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Workers file 547K new jobless claims in sign layoffs are slowing

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Workers file 547K new jobless claims in sign layoffs are slowing

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has hit its lowest level since the pandemic began, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

First-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 547,000, significantly below the Dow Jones estimate for 603,000, putting the economy on track to return to pre-pandemic levels sooner than experts anticipated.   

“For a second straight week, new jobless claims have posted a surprising decline, slumping to a new pandemic low.,” Bankrate’s senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick said in a statement. “The US has excelled by boosting both national and global growth prospects for this year, delivering vaccines and seeing progress in the battle against COVID-19.”

The latest numbers also reflect an improving job market in which layoffs are subsiding.

Weekly jobless claims are down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January but they are still far above the roughly 250,000 level before last March when the virus first began spreading in the US.

The overall job market is making steady gains. Last month, the nation’s employers added 916,000 jobs, the most since August, in a sign that a sustained recovery is taking hold. The unemployment rate fell from 6.2 percent to 6 percent, well below the pandemic peak of nearly 15 percent.

Most unemployment benefits continue to go low-income workers and people of color, experts said. About 8 million fewer people are working compared with pre-COVID-19 levels.

At the same time, many lower-wage jobs are not being filled, with employers — particularly hospitality industry related businesses — complaining that they can’t hire enough people right now.

Many states have struggled to clear backlogs of unemployment applications, and suspected fraud has clouded the actual volume of job cuts. In addition, a supplemental $300-a-week federal jobless payment, on top of regular state unemployment aid, might have encouraged more people to apply for benefits.

About 17.4 million people were continuing to collect unemployment benefits in the week that ended April 3, the latest period for which data is available, up from 16.9 million in the previous week.

With the Associated Press

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AMC cashes in on Reddit-trading frenzy with $428 million share sale

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AMC cashes in on Reddit-trading frenzy with $428 million share sale

Cinema operator AMC Entertainment Holdings has raised about $428 million from a share sale, capitalizing on the retail-trading driven surge in its stock earlier this year.

The world’s largest cinema chain operator’s shares have gained more than five-folds in 2021 thanks to interest from amateur traders on Reddit that were piling into heavily shorted stocks such as GameStop and AMC to punish hedge funds that bet against them.

AMC said in a statement Thursday it had sold 43 million shares at an average price of $9.94 apiece in the at-the-market offering, sending its stock nearly 16 percent higher.

The company has raised funds in the past few months to ride out a downturn in its business wrought by pandemic-driven theater closures, delays in the launch of big movies and the growth of video streaming platforms.

It said in January it had raised $917 million since mid-December through equity and debt issues. It raised an additional $304.8 million in the same month through a share sale.

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Amazon Fresh grocery store to replace Fairway in Paramus

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Amazon Fresh grocery store to replace Fairway in Paramus

The Paramus Fairway’s getting a fresh start.

An Amazon Fresh supermarket is set to replace the shuttered Fairway Market in Paramus, N.J.

The Jeff Bezos-owned e-commerce giant bought the former Fairway location out of bankruptcy auction along with another former Fairway store in Woodland Park for a total of $1.5 million last March, The Post previously reported. 

Amazon’s plans for the two locations were listed as confidential at the time, but came as the Seattle-based company, which also owns Whole Foods, was beginning to expand in the groceries space. 

But Amazon confirmed in November the former Woodland Park Fairway would be converted into an Amazon Fresh. And now, the Paramus location will go the same route, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed to NorthJersey.com. 

It’s not clear when opening day will be, and the company did not return The Post’s request for comment. 

Amazon opened its first Fresh store in Los Angeles’ Woodland Hills neighborhood in September. It’s since opened 11 other locations elsewhere in California and in Illinois, according to the tech giant’s website. 

Amazon Fresh is the company’s attempt to offer a mix of in-store and online grocery shopping while attracting a distinct demographic from Whole Foods by offering lower prices. Fresh stores also tend to feature more national staple brands like Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s than Whole Foods, which emphasizes organic food. 

As The Post previously reported, Amazon may be looking to scoop up some more Fairway locations to expand Amazon Fresh’s footprint in the Northeast. Only seven of Fairway’s 14 stores were sold at last year’s bankruptcy auction, including the two that went to Amazon. Village Supermarket, which operates Shoprite stores, acquired at least four of those locations as well as rights to the Fairway brand. 

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McDonald’s to boost wages by 10 percent amid worker shortage

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A McDonald's in Spring, Pa., advertises $15-an-hour jobs on April 19. Like other restaurants and retailers, McDonald's is facing a nationwide labor shortage as the pandemic wanes.

McDonald’s said Thursday it will boost its rank-and-file employees’ hourly pay by 10 percent as it seeks to add 10,000 workers at its company-owned eateries amid a nationwide labor shortage.

The world’s biggest restaurant company said entry-level employees will now get paid between $11 and $17 an hour while managers will make anywhere from $15 to $20 an hour. The wage boost also will apply to 35,600 existing McDonald’s employees, some of whom have already received the increase, the company said.

“Together with our franchisees, we face a challenging hiring environment, and staying ahead means we must constantly renew our commitment to offer one of the leading employment packages in the industry,” McDonald’s USA president Joe Erlinger said in a message to US workers.

McDonald’s said it expects all of its company-owned stores to be paying workers an average of $15 an hour by 2024 while some will get there as early as this year.

The wage increases come amid one of the tightest labor markets in history with a record 8.1 million job openings as of March. Critics have partly blamed generous unemployment benefits which have included a $300 weekly COVID-19 sweetener from the federal government. Workers have also cited concerns about a lack of childcare services and health and safety fears.

A worker cleans the floor at a McDonald's in Chicago on March 19. Some workers say they're reluctant to return over health and safety concerns.
A worker cleans the floor at a McDonald’s in Chicago on March 19. Some workers say they’re reluctant to return over health and safety concerns.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some McDonald’s franchisees have been handing out hiring and referral bonuses to attract employees. As previously reported by The Post, a McDonald’s manager in Florida even offered $50 for potential candidates to simply interview for a job — and said he had no takers after two weeks.

Chipotle Mexican Grill said this week that its average wage will reach $15 an hour by the end of June as it pushes to hire 20,000 workers.

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