WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to 709,000, a still-high level but the lowest figure since March and a further sign that the job market might be slowly healing.
Yet the improvement will be put at risk by the sharp resurgence in confirmed viral infections to an all-time high well above 120,000 a day. Cases are rising in 49 states, and deaths are increasing in 39. The nation has now recorded 240,000 virus-related deaths and 10.3 million confirmed infections.
As colder weather sets in and fear of the virus escalates, consumers may turn more cautious about traveling, shopping, dining out and visiting gyms, barber shops and retailers. Companies in many sectors could cut jobs or workers’ hours. In recent days, the virus’ resurgence has triggered tighter restrictions on businesses, mostly restaurants and bars, in a range of states, including Texas, New York, Maryland, and Oregon.
“The risk may be for more layoffs as coronavirus cases surge and some states impose restrictions on activity,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, an economist at the forecasting firm Oxford Economics.
Last week’s count of new applications for unemployment benefits was down from 757,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The still-elevated figure shows that eight months after the pandemic flattened the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs.
8:50 a.m. Plastic waste problem ‘amplified’ by the pandemic: a Sun-Times/ABC 7 special report
As the coronavirus pandemic pushes people to get more takeout and delivery food, it’s also having another effect: putting at least a temporary halt to the progress of a proposal to reduce single-use plastics and entirely ban polystyrene foam — Styrofoam — at Chicago restaurants.
To get an idea of the impact of that and of how much plastic waste is created even by just one meal, the Chicago Sun-Times and ABC7 ordered a bunch of takeout and delivery food and had an outdoor, socially distanced picnic.
On our picnic blanket: pizza, chicken wings, salads, a cheeseburger and fries, Chinese food and burritos.
Some of it arrived in in compostable cardboard containers or easily recycled aluminum trays.
But there also was a lot of plastic.
And worse, in terms of the environment, some of the orders came nestled in polystyrene foam, commonly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam, which restaurants often use for takeout packaging and which isn’t recyclable.
Those single-use items will “probably last at least a century, maybe longer than a century,” according to Jennifer Dunn, director of research for the Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering, who assessed the pile of waste.
- Public health officials announced 12,657 new cases of the deadly respiratory disease Wednesday and another 145 deaths attributed to it — the state’s worst daily death toll in almost six months.
- Peter Giannikopoulos, one of the suitors vying for Tayshia Adams’ hand on the current season of ”The Bachelorette,” announced Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19
Analysis & Commentary
8:04 a.m. Should I or should I not get tested for COVID-19?
I have not.
I have not taken.
I have not taken a COVID-19 test.
I don’t know why that feels like a shameful confession.
Maybe it’s because so, so many people have died worldwide from this pandemic — 1.28 million according to the “Our World in Data” website.
Or maybe what I’m really feeling is survivor’s guilt.
I am, after all, in a group considered high-risk for catching the virus.
I’m Black. I’m a senior citizen. I have a compromised immune system.
— to chicago.suntimes.com