorded as on temporary layoff,” Capital Economics chief US economist Paul Ashworth wrote in a note to clients. “Without that distortion, the unemployment rate would have been close to 20 percent last month.”
Though historic, the data came as no surprise. Some 33.5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks ending May 2, offering a preview of the monthly damage on tap. 
But the April numbers do provide more details about which workers and which sectors of the economy were hardest hit by stay-at-home orders.
Broken out by race and gender, the unemployment rate hit 13 percent for adult men and 15.5 percent for adult women; 14.2 percent for whites, 16.7 percent for Blacks, 14.5 percent for Asians and 18.9 percent for Hispanics.
All of these groups with the exception of Black people posted record high unemployment rates.
Every major sector of the economy haemorrhaged jobs last month, but losses were particularly acute in leisure and hospitality where employment plummeted by 7.7 million, or 47 percent. Nearly three-quarters of that carnage – some 5.5 million job losses – were borne by food services and drinking places.
Education and health services lost 2.5 million jobs in April, while healthcare shed 1.4 million, led by losses in dentists’ offices.
Employment in professional and businesses services, and retail trade each fell by 2.1 million.
Some 1.3 million manufacturing workers lost their jobs in April, with nearly two-thirds of that total coming from personal and laundry services.
Job losses in construction were just shy of one million last month.
The average work week for all employees ticked up slightly in April to 34.2 hours, but Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner William W Beach urged caution when interpreting that data, noting in a statement that “the majority of the increase in average weekly hours reflects the disproportionate number of workers with shorter work weeks who went off payrolls.”
Beach also urged caution when interpreting the $1.34 rise in average hourly earnings because it reflects the disproportionate loss of low-wage jobs.
When will the labour market recover?
The big question now is when the US jobs market will return to its pre-coronavirus strength. With so many unknowns surrounding the trajectory of the pandemic, forecasts are riddled with uncertainty. But economists are doing their best with the data they have to hand.
A lot is riding on how long it takes consumers to regain their confidence and start spending again on goods and services, because consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of US economic growth.
Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics highlighted this point in a note to clients on Friday,
“We anticipate that the severe income loss, elevated precautionary savings and lingering virus fear will curtail consumer demand well past the lockdowns,” he said, adding that “while we expect some jobs will be recovered over the coming months, we anticipate an unemployment rate well above 10 percentby year-end.”
During the Great Recession and its aftermath, the number of job seekers overwhelmed the number of open positions for years. This extreme “slack” in the labour force depressed average wages and analysts say that could well happen again. 
In a note to clients on Monday, Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius said: “Even under a reasonably optimistic growth forecast, it will take several years to put people back to work and fill empty offices and storefronts,” he wrote, adding “while we expect some jobs will be recovered over the coming months, we anticipate an unemployment rate well above 10 percent by year-end.”
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Economy boosts Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, swing states

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Sarah Moore thought Donald Trump was a joke four years ago. Now she is terrified he won’t win another term in the White House. A big reason for her conversion is the future of the U.S. economy. “Now I am full-fledged. I even have a Trump mask in my bag,” the mom…

Economy boosts Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, swing states

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Sarah Moore thought Donald Trump was a joke four years ago. Now she is terrified he won’t win another term in the White House.

A big reason for her conversion is the future of the U.S. economy.

“Now I am full-fledged. I even have a Trump mask in my bag,” the mom of three school-age children said recently in downtown Bethlehem, which sits at the heart of a county that swung hard from Democrat to Republican in 2016 and helped seal Mr. Trump’s upset victories over Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania and thus nationwide.

Mr. Trump likely needs a repeat performance in November to recapture the Keystone State and stay in the White House.

“I never would have seen this coming,” said Mrs. Moore, an independent voter. “I thought he was the biggest joke on the face of the Earth but I was so happy that he beat all of them. Now, if he doesn’t win, I’m going to feel like there is no hope left in this country.”

Mrs. Moore joins the majority of voters in Pennsylvania and other battleground states who trust the billionaire businessman more than Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden to restore the economy, despite questioning Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race relations.

The economy, which remains the top issue for most voters in the country, keeps Mr. Trump competitive in swing states such as Pennsylvania, where the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls has him trailing Mr. Biden by 4.3% percentage points.

A recent NBC News/Marist poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania gave Mr. Biden one of his largest leads at 9 points, but it also underscored Mr. Trump’s dominance on the economy question.

The voters preferred Mr. Trump’s stewardship of the economy by 10 points, 51% to 41%, while favoring Mr. Biden by double digits to handle the pandemic and race relations.

“Joe Biden should be very concerned about that — very concerned about it,” veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said. “What it also tells you is that if that economy continues to grow, the polling distance between Trump and Biden should probably be reduced pretty quickly.”

Pennsylvania voters continue to put their economic faith in Mr. Trump despite lagging behind the rest of the country in the rebound from the coronavirus lockdowns.

