On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds $349B in small-business loans

On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds $349B in small-business loans
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THE BIG DEAL--Economy sheds 701K jobs in March as coronavirus devastates businesses: The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March as the growing coronavirus pandemic devastated the American economy and ended more than a decade of uninterrupted employment growth, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

  • The first wave in a surge of layoffs driven by COVID-19 snapped a record-breaking 113-month streak of consecutive monthly job gains that began in October 2010, according to the March jobs report. 
  • The unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from 3.5 percent in February, the largest one-month jump since January 1975.
  • Shuttered restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, recreational facilities and other businesses deemed nonessential have laid off millions of workers, with more than 6.6 million new applicants for unemployment benefits in the final week of March alone.

The new numbers are the latest window into the steep economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic as it spreads through the U.S. and transforms every aspect of daily life. I've got more on the demoralizing report here.

 

Just the beginning: As of Friday morning, there are more than 266,000 confirmed U.S. cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, resulting in more than 6,900 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

  • The leisure and hospitality industry lost 459,000 jobs in March, led by the evaporation of 417,000 restaurant and bar jobs. The coronavirus pandemic wiped out roughly two years of food service industry gains, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • The pandemic also claimed 29,000 hotel jobs, 7,000 travel booking and planning jobs, 46,000 retail jobs, 29,000 construction jobs and 19,000 child care jobs, according to the report.

While the March jobs report shows the initial stages of the pandemic-driven economic collapse, it will likely take another month to gauge the full extent of the damage. The two surveys used to compile the March job data were issued during the week of March 12, shortly before a flood of jobless claims crushed state unemployment websites and municipal budgets.

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More help on the way? There could still be more action to rescue the economy ahead as Trump and House Democrats both call for another $2 trillion stimulus bill, this one targeted at infrastructure. 

 

LEADING THE DAY

Confusion surrounds launch of $349B in small-business loans: Banks and industry groups say a new rescue lending program for small businesses is off to a rocky start and may fall far short of what firms need to stay afloat during the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) on Friday rolled out applications for small businesses to receive forgivable loans for payroll and other basic expenses amid the economic toll of the coronavirus.

But banks, credit unions and other lenders say the $349 billion program lacks clear guidelines to handle a looming wave of loan applications that could overwhelm the system while leaving some firms in the lurch.

  • The amount allocated for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is more than 12 times the $28.1 billion in loans originated by the SBA in all of 2019, threatening to overwhelm agency staffers.
  • The money for loans will come from the federal government, but bank and credit union employees still have to vet, approve and process the applications.
  • Some banks and credit unions have already been inundated with initial applications, and experts expect the program's funding to be tapped quickly by businesses with resources and connections to navigate the backlog.

The Hill's Alex Gangitano and I explain here.

Snags and all, there have been 12,461 loans issued, valued more than $3.9 billion, according to SBA Administrator Jovita Caranza. 

 

McConnell says there will be a fourth coronavirus bill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that there will be a fourth coronavirus bill and that health care should be a top priority as lawmakers draft the legislation.

McConnell, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that "there will be a next measure."

"[It] should be more a targeted response to what we got wrong and what we didn't do enough for -- and at the top of the list there would have to be the health care part of it," he said.

What changed: The comments from the GOP leader, who remains in Washington, D.C., during the Senate's three-week break, are the firmest he has offered yet about the possibility for additional legislation.

 

Newly unemployed may not see expanded benefits for weeks: States are struggling to get expanded unemployment benefits into the hands of those who need them, according to labor advocates, at a time when the number of Americans filing new jobless claims is shattering records.

In the last two weeks, an unprecedented 9.9 million people have applied for unemployment insurance as economic activity ground to a halt in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. During the Great Recession, it took six months to hit a similar number.

The crisis has pushed existing unemployment benefits systems to their limits, leaving some people scrambling to get financial help. The Hill's Niv Elis explains why.

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GOOD TO KNOW

 

ODDS AND ENDS

 

Recap the week with On The Money: