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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits stubbornly jumped again last week even amid hopes that the labor market was getting back on track, the feds said Thursday.

Last week’s 744,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to about 79 million — a number more than triple the size of North Korea’s population.

New filings have ticked up for two consecutive weeks after dropping below the pre-coronavirus record of 695,000 in mid-March.

The latest total once again defied the predictions of economists, who expected 690,000 claims last week as vaccinations added fuel to the nation’s economic reopening, according to Wrightson ICAP.

“The biggest reason to temper optimism is a negative turn in the course of the pandemic, including new variants” of the coronavirus, Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.

Weekly jobless claims have bounced up and down in recent weeks while struggling to stay below the pre-pandemic record after a year of painfully high readings.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out the volatility, also ticked up to 723,750 a week after reaching its lowest level since March 2020, when the pandemic first gutted the American economy.

The latest US Department of Labor data came a week after a blowout jobs report that showed the economy adding 916,000 jobs in March.

“To put this week’s level of claims in perspective, a year ago this shocking number topped 6 million,” said Mark Hamick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “It wasn’t until August that it consistently stayed below 1 million. So, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

Soho House — the London-based group of posh private clubs — is planning to go public across the pond, a new report says.

The British company filed confidential paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of more than $3 billion, the UK’s Sky News reported Thursday.

The filing comes about three years after the iconic chain last mulled plans for an IPO in 2018, according to reports from the time.

The latest bid has been in the works since at least February, when The Times of London reported that Soho House had hired Wall Street stalwarts JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as it looked to take advantage of the frothy US stock market.

The company raised a batch of private funding last summer but decided to pursue more capital through the public market as it expands, according to Sky News.

Soho House declined to comment Thursday.

Soho House runs 27 clubs in 10 countries, including three in New York City, along with event venues and a group of co-working spaces dubbed “Soho Works.

The chain’s business has reportedly held up through the coronavirus crisis. Just about 10,000 of its 110,000 members — whose ranks include Prince Harry and supermodel Kate Moss — canceled their memberships even as the pandemic shuttered its venues, the Financial Times reported last year.

While Soho House shares its name with the London neighborhood where its first club opened in 1995, the company is mostly owned by billionaire American investor Ron Burkle.

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

Tesla chief Elon Musk expressed support for COVID-19 vaccines despite previously raising questions about their safety and saying he wouldn’t get the jab himself.

The world’s second-richest man tried to clear up his vaccine views on Twitter after drawing ire last month for his vocal skepticism about two-dose regimens.

“To be clear, I do support vaccines in general & covid vaccines specifically,” Musk tweeted Wednesday. “The science is unequivocal.”

The 49-year-old electric-car tycoon sparked controversy last month by saying there was “some debate” about the safety of the second of two shots people must get to complete their Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations.

Musk claimed there had been “quite a few negative reactions” to the second doses as he encouraged elderly and immunocompromised people to take the vaccines.

While allergic reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine have been more frequent after the second dose than the first, they’re still rare overall with just 4.5 incidents reported for every million doses administered, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

Musk acknowledged Wednesday that allergic reactions happen “in very rare cases,” adding that they’re “easily addressed with an EpiPen.”

In September, the Tesla “Technoking” told The New York Times that neither he nor his family would get a vaccine because “I’m not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.”

Musk ended up contracting what he called a “moderate case” of the virus in November, comparing his symptoms to a “minor cold.”

In response to a Twitter reply, Musk indicated that he decided not to get a vaccine because someone else could benefit more from the shot given that he already had some immunity to COVID.

Last month wasn’t the first time Musk has stoked controversy with his opinions on the pandemic.

He wrongly predicted last year that there would be “probably close to zero new cases” in the US by the end of April 2020 and called coronavirus lockdown measures “fascist” after fighting to keep Tesla’s California factory open.

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Budweiser, other brands urge people to get COVID vaccine

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Budweiser, other brands urge people to get COVID vaccine

Budweiser and other brands are urging customers to get the COVID-19 vaccine — a move they’re betting will also give their businesses a shot in the arm.

Budweiser released an ad Wednesday called “Good Times are Coming.” At the start, a screen flashes the words “Remember this?” The ad goes on to show a series of still photographs of people drinking beer together and having a good time.

The ad ends with a screen that says, “Good times are coming. Now we have a shot,” as Jimmy Durante’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” plays in the background.

The Bud spot is part of a larger push from the nonprofit Ad Council, which launched one of the largest public education efforts in US history to get people comfortable with taking the vaccine. 

The campaign includes a series of commercials featuring former presidents, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George W. Bush urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Companies like Google, Walgreens, Target and NBCUniversal are likewise getting into the act with their own Ad Council spots.

Earlier this week, Google released a now-viral ad called “Get back to what you love,” which has been viewed more than 6.5 million times on YouTube. It opens with emotional piano music, showing a Google search box with terms like “quarantine,” “lockdown” and “school closings” being typed, with the now-familiar sounds of cheering for first responders in the background.

The ad then transitions to deleting the “sweat” part of “sweatpants” and changing the “virtual happy hour” to just “happy hour,” as the piano music speeds up. It ends with someone typing “covid vaccine near me.” 

Google’s ad, which was created in-house by its Google Creative Lab, aired on national TV during the March Madness Final Four games and premiered on YouTube in March.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Walgreens launched its campaign dubbed, “This is Our Shot,” with singer John Legend. The ad is meant to “remind Americans that the vaccine is the nation’s opportunity to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walgreens said in a statement.

NBC News also launched a public service announcement, helping Americans see if they are eligible and helping them locate a vaccination center through a website, PlanYourVaccine.com. Discount retailer Target said this week that it will donate $1 million to nonprofits offering free and discounted rides to vaccine appointments through Lyft.

This year, brands have been more tentative and cautious about the kinds of ads they run during the pandemic. This year’s Super Bowl saw a host of big-name perennial advertisers including Budweiser opting out due to the environment and the difficulty in striking the right tone.

But the vaccine rollout gives brands a chance to communicate purpose and optimism, according to Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“There’s a big focus right now among companies and brands around the idea of having a bigger purpose than just making money,” Calkins told CNBC. “If you want to be seen as giving back and contributing to society, this is a pretty safe place to go.”

Once vaccine rates ramp up, Calkins added that the shift in advertising will go from informative to celebratory.

“It’s going to be all about celebration; the resumption of life. There’s going to be another big pivot coming up,” he said. 

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