The state’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country. It rose from 13% in June to 13.7% in July, according to the most recent state data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The national unemployment rate ticked down last month to 8.4%, which is still high compared to the 3.5% in February before the virus hit but far below the doomsday predictions of Great Depression figures of 20%.

Aubrey Figueroa, a waitress at a popular diner in Bethlehem, continues to struggle. She had to give up shifts because her young children are not in school full time.

“I’m afraid the economy will change drastically and not in a good way if Trump is not elected,” said Mrs. Figueroa, 32, a registered Republican.

She said Mr. Trump could have better handled the coronavirus crisis, but didn’t blame Mr. Trump for economic pain from the pandemic.

“I do not blame him. I blame China,” she said.

Pennsylvania was the linchpin of Mr. Trump’s strategy in 2016 to draw support from blue-collar workers to put several Rust Belt states in the GOP column for the first time in a generation.

Bethlehem and surrounding Northampton County were pivotal in his win. The county in Lehigh Valley sided with President Obama in 2012 by 4 percentage points and 6,000 votes. Mr. Trump took the county by 5 points and just over 6,000 votes.

Big swings in the vote in places such as Northampton County resulted partly from Mr. Trump’s ability to tap into the frustration felt by working-class Americans.

The region struggled for more than two decades to recover from the closing of Bethlehem Steel but has experienced a revival in recent years with a conversion of the mill into a SteelStacks arts campus and a Sands Casino Resort.

Despite the promise of economic expansion from a succession of presidents from both parties, they struggled with stagnant wages and dwindling job opportunities.

Under Mr. Trump, the economic outlook had brightened in the region until the coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, to ordered people to stay at home and shut down businesses and schools.

Before the coronavirus crisis, Mr. Trump presided over the return of nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs to the U.S., a feat considered unimaginable before he took office.

By comparison, during the eight years of the Obama administration, with Mr. Biden as vice president, the U.S. lost about 300,000 manufacturing jobs.The campaigns know the economy will make or break them.

Mr. Biden pummels the president with accusations of causing the recession and being out of touch with workers. He offers a “Build Back Better” agenda to revive the economy with green jobs and an environmentally-minded infrastructure program.

“The painful truth is, we just have a president who just doesn’t see it, he doesn’t feel it, he doesn’t understand, he just doesn’t care. He thinks if the stock market is up, then everything’s fine,” Mr. Biden said in a recent speech.

Mr. Trump boasts of the recovery that is underway and promises a return of the rip-roaring economy from before the virus. He also warns that Mr. Biden would usher in an economic collapse.

“Joe Biden would terminate this recovery,” Mr. Trump told a rally crowd in Nevada, noting his rival’s promise to shut down the economy again if scientists say so. “You can’t just listen to your professionals, you have to have some sense, you have to make a decision.”

In Pennsylvania, voters still associate Mr. Trump with the good times before the pandemic, said Christopher Borick, director of the Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“While our research shows that the president’s overall job approval ratings, personal favorability, and handling of the COVID-19 situation are all viewed negatively by a majority of voters in the state, including those in Northampton County, his standing on economic matters remains strong and largely unchanged since February,” he said.

The institute’s polling in August found that 40% of Pennsylvania voters said their financial situation was better than when Mr. Trump took office, compared to only 10% that said it was worse and 50% who said it was unchanged. That was identical to the same poll in February.

“Given that the economy remains the number one issue for voters, [it] helps explain how the president remains competitive here despite his major struggles in other areas,” Mr. Borick said.

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Mike Pence: Economy, law and order are on the ballot in 2020

Vice President Mike Pence took the stage Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, to rally the Republican base at the party’s national convention, touting the Trump administration’s accomplishments and saying they need four more years to do even more. He said the Republican Party stands for secure borders, right to life, and economic success. He also…

Mike Pence: Economy, law and order are on the ballot in 2020

Vice President Mike Pence took the stage Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, to rally the Republican base at the party’s national convention, touting the Trump administration’s accomplishments and saying they need four more years to do even more.

He said the Republican Party stands for secure borders, right to life, and economic success. He also said they’ll continue to back law enforcement, pushing back against some in the Democratic Party who have called for defunding police departments across the country.

“It’s going to take at least four more years to drain that swamp,” Mr. Pence said. “We are going to take our case to the American people.”

He said law and order is on the ballot, as is the economy.

“I’m here for one reason and one reason only and that is not just the Republican Party but America needs four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House,” he added.

Prior to his remarks the delegates unanimously renominated Mr. Pence to be vice president on the 2020 ticket.

He praised the first four years of the Trump administration for confirming a record number of federal court confirmations, focusing on free and fair trade, cutting regulations and rebuilding the military.

“Today is about four more years,” Mr. Pence said. “Four more years means more judges. Four more years means more support for our troops and our cops.”

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