NRA draws court’s resistance in appeal over New York gun store closures

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday cast doubt on an effort by the National Rifle Association to revive its lawsuit challenging New York state’s closing of gun stores early in the COVID-19 pandemic because they were “non-essential” businesses.

The NRA, which is also defending itself against a lawsuit by New York’s attorney general seeking its dissolution, had sued over a March 2020 executive order by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying the closures violated the Second Amendment and other provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

A federal judge dismissed the NRA’s lawsuit in August 2020, but Cuomo’s order was later rescinded and another legal challenge to the order was declared moot.

Philip Furia, a lawyer for the NRA, told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that the gun rights group still had “viable claims,” but drew skepticism in arguing it be allowed to replead its case and seek compensatory damages.

“I’m not sure what you want,” Circuit Judge Michael Park said. “I’m not sure what this lawsuit is about anymore.”

Brian Ginsberg, a lawyer for the state, said there were constitutional problems with a repleading, and the NRA already had three chances to seek compensatory damages.

“This would be the fourth bite at the apple, and I think that’s at least two bites too many,” he said.

The appeals court did not say when it will rule.

In seeking the NRA’s dissolution, state Attorney General Letitia James has said the group, a New York nonprofit, is racked by corruption, including by diverting millions of dollars to insiders including longtime Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre.

The NRA had in January filed for bankruptcy and sought to reincorporate in the more gun-friendly Texas, but a judge called the Chapter 11 case an improper effort to gain an “unfair litigation advantage” and avoid James’ oversight.

James is also seeking LaPierre’s ouster.

The case is National Rifle Association of America v Cuomo et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-3187.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Mark Porter)

U.S. new home sales hit six-month high; median price stays above $400,000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sales of new U.S. single-family homes surged to a six-month high in September, but higher house prices are making homeownership less affordable for some first-time buyers.

New home sales jumped 14.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 800,000 units last month, the highest level since March, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. August’s sales pace was revised down to 702,000 units from the previously reported 740,000 units. Sales increased in the populous South, as well as in the West and Northeast. They, however, fell in the Midwest.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for more than 10% of U.S. home sales, increasing to a rate of 760,000 units. Sales dropped 17.6% on a year-on-year basis in September. They peaked at a rate of 993,000 units in January, which was the highest since the end of 2006.

Demand for housing surged early in the COVID-19 pandemic amid an exodus from cities to suburbs and other low-density locations as Americans sought more spacious accommodations for home offices and online schooling. The buying frenzy has abated as workers return to offices and schools reopened for in-person learning, thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations.

The median new house price accelerated 18.7% in September to $408,800 from a year ago. Sales continued to be concentrated in the $200,000-$749,000 price range. Sales in the under-$200,000 price bracket, the sought-after segment of the market, accounted for only 2% of transactions.

About 74% of homes sold last month were either under construction or yet to be built. There were 379,000 new homes on the market, unchanged from in August. Houses under construction made up 62.5% of the inventory, with homes yet to be built accounting for about 28%.

Builders are being hamstrung by shortages of key inputs like copper and steel because of strained supply chains. Lumber for framing remains expensive, while labor and some household appliances are also scarce.

The government reported last week that housing starts and building permits fell in September.

At September’s sales pace it would take 5.7 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, down from 6.5 months in August.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

For asylum advocates, border expulsions strain faith in Biden

By Mica Rosenberg and Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Confused and tired-looking toddlers clung to their parents at Port-au-Prince airport in Haiti on Tuesday, among the 360 family members rapidly expelled from the U.S. over the past three days.

These scenes came after U.S. border agents on horseback on Sunday used whip-like reins to block Haitian migrants wading across the Rio Grande with food and supplies from Mexico to a squalid encampment with nearly 10,000 people on the Texas side.

The images triggered anguish among some current U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters who said they once had high hopes that U.S. President Joe Biden would quickly reverse the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump and, as he promised, “restore humanity and American values” to the immigration system.

Outside the government, disillusioned immigration advocates point to Biden’s refusal to repeal Trump’s most sweeping policy known as Title 42 – that allows border agents to quickly expel most migrants to Mexico or their home countries without a chance to apply for asylum.

