Germany’s first roots in Taicang were planted in 1985, when Hans-Jochem Steim, the managing director of a German manufacturer of wire springs, went looking for a place to build a factory. Taicang, little more than a collection of villages then, was a short drive north from Shanghai’s only commercial airport at the time and had a small-town atmosphere that reminded him of the company’s hometown, Schramberg in Swabia.

Kern-Liebers, Mr. Steim’s manufacturer, was the first of what turned out to be over 350 German companies that set up operations in Taicang, drawn by cheap real estate, a nearby airport and cooperative local officials. Mr. Steim encouraged his longtime suppliers to follow him.

“The first 20 German investors were more or less his friends,” said Richard Zhang, the chief executive of Kern-Liebers’s China operations.

Among those early investors was TOX Pressotechnik, which makes machines that join pieces of metal and are used to construct car roofs, chassis and other components. While big companies tended to set up in major population centers, “as a small company, you went to Taicang,” said Susanne Eberhardt, a member of the family that owns the company, which is based in Weingarten in southern Germany.

Chinese employees hired by TOX meshed well with the Germans. “The Chinese people exuded energy and optimism,” Ms. Eberhardt said. “You could feel that China was on the verge of a breakthrough, and they were unbelievably proud to be part of it.”

The Germans taught local managers so well that, these days, Taicang has everything German except a large number of Germans themselves. The vast majority of the customers at Mr. Gerber’s bakery are Chinese. The few expatriates tend to live in Shanghai, which has a German-language school for their children.

German companies in Taicang were usually not big enough to attract a lot of attention from the central government. Several said they did not feel pressure to share technology and trade secrets, a common complaint by larger foreign investors.

“If you don’t touch politically sensitive issues, it’s a very friendly environment,” said Matthias Müller, the managing director of the German Center for Industry and Trade in Taicang.

German investors helped transform Taicang into a city with almost one million people. Workers who once rode bicycles now drive cars.

In 2004, when Klaus Gerlach was setting up operations for Krones, a German maker of machinery for the food and beverage industry, “we had one car in the parking lot, and it was mine,” he said. “Today, the parking lot is full of cars.”

The downside of that growth is that Taicang, like factory towns all over China, is suffering from a shortage of blue-collar labor. Workers tend to job hop frequently unless they receive pay raises and other benefits.

Kern-Liebers has set 5,000 renminbi, or $775, as the monthly pay for entry-level workers, a more than sixteenfold increase from the 1990s. “At that time,” Mr. Zhang said, “we paid 300 and everyone was very happy. Now we pay 5,000 and they are not so happy.”

German companies say they still see room for growth in China. They say the government is not targeting them, because they produce in China and employ predominantly Chinese people.

Vanessa Hellwing, chief financial officer of Chiron, a maker of machine tools used by automakers and the aerospace industry that has a factory in Taicang, said the Chinese economy’s fast recovery from the pandemic had helped compensate for declining sales elsewhere.

Europe remains Chiron’s biggest market, Ms. Hellwing said, but “the most important growth market is China.”

Keith Bradsher reported from Taicang, and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt.

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Myanmar Protesters Answer Military’s Bullets With an Economic Shutdown

Bank tellers’ windows are gathering dust. Cargo at the port sits uncollected. And in grand government ministries in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, stacks of documents are curling in the humidity. There are few people to process all the paperwork.

Since the military seized power in a coup last month, an entire nation has come to a standstill. From hospitals, railways and dockyards to schools, shops and trading houses, much of society has stopped showing up for work in an attempt to stymie the military regime and force it to return authority to a civilian government.

While demonstrators continue to brave bullets — at least 220 people have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup, according to a local group that monitors political imprisonments and deaths — the quiet persistence of this mass civil disobedience movement has grown into a potent weapon against the military. For all the planning that went into the putsch, the generals seem to have been utterly unprepared for the breadth and depth of resistance against them.

“They robbed the power of the people from our elected government,” said Daw Cho Cho Naing, a clerk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who has refused to work along with most of her colleagues. “Our country’s democracy journey has just started, and we can’t lose it again.”

