Friday’s Jobs Report Ends Almost a Decade of Gains: Live Updates

The Labor Department on Friday reported the first monthly job loss in almost a decade, reflecting the virtual economic standstill wrought by the coronavirus outbreak.

It was an abrupt end to a landmark stretch of job creation — 113 months in a row, more than twice the previous record.

Compared with the numbers of people recently applying for unemployment benefits — nearly 10 million in the previous two weeks — the figure announced Friday was modest: a loss of 701,000 jobs. But the data was mostly collected in the first half of the month, before stay-at-home orders began to cover much of the nation.

“This is nothing compared to what we’re going to see,” said Stephanie Pomboy, president of MacroMavens, an independent research firm. Indeed, the March unemployment rate of 4.4 percent may be replaced by double digits as soon as next month.

The Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday that it expected unemployment to top 10 percent for the second quarter of 2020 — as high as the peak in the last recession — and to remain at 9 percent at the end of 2021.

Wall Street is poised for a downbeat day.

U.S. stock futures fell and indexes in Europe were lower on Friday, setting the stage for a downbeat end to another turbulent week in financial markets.

Futures for the S&P 500 were down almost 1 percent as investors weighed more painful economic data — this time the monthly employment report from the Labor Department that showed the nearly decade-long run of job growth had ground a halt in March.

But oil prices rose sharply, with Brent crude gaining 10 percent, extending Thursday’s gains on word that major oil producers would meet to discuss the falling demand for petroleum.

Stocks had also jumped on Thursday after President Trump suggested that Saudi Arabia and Russia would call a truce in their clash over oil prices and would cut production.

While plentiful oil supplies and low fuel prices are generally positive for the global economy, the clash over prices came at a time of declining demand as the response to the coronavirus outbreak slowed economic activity around the world. Plunging oil prices threatened to destabilize countries and regions where the local economy depends on oil production.

In other markets, bond prices rose, as investors sought to put their money in investments generally considered safe.

In European stock markets, the FTSE 100 in London and the CAC 40 in Paris traded down, while the DAX in Frankfurt was slightly up.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, under pressure to end a price war with Russia that has thrown oil markets into turmoil, is planning to hold a teleconference on Monday to discuss world oil supplies, an OPEC delegate said on Friday.

The meeting will include the OPEC+ group of producers, which includes Russia, and other countries “if they wish,” the delegate said.

It was not clear if the United States would take part in the meeting.

Oil prices rose sharply on Friday, after a surge on Thursday that extended to a rally in shares of energy companies, after President Trump said he expected that Saudi Arabia and Russia would substantially cut their oil production to halt the collapse of prices. The price of Brent crude rose about 10 percent on Friday to about $32 a barrel.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday called for an “urgent” OPEC meeting after President Trump spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s chief policymaker. President Trump has been leaning on Saudi Arabia and Russia to end the damaging price war that the Saudis launched after Russia declined to agree to new production trims at a meeting in Vienna in early March.

The jousting between the two major producers has accelerated the collapse of oil prices, which fell about 55 percent in March, and put the future of many shale drillers in the United States in jeopardy, creating a political problem for the Trump administration.

Analysts say that the Saudis and Russia will want production cuts from a wider circle of producers, including the United States. While there are likely to be strong objections to organized production trims in the United States, the Railroad Commission of Texas, a regulatory body which played a role in coordinating production in the United States in the 20th century, has signaled cautious interest in the idea.

Some U.S. companies may turn away government aid.

Grants, low-interest loans and other government support might seem like manna for businesses under financial strain. But some chief executives and corporate boards might balk at the offer of billions of dollars in aid to help them ride out the coronavirus pandemic and keep the economy from sliding into a deep recession.

Already, some corporate leaders are bristling at the potential terms of the grants and loans authorized by the stimulus legislation President Trump signed last week. Boeing’s chief executive, David Calhoun, for one has suggested that the aerospace company could raise money elsewhere if it found the government’s terms too onerous.

The Treasury Department, led by Steven Mnuchin, a former investment banker, might try to avoid imposing conditions that companies find burdensome. But if the aid appears too lenient, popular support for the rescue could evaporate as it did with the bailout of banks and other businesses after the 2008 financial crisis. And some lawmakers and experts argue that Mr. Mnuchin ought to resist the temptation to cut businesses too sweet a deal to prevent them from walking away from the government’s offer.

A $349 billion relief program to help small businesses cover their payroll costs for up to eight weeks will be “up and running tomorrow,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House briefing on Thursday.

But banks and other lenders that are expected to make the loans warned that the relief effort, known as the paycheck protection program, was going to have a rocky start. Late on Thursday, they were still waiting for critical technical guidance about how to make the loans, and pushing back on terms they warned were onerous.

Brock Blake, the chief executive of Lendio, a marketplace that connects borrowers and lenders, tweeted: “Wow. What a mess!”

The lenders appear to have won one concession. Mr. Mnuchin said the interest rates paid by borrowers on the loans would be increased to 1 percent from 0.5 percent after banks protested that they would lose money servicing the loans unless the rate was raised.

The banks were still waiting, however, for guidance about how to underwrite the loans and how the government would handle a provision promising forgiveness for businesses that used the money to retain or rehire workers.

Mr. Mnuchin said borrowers would be able to apply for the loans and receive them quickly: “You get the money, you get it the same day.”

But industry executives said there was virtually no chance of that happening on Friday. Even as Mr. Mnuchin was speaking, lenders still had “nothing” in the way of guidance on critical loan issues, said Tony Wilkinson, the chief executive of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, an industry trade group.

Chase updated its website on Thursday night to say it was still awaiting information on the program and “as a result, Chase will most likely not be able to start accepting applications on Friday, April 3rd, as we had hoped.”

Mr. Mnuchin also said that his agency and the Small Business Administration had “brought in a lot of external resources” for the program. Jovita Carranza, the small-business administrator, said they were working with partners from the government and the private sector to “make our systems as robust as possible to meet the needs.”

Google said it is using the data it collects about where people go to help governments and public health officials evaluate the effectiveness of policies — like sheltering in place and working from home — designed to thin crowds in public places.

In a blog post early Friday, Google said it is publishing so-called “mobility reports” for 131 countries based on aggregated and anonymized location data from Google Maps users to show recent changes in travel patterns. There are also regional breakdowns. In the United States, Google will detail data for all 50 states and counties within those states.

The reports derive from how Google Maps taps into location data to offer users information about how busy restaurants or stores may be on a certain day of the week or time of day. Google said it is using “Location History” data provided by users. The feature is not on by default, and users must opt in to share location data with the company. The company said it will share the data in aggregate so individual movements are not revealed.

Reporting was contributed by Patricia Cohen, Stanley Reed, Peter Eavis, Niraj Chokshi, David Gelles, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Nelson D. Schwartz, Jim Tankersley, Carlos Tejada and Daniel Victor.




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