Biden extended the March 2020 policy put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, arguing it remained necessary as a public health measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These deterrence (and) expulsion measures deny due process to asylum seekers and place them in harm’s way. That is a human rights violation,” Michael Knowles, president of AFGE Local 1924, the union that represents the asylum officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told Reuters.

“Our members are outraged by the mistreatment of migrants and the refusal of our border authorities to allow them to have their asylum claims heard.”

Three other USCIS employees expressed similar concerns to Reuters, as did an official at another government agency.

Asylum officers interview migrants and refugees to determine if they need protection in the United States, while Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents oversee border security and detention.

Top Democratic lawmakers joined in the criticism. The dwindling goodwill among allies comes as Biden’s immigration agenda was dealt a blow on Sunday when the Senate parliamentarian ruled Democratic proposals to give legal status to millions of immigrants in the United States could not be included in a budget reconciliation bill.

‘WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE IN?’

Biden did exempt unaccompanied children from Title 42 expulsions early in his presidency. But he has included families, even after a federal judge on Thursday ordered the government to stop expelling them. The administration is appealing the order.

A two-week stay on the order was “to allow the government time to organize itself,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union suing the administration over the policy, “not to round up as many people as possible to expel them, and certainly not to expel desperate Haitian asylum seekers.”

The Trump administration argued many asylum claims were false and issued a flurry of policies to limit protections, moves that were often criticized by the USCIS’ union headed by Knowles.

One of the USCIS officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press said it was understood it would take time to roll back the Trump-era measures, but that some are now losing patience in the face of slow reform.

“It’s appalling, disgusting,” the official said. “What do they believe in, if this is acceptable?” Some colleagues were considering whether to leave their jobs, the official said.

Another USCIS official spoke of being “personally mortified.”

USCIS referred a request for comment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who did not immediately respond.

RECORD CROSSINGS

On Tuesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Title 42 was being applied to the fullest extent possible, while at the same time condemning the actions of the agents on horseback saying the incident was being investigated and those involved had been assigned administrative duties.

As Biden is facing criticism from the left, Republicans say he has encouraged illegal migration by moving too fast to reverse other Trump-era immigration reforms.

In recent months, the number of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border increased to 20-year highs with close to 200,000 encounters in August alone, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, though that is counting individuals who may have crossed multiple times.

Early in his presidency, Biden took several executive actions cheered by immigration groups – such as ending Trump’s travel bans on several Muslim-majority countries and scrapping a policy that sent asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings. He also exempted unaccompanied minors from Title 42 expulsions and reduced the number of families being expelled.

In a letter to Congress, retired Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said Biden’s reversals created a crisis at the border and constituted “a national security threat.” Unlike the USCIS union, the unions representing border and ICE agents have been vocal Trump backers.

Earlier this year, Biden also extended deportation relief to around 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status, though the benefits do not apply to anyone who arrived after July 29.

Biden acknowledged conditions are dire in the Caribbean country that has long struggled with violence and recently suffered a presidential assassination and a major earthquake.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Editing by Donna Bryson and Aurora Ellis)

Fed’s Powell orders sweeping ethics review after officials’ trading prompts outcry

By Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has ordered a sweeping review of the ethics rules governing financial holdings and dealings by senior officials at the U.S. central bank, a Fed spokesperson said on Thursday.

Powell ordered the review late last week, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement, following recent reports that two of the Fed system’s 12 regional reserve bank presidents had been active investors during 2020, a notably volatile year for asset prices as the country battled the COVID-19 pandemic. Those revelations, originally reported by the Wall Street Journal, prompted senior U.S. lawmakers – including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – to demand more stringent restrictions on such activities.

“Because the trust of the American people is essential for the Federal Reserve to effectively carry out our important mission, Chair Powell late last week directed Board staff to take a fresh and comprehensive look at the ethics rules around permissible financial holdings and activities by senior Fed officials,” the statement said.

The rules that guide personal financial practices for Fed officials are the same as those for other government agencies, the spokesperson said. Moreover, the Fed has supplemental rules that are stricter than those for Congress and other agencies that are specific to its work.