The effect of millions of people refusing to do their jobs has been dramatic, even if the military is built to withstand pressure. Up to 90 percent of national government activity has ceased, according to officials from four ministries. Factories are idled. In February, the national business registry recorded fewer than 190 new registrations, compared with nearly 1,300 the year before.

In a country where at least a third of the population was already living below the poverty line, civil disobedience is bringing tremendous self-imposed hardship to the people. But the striking class hopes that just a few more weeks or months of financial coercion will starve the military of the work force and resources it needs to run the country.

On Sunday, dozens were killed in factory districts in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, when security forces cracked down on striking protesters with lethal force. The area is now under martial law, but many workers have vowed not to give up.

“We might be poor in terms of money, but we are rich with the value of loving our country,” said Ma Thuzar Lwin, whose husband, Ko Chan Thar, a construction worker, was shot in the neck during a recent attack.

Early this week, as her husband struggled for his life, Ms. Thuzar Lwin voiced her aspirations for him. “I want him to see with his own eyes the day the junta steps down,” she said.

Mr. Chan Thar died on Wednesday.

The Myanmar military, which has ruled the country for most of the past 60 years, is adept at killing. It is less practiced in running an economy that began integrating into the global financial system during a decade of reform.

In raids following the coup, soldiers rounded up hundreds of officials considered faithful to the civilian government led by the National League for Democracy party. An Australian economic adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s de facto civilian leader, was also locked up. More than 200 employees of the central bank, including five deputy directors, have been fired for their civil disobedience.

As a result, taxes aren’t being collected in Myanmar. The bulk of licenses for imports, exports and much else are no longer being granted. With employees of private banks joining the strike, most money flows in and out of the country have stopped. Many companies have been unable to pay employees. Military banks have limited withdrawals for fear of runs on cash.

Last week, the military ordered private banks to transfer funds deposited by agricultural traders to state or military banks so the money could be withdrawn for the upcoming harvest. The order has gone unheeded.

“They are the king now, but we are not their servants,” said Daw Phyu Phyu Cho, a loan officer for a private bank who has joined the strike. “If we all unite, they can’t do anything.”

Myanmar is now short of many things at once: gasoline for cars, imported grains and legumes, foreign toothpaste. In the Yangon area, retail prices for palm oil have increased 20 percent since the coup, according to the World Food Program.

People have gotten used to long lines, for A.T.M. withdrawals, for pension collection, for handouts of rice and curry. Striking factory workers are having to choose between clamping on hard hats and goggles to join a protest or waiting in the hot sun for whatever basic necessity might be on offer that day.

For now, informal financing networks are helping to ease some of the pain of lost wages. In Mandalay, the second-largest city in Myanmar, a single Facebook group run by ordinary citizens has raised funds to support nearly 5,000 people who are participating in the civil disobedience movement, which is known by the abbreviation C.D.M.

“Myanmar people are so generous in their donations to people in need,” said U Aung Htay Myint, one of the organizers of the Mandalay effort.

Myanmar’s economy, one of the least developed in Asia after decades of military mismanagement, was already reeling from the coronavirus, which hit the garment and tourism industries particularly hard. With the coup, foreign investors are feeling skittish. Toyota has delayed plans for a factory opening. The World Bank has paused disbursements in the country.

Sanctions by Western governments on military officers and companies have piled up. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department banned American dealings with, among other businesses, a gym and a restaurant owned by the children of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military chief who led the coup. The United States government has frozen about $1 billion in assets held by Myanmar in an American financial institution.

But the military still has plenty of income streams, most notably the country’s oil and gas fields. U Ye Kyaw Thu worked as an offshore platform technician for the Shwe gas project for a decade. Most of his colleagues are foreigners, and he knows that other Myanmar workers will be brought in to replace him. Still, Mr. Ye Kyaw Thu said participating in the strike was the right choice for him

“It’s all I can do,” he said.

A group of legislators that says it represents the ousted Parliament has written to foreign oil and gas companies requesting that they cease payments to the regime lest it “sustain the current military junta’s violent rule and enrich its leaders.”

But extraction of Shwe natural gas, which is sent to China, hasn’t decreased since the coup. Such oil and gas earnings add up to $90 million a month to the regime’s coffers, according to estimates from the disbanded Parliament.

