Barkin: U.S. challenge is finding jobs for ‘last 5%’ displaced by crisis – BBG

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S.’s top economic challenge now is bringing unemployed workers back to jobs as those displaced from hard-hit industries like food service may find their “classic next job” has also disappeared, Richmond Federal Reserve bank president Thomas Barkin said on Wednesday.

“Where I see the real challenge now is getting the last 5% of Americans back into the workforce,” Barkin said in an interview on Bloomberg television, referring to the current 8.4% unemployment rate that is about 5 percentage points above the record low of last year.

That could be tough, Barkin said, because “we know a lot of people used to be waiters or work at an amusement park…Their classic next job would have been at a retailer or working at another restaurant. If those places are not hiring how do we get them redeployed?”

The U.S. is currently about 11 million jobs shy of where it was in February. Monthly job growth has been strong since the pandemic led to a massive round of layoffs, and a jobs report Friday is expected to show several hundred thousand positions were added in September. Private payroll processor ADP’s data on Wednesday estimated the number at 749,000.

That would still represent a slowing over recent months, and economists at the Fed and elsewhere worry it may take years to reclaim lost ground in the labor market.

Concerns about persistent damage to the employment prospects particularly for younger or less skilled workers has been growing as the pandemic slump continues, and companies begin retooling for a smaller future workforce.

Disney on Tuesday announced it was laying off 28,000 workers as coronavirus-related restrictions on its theme parks lengthened through the summer and into the fall.

Though most are part-time jobs it was an example of the dynamic Barkin described, eliminating positions that could serve as flexible or entry level work for people who will now need to look elsewhere in an economy where many industries and occupations open to less skilled employees may have to cut back.

“Issues of job retraining, issues of getting (education) grants…Those are the kind of things that are important if we are going to bring the economy all the way back,” Barkin said.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Airline CEOs plead with White House to avert looming U.S. job cuts

By Jeff Mason and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with major airline chief executives on Thursday as the industry braces for thousands of job cuts in two weeks, and urged lawmakers to embrace a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid package proposed by a bipartisan congressional group and endorsed by President Donald Trump.

Meadows told reporters said that if House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was willing to move a bill that would support airline workers and prevent layoffs, Trump would support it, noting the looming layoffs of thousands of workers set for Oct 1.

American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said airlines would also be working with Pelosi.

​Meadows said the administration had examined executive action options, all of them less than ideal.

Airlines did not offer a new proposal but again made the case that helping avert airline job cuts was one good reason to pass a broad coronavirus relief bill.

After the meeting with Meadows, Parker said it was “not fair” that thousands of airline workers were about to be laid off. “We’re just here to plead with everyone involved to get to a quarterly package before October 1.”

Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly said the initial payroll support plan “didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

American has said it plans to end service to 15 small communities without additional government assistance.

At the end of this month the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the coronavirus first began spreading around the world is set to expire.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

Companies such as American are now pleading for a six-month extension while they simultaneously negotiate with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes, seriously depressing airline revenues.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)

White House says Trump could act unilaterally to avoid U.S. airline layoffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump could take executive action to avoid massive layoffs at U.S. airlines, while the coronavirus pandemic weighs on air travel and talks on a new COVID-19 stimulus bill remain stall in Congress, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday.

“We’re looking at other executive actions,” Meadows said in an online interview with Politico. “If Congress is not going to work, this president is going to get to work and solve some problems. So hopefully, we can help out the airlines and keep some of those employees from being furloughed.”

His remarks came a day after American Airlines said its workforce will shrink by 40,000, including 19,000 involuntary cuts, in October without an extension of government aid.

Meadows said he has spoken to American Airlines, as well as United Airlines, which has warned that 36,000 jobs are on the line, and to Delta Air Lines, which announced furloughs of nearly 2,000 pilots on Monday.

“So we’ve raised this issue. It would take a CARES package, I believe, to do it,” Meadows said, referring to a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that Congress passed earlier this year.

Talks between Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ended in early August, with top Democrats and the administration far apart on new legislation. Meadows told Politico that he is not optimistic that negotiations will restart soon.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

Boeing to offer second layoff plan, CEO Calhoun sees smaller market ahead

By Bhargav Acharya

(Reuters) – Boeing Co. said on Monday it would offer employees a voluntary layoff package with pay and benefits for the second time this year, as the plane maker battles a coronavirus-induced slowdown in global air travel.

It will be offered to employees in the commercial airplanes and services businesses as well as corporate functions, Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun wrote in a note to employees, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“Unfortunately, layoffs are a hard but necessary step to align to our new reality, preserve liquidity and position ourselves for the eventual return to growth,” Calhoun said in the note.

“We anticipate seeing a significantly smaller marketplace over the next three years.”

The health crisis, which has hammered plane makers, airlines and suppliers, has added to the woes of Boeing that has been grappling with a production freeze and year-long grounding of the 737 MAX following two fatal crashes.