“This review will assist in identifying ways to further tighten those rules and standards. The Board will make changes, as appropriate, and any changes will be added to the Reserve Bank Code of Conduct,” the statement said.

Warren, in a Tweet, called the review “long overdue” but encouraged the Fed’s regional bank presidents to impose strict rules on their own.

Following news reports on their trading last week, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren both said they would divest any holdings of individual stocks by Sept. 30 and put the proceeds into index funds or cash.

Their investments were judged by in-house ethics officers to have complied with Fed ethics rules. Kaplan, a former vice-chair of Goldman Sachs, has been an active trader since taking over the Dallas Fed in 2015, with multiple, million-dollar transactions in individual stocks each year, according to financial disclosures dating to 2016.

Still, their activity drew a sharp reaction given the context of a pandemic year in which tens of millions faced joblessness and the economy was on the precipice of a threatened depression.

The Fed, beginning in March of 2020, rolled out a response that was record-breaking for its speed and scope, with interest rates slashed to zero and open-ended promises to use bond buying and other tools to keep the economy afloat.

The effort stabilized financial markets, underwrote credit to small businesses and helped set the stage for a fast rebound of jobs and economic growth.

It also triggered a record surge of asset prices following a crash early in the pandemic. Between the Fed’s efforts and trillions of dollars in government spending approved by Congress, the S&P 500 Index has more than doubled from its pandemic low on March 23, 2020 and is about 30% above the high hit in the previous month.

It is not unusual for Fed officials to hold extensive portfolios. Powell, a private equity lawyer with a stint at the Washington-based Carlyle Group, has net worth in excess of $17 million and perhaps much higher, according to his latest ethics filings.

But they are not as a rule active traders, and many join the Fed from academic backgrounds or government posts. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s holdings are modest enough that he hand writes his ethics form. Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s disclosure was notable largely for its stamp collection.

Fed rules explicitly prohibit trading around the time of Fed policy meetings – when market-sensitive information is distributed – requires securities to be held for at least 30 days and forbids officials from holding bank stocks or funds with holdings concentrated in the financial sector that the Fed oversees.

But broader language in the Fed’s internal rules requires officials to avoid even the appearance of conflict or of using their position for personal gain.

For Powell, promoted to Fed chair in 2018 by former President Donald Trump and subsequently a target of Trump’s ire for his management of Fed interest rate policy, the revelations come at a particularly awkward time.

His current term as chair ends in February, and President Joe Biden is in the midst of deciding whether to appoint him to a second four-year term.

Among those advocating for a change in Fed leadership, one of the chief arguments has been that Powell, a private equity lawyer, has not been strict enough in his approach to Wall Street.

He has also worked to build strong relationships among U.S. lawmakers and has preached the need for the unelected central bankers to be transparent in their actions and accept oversight by the country’s elected officials.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Additional reporting by Ann Saphir; Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

Maskless flyers face $9,000 fines as U.S. FAA tackles unruly passengers

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday proposed $531,545 in civil penalties against 34 airline passengers over unruly behavior – with some facing $9,000 fines for defying mask requirements – pushing its total for the year past $1 million.

The United States has seen a significant jump in reported cases of passengers causing disturbances on airplanes, including ignoring a federal mandate to wear face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous videos of confrontations have drawn attention on social media.

The FAA, which regulates U.S. civil aviation, since Jan. 1 has received 3,889 reports of unruly passengers, including 2,867 reports of people refusing to comply with the mask mandate. In total, the agency has proposed more than $1 million in fines this year for unruly passengers.

The agency has initiated three times as many such enforcement cases in the first seven months of 2021 compared to all of 2020. The FAA said some passengers were hit with $9,000 fines for not wearing masks, while other maskless people faced higher penalties for engaging in additional onboard bad behavior.

The Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday said it would extend existing mask requirements for airports, airplanes, trains and transit hubs through Jan. 18.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson this month asked U.S. airports to assist in the effort to crack down on disruptive air passengers https://www.reuters.com/world/us/faa-urges-airports-assist-unruly-air-passenger-crackdown-2021-08-05. Dickson in March extended indefinitely a “zero tolerance policy” on unruly air passengers. Dickson noted that alcohol often contributes to unsafe behavior and urged airports to prevent passengers from taking alcoholic drinks on planes.