Beyond oil and gas, the military and its vast business holdings profit from the illegal collection of natural resources, such as jade and timber, which brings in income rivaling the country’s official revenues.

“So many of their funds come from black markets,” said Dr. Sasa, a special envoy to the United Nations for the ousted civilian authority.

The civil disobedience movement won’t halt such illicit activity. In some cases, as with the production of methamphetamine and other drugs, production may boom in the shadowy spaces of political conflict.

In the meantime, Myanmar’s citizens are paying the greatest price. A township administrator in Shan State, who asked not to have his name published because of the danger of speaking out, described how he was hauled in for interrogation after participating in the civil servant strike. After escaping through the jungle, he is now in hiding.

In Yangon, Ko Soe Naing, a garment factory worker, said he recently watched as a fellow striking worker was shot in the head and killed. Mr. Soe Naing earned about $115 per month for his job, barely a living wage.

“We have nothing to lose,” he said. “As a basic laborer, we only have one choice. It’s to fight back against the junta.”

Last week, before dawn, soldiers descended on a housing complex for railway staff in Yangon. According to eyewitnesses, the soldiers demanded that strikers who had shut down the country’s rail system leave their homes immediately. All 700 or so residents left, grabbing armfuls of possessions at gunpoint.

U Ko Ko Zaw, one of the residents, scrambled out of his house with all that he owned: a suitcase of personal effects, a jug of cooking oil and a live chicken. Later that day, he sold the bird for money.

“It’s OK to die of hunger under military rule, it’s OK if they fire me,” Mr. Ko Ko Zaw said. “I will keep joining the C.D.M. because I believe it can bring down their economy.”

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Women Posing in Children’s Clothing? Fad Sparks Body-Shaming Concerns.

The children’s clothing section at Uniqlo in China has gained an unexpected new clientele: adult women.

In the latest viral challenge to sweep Chinese social media, women pose for dressing-room selfies in children’s T-shirts from the Japanese fashion giant. The trend has ignited heated a debate about whether it promotes body shaming, with experts raising concerns that it reinforces the country’s unhealthy standards of beauty.

“This is a dangerous trend, not just in terms of a drive for thinness and the pressure this puts on women and girls, but also in terms of the overt sexualization of women,” said Tina Rochelle, an associate professor in social and behavioral sciences at the City University of Hong Kong who researches the influence of gender and culture on health. She said that the small clothes are likely to be tighter and more form fitting on a woman’s body.

waists behind a vertical sheet of A4 paper to show they were “paper thin.”

That challenge was so popular that celebrities took part and Chinese state media covered it, prompting one feminist campaigner, Zheng Churan, to write in a riposte, “I love my fat waist” on a piece of paper held horizontally over her waist.

In 2015, for the “belly button challenge,” people reached one arm behind their back and around their waist to touch their bellybutton — ostensibly to brag about how thin they were.

There seems to be some growing awareness of body positivity in China. A few months ago, a store faced a backlash for labeling larger women’s clothing sizes as “rotten,” prompting it to apologize.

But Dr. Rochelle, the City University of Hong Kong professor, noted that while there was an increasing willingness among women to call out body shaming and share their experiences of it online, there were little indicators that society at large was changing.

“It doesn’t seem to have hit home over here that fat-shaming and publicly discussing a woman’s weight can have a major impact on a person’s well-being,” she said.

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Why Are Jobless Claims Still High? For Some, It’s the Multiple Layoffs.

Jobs are coming back. Businesses are reopening. But a year after the pandemic jolted the economy, applications for unemployment benefits remain stubbornly, shockingly high — higher on a weekly basis than at any point in any previous recession, by some measures.

And headway has stalled: Initial weekly claims under regular and emergency programs, combined, have been stuck at just above one million since last fall, and last week was no exception, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

“It goes up a little bit, it goes down, but really we haven’t seen much progress,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist for the career site Indeed. “A year into this, I’m starting to wonder, what is it going to take to fix the magnitude problem? How is this going to actually end?”