The company doesn’t have a set target at this time and was encouraging all eligible employees interested in the voluntary layoff package to apply, Boeing said in a statement.

The move to extend the overall workforce reductions beyond the initial 10% target is in response to employee feedback, Calhoun said.

The plane maker had said in April it would cut its 160,000-person workforce by about 10%, many of which was to be completed by the end of this year at its commercial aircraft division.

More details will be made available to the employees beginning Aug. 24, according to the CEO’s note.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Chevron diversity ratio to improve as layoffs progress

By Shariq Khan

(Reuters) – Oil major Chevron Corp expects to reduce the dominance of white males in company management during cost-cutting this year, upping the share of senior level jobs held by women and ethnic minorities to 44% from 38% last year, the company said in a statement.

Like most of its peers in an industry struggling with the collapse of oil prices this year, Chevron is cutting spending, consolidating business units, and has asked some managers to reapply for their jobs.

Figures from the end of last year show that less than a quarter of Chevron’s U.S. executives and senior managers were female, and only 22% were from ethnic minorities.

In an email sent to employees this week and seen by Reuters, Chief Human Resources Officer Rhonda Morris said the company selected 26% women for global roles in a second round of evaluations and, in the United States, 29% of candidates selected were from ethnically diverse candidates.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed the details of the email but did not specify whether the selections were permanent appointments or a shortlist for the positions.

The company, however, expects the diversity ratio to be around 44% when the selection processes are complete, the spokeswoman added.

Long owned and run predominantly by white males, the oil industry has drawn criticism along with other parts of corporate America for failing to do enough to promote diversity.

Women and people from non-white ethnic backgrounds represented 46% of the oil industry’s workforce in 2019 and are expected to fill 54% of total job opportunities through 2040, an IHS Markit analysis for the American Petroleum Institute shows.

However, they remain a minority in senior management.

Chevron executives were among those at big corporations to speak in support of the “black lives matter” campaign, which has become a global movement against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.

(Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Key U.S. lawmakers back unions’ call for new airline bailout

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Key U.S. House Democrats are backing a push by airline unions for a new round of government bailouts to keep workers employed in the face of tens of thousands of possible layoffs this fall.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and other Democrats are circulating a letter to colleagues calling for the extension of payroll assistance. In March, Congress approved $32 billion for airlines and contractors in exchange for the companies keeping workers on the job through Sept. 30. Airline unions in June sought another $32 billion to keep workers employed through March 31.

The lawmakers’ letter said “with the current resurgence of COVID-19 in several states across the country and a vaccine for the virus yet to be developed, passenger demand for air travel will not recover before” Sept. 30 and “hundreds of thousands of airline workers may be fired or furloughed starting October 1.”

Airline unions on Wednesday asked lawmakers to sign on to the DeFazio letter.

On Wednesday, American Airlines said it was sending 25,000 notices of potential furloughs to front-line workers. American had already warned that furloughs would be hard to avoid as pandemic-hit revenue remains more sluggish than the airline had hoped.

American said Wednesday it would be “supportive” of any legislation that would protect employee jobs, while an industry trade group previously said airlines were not seeking additional assistance “at this time.”

United Airlines has sent 36,000 furlough notices, representing about 45% of workers, and Southwest Airlines has warned job losses will be hard to avoid.

Delta Air Lines Inc said this week it believed it could avoid furloughs in the fall after about 17,000 employees signed up for early departure deals.

After boosting summer flying following some signs of pent-up leisure demand in May and June, some airlines are now scaling back their schedules due to a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)

Southwest Airlines warns it may need job cuts without jump in travel

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly told employees on Monday it needs a dramatic jump in passenger demand or it will be forced to take new steps to reduce staffing.

Employees face a Wednesday deadline whether to participate in a voluntary incentive program to leave the airline. “Although furloughs and layoffs remain our very last resort, we can’t rule them out as a possibility obviously in this very bad environment,” Kelly said in a message to employees. “We need a significant recovery by the end of this year — and that’s roughly triple the number of passengers from where we are today.”

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

U.S. labor market recovery stalling; second wave of layoffs underway

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the pace of decline appears to have stalled amid a second wave of layoffs as companies battle weak demand and fractured supply chains, supporting views that the economy faces a long and difficult recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

The Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, sketched a picture of a distressed labor market even though employers hired a record 2.5 million workers in May as businesses reopened after shuttering in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19. At least 29 million people are collecting unemployment checks.

Stubbornly high joblessness could stifle the nascent signs of economic recovery that had been flagged by a record jump in retail sales in May and a sharp rebound in permits for future home construction. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers this week that “significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery.”

The economy fell into recession in February.

