Here Are The States With The Highest Unemployment Rates In September

U.S. home construction rose a solid 1.9% in September after having fallen in the previous month, as home building continues as one of the bright spots of the economy.

The increase last month pushed home construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million homes and apartments after a 6.7% drop in August, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Applications for building permits, a good barometer of future activity, rose an even stronger 5.2% to 1.55 million units.

After a plunge in the spring due to pandemic-related lockdowns, housing has staged a solid rebound as demand for homes with more space has grown and mortgage-rates have stayed at ultra-low levels.

 Most states’ unemployment rates dropped in September, but some parts of the country are still grappling with a severe jobless crisis that kicked off in March, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released Tuesday that could indicate a slowing recovery nationwide.

Hawaii had the country’s highest unemployment rate at 15.1%, more than seven points higher than the national average, and the state’s jobless rate increased by 2.1% last month, partly due to coronavirus-related losses in Hawaii’s critical tourism industry.

Tourism-heavy Nevada had the second-highest rate at 12.6%, followed by California (11%), Rhode Island (10.5%), Illinois (10.2%), and New York (9.7%).

Most states saw a dip in their unemployment rate last month: New Jersey’s rate plummeted by 4.4%, and New York’s fell by 2.8%, though those two drops were partly due to workers leaving the labor force altogether rather than employment numbers improving.

Unemployment rates increased by more than one percentage point last month in four states: Hawaii, Idaho, Texas, and Alabama

The national jobless rate stood at 7.9% in September, a half-point decrease since August, which is the smallest drop in unemployment since the Covid-19 crisis began.

When the coronavirus forced Americans into their homes and caused businesses to shut their doors en masse this spring, the nation suffered from its largest — and fastest — a surge in unemployment since the Great Depression. However, this economic calamity did not impact all states equally. States like New Jersey and New York charted some of the nation’s worst Covid-19 case counts, and state-mandated business closures were strict and long-lasting as a result. Meanwhile, states like Hawaii and Nevada have suffered from an unprecedented slowdown in tourism as Americans remain wary of traveling. Many states saw their fortunes improve over the summer when employers began reopening, but the nation’s recovery is now beginning to stall as the prospect of a new federal stimulus deal fades.

Unemployment rates remained below 5% in five states: Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Vermont, and Missouri. Vermont was one of the only places in the country that never faced a large-scale coronavirus crisis, but the other four states are all currently dealing with brutal Covid-19 upticks that could disrupt their economic situation.

Tuesday’s report was the last major release of unemployment rate data before next month’s election. It’s an important data point for both President Donald Trump, whose reelection message is centered on a promise of economic growth and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who is arguing for more emergency stimulus and aid to jobless people.

12.6 million. That’s the total number of unemployed Americans in September. That figure has dropped consistently since April, but the recovery is gradually slowing.

Essential employees who have continued to go to work have put their lives at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. To thank its frontline workers for their hard work, Target is giving out another bonus. The superstore announced on Monday it will give frontline team members a $200 bonus heading into the holidays.

"With 2020's many twists and turns, it's quickly shaping up to be a holiday season like no other," Target said in a press release. "But one thing hasn't changed: Our Target team members are pulling out all the stops to make every guest's shopping experience safe, easy, and full of joy."

More than 350,000 frontline team members will get the extra $200 after receiving other $200 bonuses earlier this year for their efforts during the pandemic. 

In June, the company announced it was investing nearly $1 billion more on its team than it did in 2019, introducing free virtual healthcare visits for all and extending benefits established for the pandemic. At the time, Target said it was giving a "one-time recognition bonus of $200 to its frontline store and distribution center hourly workers."

The company also permanently raised its starting wage for U.S. team members to $15 per hour, beginning in July. 

Now, all eligible hourly team members in stores, distribution centers, and guest and team member contact centers will receive a bonus, including seasonal hires, according to the press release. This is the fourth time this year Target has given bonuses to frontline workers or leaders.

"In a year like no other, I'm proud of what this team has accomplished and grateful for the care and connection they've provided our guests and communities," Melissa Kremer, Target's chief HR officer, said in the release. "Target's success this year is a direct result of our team members turning our purpose into action and meeting our guests' changing needs day after day."

Target said it is making a more than $70 million investment in employees ahead of the holidays. 

Other retail companies have made adjustments to their workforce during the pandemic. CVS announced on Monday it will hire 15,000 workers as the pharmacy chain readies for an anticipated increase in coronavirus and flu cases in the fall and winter months ahead. 

And in July, Walmart said it would spend about $428 million on cash bonuses for hourly employees who continued to work during the pandemic. The company, which is famous for its Black Friday sales, also made Thanksgiving Day a company holiday this year and had paid a total of $1.1 billion in extra worker financial incentives as of July, the company said.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would slash 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand, joining peers in cutting costs as it grapples with a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon logos are seen near a counter at Hong Kong International Airport, China October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik

The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of a restructuring that would cost HK$2.2 billion ($283.9 million), it told the stock exchange.

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions or 24% of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.

“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Cathay Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a statement.

Cathay shares jumped almost 7% in early trade, with broker Jefferies saying the announcement removed a key overhang on the stock.

Singapore Airlines Ltd and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd have already announced similarly large payroll cuts, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts passenger traffic will not recover until 2024.

Cathay, which has stored around 40% of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

After receiving a $5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in major job losses.

The airline said it was bleeding HK$1.5 billion to HK$2 billion of cash a month and the restructuring would stem the outflow by HK$500 million a month in 2021, with executive pay cuts continuing throughout next year.

BOCOM International analyst Luya You said she had expected more strategic insight from the airline on its fleet plans and route network as part of the restructuring.

“Had they revealed more on fleet planning for 2021-22, we would get a much better sense of their outlook,” she said.

The decision to end regional brand Cathay Dragon is in line with rival Singapore Airlines’ pre-pandemic move to fold regional brand Silkair into its main brand.

Cathay Dragon, once known as Dragonair, operated most of the group’s flights to and from mainland China and had been hit by falling demand before the pandemic due to widespread anti-government protests in Hong Kong that deterred mainland travelers.

Plans to end the brand earlier this year hit roadblocks from China’s aviation regulator because of infractions during last year’s pro-democracy protests, two sources told Reuters in May.

Cathay said the airline would cease operating immediately and it would seek regulatory approval to fold the majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes in Cathay Pacific and low-cost arm HK Express.

“Now that Cathay has decided on staff count and the elimination of the Dragon brand it knows the size of the airline and the structure going forward and can complete its new fleet and network plan,” said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst.

Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay lacks a domestic market to cushion it from the fall in international travel due to border closures.

In September, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.1% compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6%.

Cathay shares have fallen 43% since the start of January. In July, it reached an agreement with Airbus SE to delay the delivery of A350s and A321neos and said it was in advanced talks with Boeing Co about deferring its 777-9 orders.

The airline’s share register is dominated by Swire Pacific Ltd, Air China Ltd, Qatar Airways, and the Hong Kong government, with only a 12% free float.

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