The continued high rate of unemployment applications has been something of a mystery for many economists. With the pandemic still suppressing activity in many sectors, it makes sense that joblessness would remain high. But businesses are reopening in much of the country, and trends on employment and spending are generally improving. So shouldn’t unemployment filings be falling?

report released Thursday by the California Policy Lab, a research organization affiliated with the University of California, nearly 80 percent of the unemployment applications filed in the state last month were from people who had been laid off earlier in the pandemic, gotten back to work, and then been laid off again.

Such repeat claims were particularly common in the information sector — which in California includes many film and television employees who have been sidelined by the pandemic — and in the hard-hit hotel and restaurant industries, as well as in construction.

The Policy Lab researchers had access to detailed information from the state that allowed them to track individual workers through the system, something not possible with federal data.

California’s economy differs from that of the rest of the country in myriad ways, and the pandemic has played out differently there than in many other places. But if the same patterns hold elsewhere, it suggests that the ups and downs of the pandemic — lockdowns and reopenings, restrictions that tighten and ease as virus cases rise and fall — have left many workers stuck in a sort of limbo.

A restaurant may recall some workers when indoor dining is allowed, only to lay them off again a few weeks later when restrictions are reimposed. A worker may find a temporary job at a warehouse, or pick up a few hours of work on a delivery app, but be unable to find a more stable job.

disproportionately includes Black workers. The record-keeping for that program has been plagued by overcounting and fraudulent claims. But even a look at the state’s regular unemployment insurance program, which hasn’t faced the same issues, reveals remarkable numbers: Close to three in 10 California workers have claimed benefits during the crisis, and more than four in 10 Black workers.

aid package signed by President Biden last week ensures that those programs will continue until fall, but benefits alone won’t prevent the damage that prolonged joblessness can do to workers’ careers and mental and physical health.

“The recovery needs to be on the scale of being a once-in-a-generation economic upswing to really pull those people back into the labor market,” Ms. Konkel said.

The latest data provides little sign of that happening. More than 746,000 people filed first-time applications for state unemployment benefits last week, up 24,000 from the previous week, according to the Labor Department. In addition, 282,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Most forecasters expect the labor market recovery to accelerate in coming months, as warmer weather and rising vaccination rates allow more businesses to reopen, and as the new injection of government aid encourages Americans to go out and spend. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that they expected the unemployment rate to fall to 4.5 percent by the end of the year, a significant upgrade over the 5 percent they forecast three months ago.

“We’re already starting to see improvement now, and I think that will start to accelerate fairly quickly,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at the career site Glassdoor.

But government aid can do only so much as long as the pandemic continues to limit consumers’ behavior. The pace of the recovery now, Mr. Zhao said, depends on a factor beyond the scope of normal economic analysis.

“The dominating factor right now is how quickly we can get vaccines in arms,” he said.

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Super Nintendo World Looks for a Level Beyond the Pandemic

After a year of pandemic life, many people need an escape. On Thursday, thousands in Japan found one in the fantasyland of the Mario Bros.

A theme park, Super Nintendo World, opened at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, ending months of delays and testing the proposition that people will want to gather in large numbers while the coronavirus is circulating to race in a Mario Kart or punch question mark blocks.

The authorities said they were taking steps to prevent the spread of infections. The park’s capacity is limited to 10,000 people. Guests have their temperature taken upon entering, and they must wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and maintain a distance from others.

film and sports industries combined. The new park also capitalizes on the success of the Nintendo Switch, a video game console released in 2017. About 80 million units have been sold.

“Because it’s coming straight from the imagination of Shigeru Miyamoto, it really brings the atmosphere of Super Mario Brothers into the real world,” said Robert Sephazon, a game developer based in Japan who has visited the park.

“Although it’s a bit of escapism, and it does really work,” he added, the pandemic never fully disappears, with masks and hand sanitizing to ensure that shared touch screens do not present a danger.

some have speculated that a locked door with a familiar design could be a clue that the site will expand to include a Donkey Kong world.

“I couldn’t tell which world I was in, a virtual or a real, as it’s so well created,” said Moe Ueura, a 31-year-old high school teacher from Hyogo Prefecture who attended the opening ceremony.