American Airlines confirmed on Thursday it would extend a ban on main cabin alcohol sales through Jan. 18.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing major U.S. carriers, said it appreciates “the FAA’s continued support and enforcement of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy for travelers who do not follow crewmember instructions and who do not abide by federal law.”

Among new FAA fines announced Thursday:

* $45,000 against a JetBlue passenger flying from New York to Florida in May for throwing objects “including his carry-on luggage at other passengers; refusing to stay seated; lying on the floor in the aisle, refusing to get up, and then grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and putting his head up her skirt.” The passenger was placed in handcuffs and the flight made an emergency landing in Virginia.

* $42,000 against a JetBlue passenger on a May flight from New York to San Francisco for failing to comply with the face mask mandate and other misbehavior including “making stabbing gestures towards certain passengers; and snorting what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag, which the cabin crew confiscated.” The flight diverted to Minneapolis, where police removed the passenger.

* $30,000 against a Frontier Airlines passenger on a January flight from Atlanta to New York who during deplaning “attempted to gain entry to the flight deck by physically assaulting two flight attendants, threatening to kill one of them, and demanding them to open the door.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Will Dunham)

U.S. employment growth through March revised modestly lower

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy likely created 166,000 fewer jobs in the 12 months through March than previously estimated, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Wednesday.

The reading is a preliminary estimate of the BLS’ annual “benchmark” revision to the closely watched payrolls data. The leisure and hospitality sector, which was hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, accounted for the bulk of the revision, with employment growth revised down by 597,000 or 4.6%.

Leisure and hospitality employment is 1.7 million below its peak in February 2020, though the industry has led the labor market recovery from the pandemic.

“It is somewhat ambiguous what this means for future employment in this sector beyond March 2021,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

“This could suggest that more jobs need to be added to return closer to pre-pandemic levels but also that the pandemic-related hit to that sector was more severe and or longer-lasting than previously reported.”

But the transportation and warehousing sector added 247,900 more jobs than previously thought, while professional and business services payrolls were revised up by 214,000. Government employment was raised by 255,000 jobs.

Once a year, the BLS compares its non-farm payrolls data, based on monthly surveys of a sample of employers, with a much more complete database of unemployment insurance tax records.

A final benchmark revision will be released in February along with the BLS’ report on employment for January. Government statisticians will use the final benchmark count to revise payroll data for months both prior to and after March.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

U.S. job openings surge to new record high, hiring rises

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. job openings jumped to a fresh record high in June and hiring also increased, an indication that the supply constraints that have held back the labor market remain elevated even as the pace of the economic recovery gathers momentum.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, shot up by 590,000 to 10.1 million on the last day of June, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Monday.

Hiring also rose to 6.7 million in June from 6.0 million in the prior month. The government reported on Friday that job growth accelerated in July as U.S. employers hired the most workers in nearly a year and continued to raise wages.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast job openings would rise to 9.28 million in June. Vacancies increased in all four regions and the job openings rate rose to 6.5% from 6.1%.

The high number of job openings has been fueled by the speed from which the economy has emerged from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended many businesses as restrictions and fears of the virus kept people home.

But the number of people re-entering the workforce has lagged job openings. Generous unemployment benefits, childcare issues and lingering worries about the virus may all have played a part, with economists generally expecting a bump in hiring as schools reopen and crisis-era unemployment benefits come to an end.

The largest increases in vacancies in June were in professional and business services, retail trade and accommodation and food services.

The rise in hiring was led by retail trade, with 291,000 more positions filled, while state and local government education filled 94,000 jobs.

Worries remain, however, that a resurgence in infections, driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, could once again discourage some unemployed people from returning to the labor force.

The report also showed the number of people voluntarily leaving their employment in June increased to 3.9 million from 3.6 million in May. The quits rate is usually seen as a barometer of job market confidence. The number of people quitting their jobs is well above pre-pandemic levels.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Paul Simao)

Pelosi presses White House to reinstate COVID-19 eviction moratorium

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday put fresh pressure on the White House to reinstate a COVID-19 pandemic-related residential eviction moratorium after lawmakers failed to extend it before it lapsed over the weekend.

House Democrats made an effort to extend the moratorium implemented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Oct. 18 but a Republican congressman blocked their bid to pass the measure by unanimous consent on Friday. The moratorium has protected millions of Americans who have fallen behind on rent from being forced from apartments and houses.

In a letter to fellow House Democrats, Pelosi on Monday urged President Joe Biden’s administration to renew the moratorium without congressional action. Pelosi told lawmakers such an extension would provide more time to speed distribution of $46.5 billion already allocated by Congress for rental relief. Only about $3 billion of that sum has been distributed.

“The money must flow, and the moratorium must be extended by the administration,” Pelosi wrote.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to brief lawmakers on the eviction mitigation funds on Tuesday, Pelosi said.

Biden last Thursday urged Congress to extend the moratorium, noting that a Supreme Court opinion last month indicated that legislative approval would be required to do so.

Pelosi on Friday initially wanted the House to pass legislation that would extend the moratorium through the end of the year, then decided to pursue a renewal through Oct. 18 with a legislative maneuver requiring unanimous consent. In the end, Democratic leaders did not bring any legislation to a formal vote amid concerns by some lawmakers. The Senate also would have to approve any renewal passed by the House.

More than 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind on rental payments, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, collectively owing more than $20 billion to landlords.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty said the moratorium’s end means “thousands of Black families and children could lose the roof over their heads at a time when the deadly pandemic is surging once again, and their lives are in disorder due to the pandemic.”

Landlord groups have opposed the moratorium, which the CDC implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic. The CDC first issued it in September 2020 after a prior moratorium approved by Congress expired. The agency most recently extended it in June for a month before it finally expired at midnight on Saturday.

The National Apartment Association, with 82,600 members that collectively manage more than 9.7 million rental units, last week sued the U.S. government seeking billions of dollars in unpaid rent due to the moratorium.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

Canada looks to women to bolster trades amid post-pandemic labor shortage

By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) -A shortage of skilled workers is intensifying in Canada, potentially threatening the pace of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has policymakers looking at a largely untapped market for new construction workers: Women.

But attracting and retaining women in the skilled trades has long proven difficult, with tradeswomen and advocates citing challenges balancing childcare and on-site work, the stubborn sexism still ingrained in some workplaces, and a lack of opportunities for women to get a foot in the door.

Vanessa Miller was a young single mom when she decided to scrap university for welding. She got her journeyperson ticket and became a rarity in Canada: a woman with her own welding rig, a truck kitted out with all the equipment needed to do big jobs.

“Every time you go to a different job and nobody knows who you are, you have to prove yourself,” she said, speaking from her home in Regina, Saskatchewan. “It’s still difficult to break into the industry, it’s still very male dominated.”

Canada, like other developed nations, is facing a shortage of skilled trade workers just as a pandemic stimulus-backed building boom gets underway. At the same, more women than men remain unemployed because of the pandemic, and about 54,000 women have left the labor force since February 2020.

The gap between women’s labor force participation and men’s costs the Canadian economy C$100 billion ($79.3 billion) each year, said Carrie Freestone, an economist at RBC.

“Obviously skilled trades are a good opportunity,” Freestone said.

In its latest budget, Canada’s Liberal government pledged C$470 million ($373.2 million) to support the hiring of new apprentices for the most in-demand trades. Companies that hire women, Indigenous people and other minority groups get double the funding.

But women working in the trades and union leaders say it will take more than just money to get more women in the trades, they need work opportunities.

“We’re doing the work to mentor tradeswomen, to build our supply of under-represented groups,” said Lindsay Amundsen, director of workforce development at Canada’s Building Trades Unions. “Now we need these things legislated in large infrastructure projects. We need to put these people to work.”

Canada has suggested employment thresholds, or quotas, for certain groups – like women and Indigenous people – on major projects that get federal support, but it is up to the provinces to set them, a spokesperson at the infrastructure ministry said.

On Thursday, Canada set out C$2.4 million over five years to help diversify apprentices working in the carpentry trades.

RETENTION WOES

More than a decade ago, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador realized that efforts to get women more interested in the trades were working, but few were sticking with it.