“The recent sightings of green shoots for economic growth are going to fade in a hurry if workers can’t return to the jobs they lost during the pandemic recession,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “Over 20 million out of work without a paycheck is a lot of spending missing from the economy.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 58,000 to a seasonally adjusted 1.508 million for the week ended June 13, the government said. Data for the prior week was revised to show 24,000 more applications received than previously reported, bringing the tally for that period to 1.566 million.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 1.3 million in the latest week. The 11th straight weekly decrease pushed claims further away from a record 6.867 million in late March. Still, claims are more than double their peak during the 2007-09 Great Recession.

“The fear of a second wave of layoffs, as industries not directly affected by COVID-caused shutdowns have started to shed workers, appears to have begun,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Virginia.

A separate report from the Philadelphia Fed on Thursday showed labor market conditions remained depressed in June at factories in the mid-Atlantic region even as manufacturing activity in the region that covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware rebounded sharply.

Stocks on Wall Street were trading lower on the claims report and rising COVID-19 infections in parts of the country. The dollar rose against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices were higher.

MILLIONS ON UNEMPLOYMENT ROLLS

From manufacturing, retail, information technology and oil and gas production, companies have announced job cuts. State and local governments, whose budgets have been shattered by the COVID-19 fight, are also cutting jobs.

Economists expect an acceleration in layoffs when the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, part of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion, giving businesses loans that can be partially forgiven if used for wages, runs out.

They attributed to the PPP a drop in the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid from a record 24.912 million in early May. But these so-called continued claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, also appear to have since stalled. The claims report showed continuing claims dropped 62,000 to 20.544 million the week ending June 6.

Initial claims covered the week during which the government surveyed establishments for the nonfarm payrolls component of June’s employment report. But economists cautioned that claims were no longer a good predictor of job growth.

The government has expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to include the self-employed and independent contractors who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including through lost employment, reduced hours and wages. These workers do not qualify for the regular state unemployment insurance.

They must file under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and are not included in the initial claims count. Applications for PUA increased 66,063 to 760,526 last week.

A total of 29.2 million people were receiving unemployment benefits under all programs during the week ending May 30, the latest available data, down from 29.5 million in the prior period.

“Employment may rise on a net basis in June as the economy reopens and workers are recalled, but the initial claims data suggest that there is still a steady stream of new layoffs as corporations adjust to the new coronavirus reality,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist of Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

U.S. layoffs abate; job openings plunge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Layoffs in the United States fell in April, but remained the second-highest on record, while job openings dropped, suggesting the labor market could take years to recover from the COVID-19 crisis despite a surprise rebound in employment in May.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, that layoffs and discharges dropped 3.8 million in April to 7.7 million.

That was the second-highest level since the government started tracking the series in 2000. The layoffs and discharge rate fell to 5.9% in April from a record high of 7.6% in March.

The labor market was slammed by the closure of nonessential businesses in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many establishments reopened in May, with the economy adding a stunning 2.509 million jobs last month after a record 20.7 million plunge in April, government data showed on Friday.

Despite last month’s rebound in hiring, economists warn it could take even a decade for the labor market to recoup all the jobs lost during the COVID-19 recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research, the arbiter of U.S. recessions, declared on Monday that the economy slipped into recession in February.

The NBER does not define a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP as is the rule of thumb in many countries, instead, it looks for a drop in economic activity, spread across the economy and lasting more than a few months.

The government also reported that job openings, a measure of labor demand, declined 965,000 to 5.0 million on the last business day of April, the lowest since December 2014.

The job openings rate dropped to 3.7%, the lowest since January 2017, from 3.8% in March. Vacancies peaked at 7.52 million in January 2019.

Hiring tumbled 1.6 million to a record low of 3.5 million in April. The hiring rate plunged to an all-time low of 2.7% from 3.4% in March.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

U.S. weekly jobless claims remain high as backlogs, layoffs linger

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as backlogs continue to be cleared and disruptions from the novel coronavirus unleash a second wave of layoffs, pointing to another month of staggering job losses in May.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 2.438 million for the week ended May 16, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised down to show 2.687 million claims filed instead of the previously reported 2.981 million. Connecticut said last week it had misreported its numbers.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would total 2.4 million in the latest week. The jobless claims report, the most timely data on the economy’s health, could offer early clues on how quickly businesses rehire workers as they reopen and on the success of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A broad shutdown of the country in mid-March to contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has resulted in the worst unemployment since the Great Depression.

“None of these states had systems set up to process the unprecedented amount of claims in one fell swoop, so there are backlogs,” said Steve Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TS Lombard in New York. “We continue to read of firms cutting their workforce and these are firms that were not immediately impacted by the mandated contraction from COVID-19.”

Claims have been gradually declining since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28.

Economists said claims numbers were staying high also as states were now processing applications for gig workers and many others trying to access federal government benefits.

These workers generally do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance, but to get federal aid for coronavirus-related job and income losses they must first file for state benefits and be denied.

Last week’s claims data covered the week during which the government surveyed establishments for the non farm payrolls portion of May’s employment report. The economy lost a record 20.5 million jobs in April, on top of the 881,000 shed in March.

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