While fans rushed through the site on Thursday, others, both overseas and in Japan, expressed sadness that it might be some time before they, too, could escape into the world of Mario.

“I want to visit the Nintendo World when Covid is over,” wrote one person on Twitter. “But I wonder when the day will be.”

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.

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In Washington, ‘Free Trade’ Is No Longer Gospel

Like Ms. Tai and Mr. Lighthizer, many past presidents and trade officials emphasized fair trade and the idea of holding foreign countries accountable for breaking trade rules. But many also paid homage to the conventional wisdom that free trade itself was a worthy goal because it could help lift the economic fortunes of all countries and enhance global stability by linking economies.

That idea reached the height of its popularity under the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, where the United States negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, led the talks that gave the World Trade Organization its modern format, granted China permanent normal trading relations, and sealed a series of trade agreements with countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

President Barack Obama initially put less emphasis on free trade deals, instead focusing on the financial crisis and the Affordable Care Act. But in his second term, his administration pushed to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which came under criticism from progressive Democrats for exposing American workers to foreign competition. The deal never won sufficient support in Congress.

For Democrats, the downfall of that deal was a turning point, propelling them toward their new consensus on trade. Some, like Dani Rodrik, a professor of political economy at Harvard, argue that recent trade deals have largely not been about cutting tariffs or trade barriers at all, and instead were focused on locking in advantages for pharmaceutical companies and international banks.

David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said economic theory had never claimed that trade made everybody better off — it had said trade would raise overall economic output, but lead to gains and losses for different groups.

But economists and politicians alike underestimated how jarring some of those losses could be. Mr. Autor’s influential research shows that expanded trade with China led to the loss of 2.4 million American jobs between 1999 and 2011. China’s growing dominance of a variety of global industries, often accomplished through hefty government subsidies, also weakened the argument that the United States could succeed through free markets alone.

Today, “people are much more sensitive to the idea that trade can have very, very disruptive effects,” Mr. Autor said. “There’s no amount of everyday low prices at Walmart that is going to make up for unemployment.”

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Were the Airline Bailouts Really Needed?

A year ago this week, Doug Parker, the chief executive of American Airlines, flew to Washington to begin what became a yearlong lobbying campaign for a series of taxpayer-funded bailouts during the pandemic.

He wasn’t alone. The campaign also included leaders from Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Southwest Airlines — all with their hands extended. The flight attendant and pilot unions were also part of the lobbying.

A year later, as the stock market cruises to new heights, questions should be asked about the $50 billion in grants that were used to prop up the airline industry. Was it worth it? And was it necessary?

The good news is that the rescue money likely saved as many as 75,000 jobs, most remaining at full pay. And that money also kept the airlines from filing for bankruptcy, and in a position to ferry passengers all over the country to jump start economic growth as the health crisis subsides.

throw money at everything these days, from celebrity-backed blank-check companies with no profits to troubled video game retailers, Bitcoin and digital art. Why not airlines?

Even during the depths of the pandemic, in April last year, Carnival Cruise Line managed to raise $4 billion in debt from private investors, just as the airlines were still negotiating their first rescue deal with the government. That said, Carnival had to pay dearly for the money, with an interest rate of around 12 percent.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package

The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

Airline chiefs and labor union bosses convinced Congress that the industry was different — and more indispensable. They made the case that if airlines were to fall into bankruptcy, there would be no planes ready to help revive the economy when the time came. They argued that pilots couldn’t be laid off and quickly rehired, since they need to be in flight regularly or training on simulators to be certified to fly.

Would airlines have stopped flying in bankruptcy? Nope. In previous airline bankruptcies — and there have been dozens — the companies kept operating. The government could have provided financing under that scenario, similar to the way it did when it rescued General Motors in 2009, taking a major equity stake in the company so that taxpayers could share in the upside when it recovered.

the company will issue warrants that are worth about $230 million today — a small fraction of the $4 billion that the taxpayers bequeathed the carrier’s shareholders in the first round of bailouts.

Of course, we’ll never know what would have happened to the industry had it been forced to raise money on its own.

