Jobless Claims to Show Pandemic’s Toll on the Economy: Live Updates

Credit…Libby March for The New York Times

Government data due on Thursday is expected to show that applications for unemployment benefits remained high last week as the nationwide surge in coronavirus cases threatens to undermine the economic recovery.

Economists surveyed by FactSet expect the report, from the Labor Department, to show that jobless claims fell slightly last week, but not enough to offset the prior week’s unexpected increase. That report, which showed that filings rose by 18,000, was a worrying sign that the rise in infections is already taking a toll on workers and employers.

Unemployment filings have fallen significantly since last spring, when more than six million people a week were applying for benefits. But progress has stalled in recent months. Consumer confidence fell in November, the Conference Board reported Tuesday, and private-sector data on job postings, hours worked and consumer spending show either a loss of momentum or outright declines in November.

“We have definitely seen a slowdown since Labor Day, and in the last few weeks, it’s actually gone into a decline,” said Dave Gilbertson, a vice president at UKG, which provides time-tracking software to about 30,000 U.S. businesses.

Economists worry that the slowdown could deepen in coming weeks, as consumers spend less and cities and states reimpose restrictions on businesses, something that has already begun to happen in California, Michigan and other states.

Credit…Ting Shen for The New York Times

Following a slow rollout of rules governing opportunity zones, a program to encourage investment in low-income neighborhoods, developers have pumped billions of dollars into the zones nationwide, even in the midst of the pandemic, writes Joe Gose for The New York Times.

The opportunity zone program, which was part of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, allows investors to defer capital gains taxes and receive other tax benefits for making equity investments in real estate and operating businesses in underinvested areas.

But the program has its challenges:

  • Some critics charge investors are using it simply to avoid paying taxes.

  • Others point to a lack of transparency that makes it tough to gauge whether the investments are making a real impact on communities.

  • The Trump administration has resisted providing much federal reporting or oversight.

Proponents of the initiative are pushing back against the criticism, saying the opportunity zone program is needed to attract real estate funding to underserved areas. And some states and cities are using it to help steer investment into their underserved neighborhoods and track how much residents are benefiting from it.

“There will be developers who make a bunch of money building fancy apartments, there’s no doubt about that,” said P. David Bramble, a managing partner for MCB Real Estate, a developer based in Baltimore. “But investors are providing capital to projects in low-income areas that they otherwise would have ignored because of demographics. That’s a win.”

Credit…Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

The mass cancellation of trade fairs has been a disaster for hotels, restaurants and taxi drivers around the world, but Germany has been hit particularly hard.

The country has four of the world’s 10 largest trade venues, more than any other nation, and trade fairs have played a central role in German economic life at least since the Middle Ages, when merchants convened in cities like Leipzig to trade wine, furs, grain and gossip, The New York Times’s Jack Ewing reports.

In a good year, trade fairs generate 28 billion euros, or $33 billion, in revenue for German convention centers, hotels, restaurants, airlines and various service providers, according to the Ifo Institute in Munich, a research organization. That revenue has largely evaporated.

Conventions are an underappreciated driver of economic growth worldwide, responsible for about 1.3 million jobs. Trade fairs generated revenue of $137 billion in 2018, as much as General Motors, according to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry in Paris.

But revenue this year is down by two-thirds after the cancellation of events like the Mobile World Congress (which drew more than 100,000 visitors in 2019) in Barcelona, Spain, or the North American International Auto Show in Detroit (which drew more than 750,000).

Some fairs moved online when the pandemic made live gatherings inadvisable. After the cancellation of Leben und Tod, or Life and Death, a funeral industry event normally held in Freiburg, Germany, organizers turned to the internet. They livestreamed presentations on topics such as “Fear of Dying” and “Burial Preparation: Which Shoes for the Final Journey?”

But virtual events do not fill hotels or restaurants, or provide work for the carpenters who build the often elaborate company displays.

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