The province funded the Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA) to connect tradeswomen with employers and also mandated the hiring of women and other under-represented groups, like Indigenous people, on major projects.

By 2017, about 14% of construction tradespeople working in Newfoundland and Labrador were women, far above the national average of 3-4%, though some barriers remain.

When journeyperson millwright Cassandra Whalen landed in remote Voisey’s Bay, Labrador for a recent job, she discovered there was no safety equipment in her size on site.

“I needed a respirator, I needed gloves and I needed a harness, none of which they had in size small,” she said. “They had to be flown in.”

But Whalen loves her work, and says union advocacy has made the industry more inclusive.

One of the unions leading the charge is UA Canada, which pays up to 24 weeks salary to pregnant members unable to work due to safety risks. They also pay a top-up for both men and women who take parental leave after a baby is born.

“I really think it does help with the retention for sure,” said Alanna Marklund, a national manager at UAC who is also a journeyperson welder.

But childcare continues to be an issue for many tradeswomen. Several tradeswomen interviewed by Reuters said they depended on family members or spouses to help care for young children.

Maggie Budden, a journeyperson ironworker, ended up taking a job in a bank after her children were born. “Unfortunately with construction you need to travel and I could not do that with my daughters,” she said. She now runs the newest branch of OAWA, in Cape Breton.

Daniella Francis was living in Ontario when she started considering the trades, but she couldn’t find any programs for women in her province. She ended up moving her entire family to Alberta and is now an apprentice plumber.

“There needs to be more options,” she said, adding however: “I would say, as a woman, don’t be afraid to go into the trades. Things are changing.”

($1 = 1.2594 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

IMF urges countries to shift from economic rescue to reforms

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund’s No. 2 official on Tuesday called on countries to pivot from saving their economies from collapse to reviving growth-oriented policy reforms to boost their recovery prospects and make them more sustainable.

IMF First Deputy Managing Director Geoffrey Okamoto said in a blog posting on the IMF website that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed and reversed some pro-growth reforms and restoring these can help make up for output lost during the pandemic.

Reforms that allow for faster restructurings and resolution of unviable businesses and labor policies to help retrain workers and line them up with job openings can help shift workers and capital to more promising, dynamic parts of the economy, Okamoto said.

Improved competition policy frameworks such as those being debated in Europe and the United States can reduce the concentration of market power among a few firms and create more dynamic competition and innovation.

“Using this moment for some of these difficult reforms means that the monetary and fiscal stimulus still flowing will serve as a springboard to a brighter and more sustainable future rather than a crutch to a weaker version of the pre-COVID-19 economy,” Okamoto said. “Seizing the opportunity could deliver years of solid post-COVID-19 growth and progress in living standards.”

The call for a renewed focus on reforms comes as the IMF is shifting from non-conditional emergency COVID-19 pandemic financing toward the negotiation of more traditional IMF loan programs, which require recipient countries to meet policy reform benchmarks.

The Fund last week approved a new, $1.5 billion, three-year Extended Credit Facility arrangement for the Democratic Republic of Congo, which includes reforms to boost revenue collections, improve natural resource management governance and strengthen the country’s monetary policy framework to ensure central bank independence.

The IMF is also negotiating a new Extended Fund Facility with Argentina, which has struggled under a $57 billion IMF loan, arranged in 2018, the Fund’s largest-ever.

The IMF estimates that comprehensive growth-enhancing reforms in product, labor and financial markets could lift annual GDP per capita growth by over 1 percentage point in emerging market and developing economies in the next decade.

Countries taking such steps would be able to double their speed of convergence with advanced economies’ living standards relative to pre-pandemic years, Okamoto said.

For advanced economies, pro-growth reforms that target the supply side could guard against persistent inflationary risks caused by excess demand pressures.

These reforms can boost investor confidence in emerging market countries that have been able to maintain access to global capital markets during the pandemic and help these countries cope with any tightening of financial conditions, especially if inflation persists in advanced economies, prompting interest rate hikes.

The higher growth by reforms can help poorer countries avoid harsh fiscal austerity, allowing them to maintain social and health spending while investing in the future, Okamoto said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)