“Congress has saved thousands of airline jobs, preserved the livelihoods of our hard-working team members and helped position the industry to play a central role in the nation’s recovery from Covid-19,” Mr. Parker and a top lieutenant at American Airlines said in a statement after the latest round of bailouts last week. “Lawmakers from both parties have backed legislation that recognizes the dedication of airline professionals and the importance of the essential work they do.”

After the banking crisis of 2008 led to bailouts, the recriminations began when firms like Goldman Sachs had a banner year in the aftermath — and paid bankers record bonuses.

Will the same thing happen to the airlines? Under the terms of their bailouts, the chief executives’ compensation this year and last was capped at about half what they received before the pandemic.

Delta has already begun to issue special payments to some other managers. It says this is to compensate them in part for extra hours worked during the pandemic. “The payment of special bonuses to management while the airline is still burning cash is premature and inappropriate,” said Chris Riggins, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement this month.

The worst for the airline industry may be over, but the debate about the appropriateness of the pandemic bailouts is just getting started.

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Seeking return to normal, JPMorgan Chase is planning for summer interns to go to the office.

JPMorgan Chase is currently planning for summer interns in New York and London to come to the office this year, people briefed on the matter said on Tuesday, as big financial firms anticipate a return to something approaching normality and the pandemic starts to loosen its hold on the workplace.

The plan to bring back in-person internships in June (not July as was earlier reported here) is another sign that corporate giants believe a version of pre-pandemic working life is near. JPMorgan usually hires hundreds of summer interns each year, and last year’s class, as at most Wall Street firms, was virtual.

In London, the bank plans to let its teams start bringing in employees on March 29, when the British government will end “stay at home” rules imposed in December, according to one of the people briefed on the matter. But in-person staffing will not surpass 50 percent of a building’s capacity, and teams are likely to rely on scheduled rotations of employees.

Big banks, more than many other industries, have been eager to re-establish some level of in-office working, but are wrestling with when and how to do it. Leaders like Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, and David Solomon, his counterpart at Goldman Sachs, have expressed worries that prolonged remote working could hurt businesses like trading and fray corporate cultures.

Mr. Solomon said at an industry conference in February. “It’s an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible.”

Both JPMorgan and Goldman were among the banks that moved to bring more workers back to the office last summer, though they were forced to ask employees to self-isolate after workers tested positive for Covid-19 cases.

In New York, JPMorgan teams have been allowed to bring some employees into the office at their discretion, in keeping with government rules.

News of JPMorgan’s internship plans was reported earlier by Financial News.

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The S.E.C. Is Increasingly Making E.S.G. a Priority

Allison Herren Lee was named acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission in January, and since then she has been active, especially when it comes to environmental, social and governance, or E.S.G., issues. The agency has issued a flurry of notices that such disclosures will be priorities this year. Today, Ms. Lee, who was appointed as a commissioner by President Donald Trump in 2019, is speaking at the Center for American Progress, where she will call for input on additional E.S.G. transparency, according to prepared remarks seen by DealBook.

The supposed distinction between what’s good and what’s profitable is diminishing, Ms. Lee will argue in the speech, saying that “acting in pursuit of the public interest and acting to maximize the bottom line” are complementary. The S.E.C.’s job is to meet investor demand for data on a range of corporate activities, and Ms. Lee’s planned remarks suggest that greater transparency on E.S.G. issues won’t be optional for much longer. “That demand is not being met by the current voluntary framework,” she will say. “Human capital, human rights, climate change — these issues are fundamental to our markets, and investors want to and can help drive sustainable solutions on these issues.”

  • Ms. Lee will also argue that “political spending disclosure is inextricably linked to E.S.G. issues,” based on research showing that many companies have made climate pledges while donating to candidates with contradictory voting records. The same goes for racial justice initiatives, she will say.

This is not an interim priority. Ms. Lee is acting chief, but based on recent statements by Gary Gensler, President Biden’s choice to lead the S.E.C., she’s laying the groundwork for more action rather than throwing down the gauntlet. In his confirmation hearing this month, Mr. Gensler said that investors increasingly wanted companies to disclose risks associated with climate change, diversity, political spending and other E.S.G. issues.

Not everyone at the S.E.C. is on board. Hester Peirce and Elad Roisman, fellow commissioners also appointed by Mr. Trump, recently protested the “steady flow” of climate and E.S.G. notices. They issued a public statement, asking, “Do these announcements represent a change from current commission practices or a continuation of the status quo with a new public relations twist?”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested, to varying degrees, that the governor of New York consider resigning over allegations of sexual harassment. He has rejected those calls and is considering running for a fourth term.

The U.S. is considering new ways to protect itself against cyberattacks. Efforts by China and Russia to breach government and corporate computer networks — and the failure of American intelligence to detect them — have spurred discussions about ways to organize U.S. cyberdefenses, including more partnerships with private companies.

Credit Suisse is accused of continuing to help Americans evade taxes. The Swiss bank aided clients in hiding assets, seven years after it promised U.S. federal prosecutors that it would stop doing so, according to a whistle-blower report. That puts the firm at risk of a fresh investigation and more financial penalties. The bank said it was cooperating with the authorities.

A veteran Democratic official is poised to join the Biden administration. Gene Sperling, an economic wonk who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, is likely to oversee the implementation of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, Politico reports.

Stripe is now Silicon Valley’s most valuable start-up. The payments processor has raised funding from investors like Sequoia and Fidelity at a $95 billion valuation. Stripe plans to use the money to expand in Europe, including in its founders’ home country, Ireland.

chief counsel of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase before joining the O.C.C. But his enthusiasm isn’t based on Bitcoin’s success as much as on his personal struggles, he told DealBook.

Mr. Brooks borrowed his way out of an ailing town. He grew up in Pueblo, Colo., a steel center that lost its purpose in the 1980s. His father took his own life when Mr. Brooks was 14, and he and his mother had little. In high school, he waited tables and took out loans for school, for a car and eventually for a home. Now, he’s betting that blockchain can help the underbanked do the same more easily.

“Unlocking credit availability allows people to move up the ladder,” Mr. Brooks said. Nearly 50 million Americans don’t have credit scores, but many are creditworthy. Traditional rating systems aren’t equipped for nuanced assessments that might include things like rent, Netflix bills or income from gig work. For many, the inability to borrow limits opportunities to achieve financial security.

Finding solutions to financial inclusion that are immune to politics is key, noted Mr. Brooks, a Trump administration appointee. Credit, he argues, lets people bet on themselves regardless of which party is making policy, and the current system excludes many worthy borrowers. “Let’s let more people climb ladders,” Mr. Brooks said.


— Howard Lindzon, an investor, entrepreneur and market commentator, speaking to The Times’s Erin Griffith on the booms (or bubbles) in everything from trading cards to Bitcoin, SPACs and so-called meme stocks.


new data from the Harris Poll, revealed exclusively in DealBook.

A year of living in fear created unlikely heroes. For the past year or so, the Harris Poll has monitored public sentiment in weekly surveys of more than 114,000 people. At the height of the emergency, more than half of respondents were afraid of dying from the virus and a similar share were afraid of losing their jobs. “Only in the past month, with vaccines rising and hospitalizations and deaths declining, is fear abating,” the report noted.

The Times’s Opinion podcast “Sway,” the economist Mariana Mazzucato told Kara Swisher that the traditional narrative has holes in it.

“Do you have any idea where the innovation in places like Silicon Valley came from?” asked Ms. Mazzucato, the founder of University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She ticked off technologies like the internet and GPS: “We wouldn’t have any smart product without all the smart technology, which was government-financed.”

Listen to the conversation here.

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Uncounted in the Unemployment Rate, but They Want to Work

Robert Hesse was expecting an imminent promotion to manager of Sub Zero Ice Cream, a nitrogen ice cream shop in Ventura, Calif., when it shut down in March because of the pandemic.

“I like to work,” said Mr. Hesse, a college graduate who turns 26 on Tuesday. “Otherwise I feel like I’m useless.” But he has been reluctant to seek a new job because he lives with his parents, who are not yet vaccinated, and is afraid of bringing the virus home to them.

“It’s just health concerns — I don’t really want to be around the general public yet,” he said.

Mr. Hesse represents what economists say is one of the most striking features of the pandemic-driven economic downturn: the tide of workers who, as the government counts things, have left the labor force.

In the year since the pandemic upended the economy, more than four million people have quit the labor force, leaving a gaping hole in the job market that cuts across age and circumstances. An exceptionally high number have been sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. Others gave up looking for work because they were discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And some older workers have called it quits earlier than they had planned.

labor force participation rate among those 16 or older has dropped to about 61 percent from 63 percent in February 2020. Among prime age workers — those 25 to 54 — it has declined to 81 percent from 83 percent.

Women in their prime working years have quit the labor force at nearly twice the rate of men, according to research by Wells Fargo, partly because more women work in industries like leisure and hospitality that are less suited to social distancing and partly because women are more likely to bear the burden of child care. The share of Black women who have left the labor force is more than twice the share of white men.

Then there are the many people who may be seeking a job but who are unavailable to take one because of health concerns, illness or caretaking obligations, putting them in what economists say is something of a gray area — between being unemployed and not in the labor force — that has become more common during the pandemic.

A single mother, Frankie Wiley, 29, worked as a housekeeper at a resort in Bloomington, Minn., until she was laid off last March. She would like a paid job, but she has to stay home with her 11-year-old daughter, who is attending school remotely.

“I take care of her, so I’m her only support,” she said. She said she plans to return to work once her daughter can go back to school safely.

labor force participation has fallen to 38 percent from 40 percent in the last year.

A study from the research firm Oxford Economics estimates that around two million workers have left the labor force to retire since the start of the pandemic, more than twice the level in 2019.

That was the case for Ed Hoag, a public librarian for 35 years, who decided on an early retirement last summer out of concerns for his health. He and his wife have no children, and he was worried that if either of them got sick, there would be no one to take care of them.

Now 60, he spends his days reading at his home in Lambertville, N.J., where he moved a few years ago in anticipation of a retirement that had once seemed much further off.

“I do miss working,” he said. “I miss my colleagues and I miss the activity of the library, the people that would come in, the jobs we did. I do miss all that interaction. But I think that for myself and my wife, it was the right decision to make.”

For the legion of older workers who hope to return to work after the pandemic, a challenging path may lie ahead. Studies show that older people who leave the work force will have a more difficult time re-entering it because of age discrimination and other reasons. If that reality holds during the recovery, the number of older workers who have left the labor force — either because they could not find a job or because they retired early — could be one of the pandemic’s enduring consequences.

One prevailing question is whether employers, as in the past, will look askance at those who have been out of the labor force for a significant time.

Even in a tight labor market, long-term unemployed workers faced a stigma, said Maria Heidkamp, the director of the New Start Career Network, which helps older job seekers in New Jersey.

“In addition to any age, race or gender discrimination that they may already encounter, there’s a lot of evidence that it is easier to get a job if you already have a job,” she said. Though employers may overlook any pandemic résumé gap, she said, “there’s no reason to think that that is going to be different for these people, who are on the sidelines right now who want to come back.”

Still, because of the pandemic’s unique economic impact, many economists believe that the extraordinary number of people who have left the labor force will be more of a temporary blip than emblematic of a deeper structural issue.

“I don’t think overall the U.S. labor force participation rate is going to get stuck at a lower rate,” said Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, who was a member of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Already there is evidence that people who left the labor force are returning to work.

Labor participation among young people, which tumbled in the early stages of the pandemic, has rebounded significantly as service industries bounce back.

And as the vaccination rate continues to rise and restrictions on activity lift across the country, many more people who have left the work force are beginning to plot their returns.

Since Heather Kilpatrick lost her job in private-event sales last March, she has spent her days at home in East Boston caring for her daughter, now 3.

Without her additional income, she and her husband, co-owner of a restaurant, could no longer afford day care at the local Y.M.C.A. So although Ms. Kilpatrick, 36, ached to go back to work, she felt as if she were trying to solve a chicken-or-egg dilemma.

“No disrespect to women who want to stay home, but that’s never been me,” she said.

Recently, she finally accepted a part-time job working from home for a restaurant group.

Her job began last week.

Ben Casselman and Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.

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