Jobless Claims Expected to Show a Resurging Economy: Live Updates

rose last week, partly because of the devastating winter storms in Texas, after a significant drop the prior week.

At the same time, the Labor Department reported last week that employers added 379,000 jobs in February, an unexpectedly robust number that reinforced confidence in the strength of the recovery roughly one year into the pandemic-induced downturn. The gains came largely in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality industries.

Although initial jobless claims have fallen significantly since last spring, the economy has a long way to go until it reaches pre-pandemic levels. All told, there are about 9.5 million fewer jobs than there were a year ago. More than four million people have dropped out of the labor force, a group not included in the most widely cited unemployment rate.

“We’re still not yet at the phase of the recovery where we’re seeing the floodgates open up,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist with the career site Glassdoor. “I don’t think it’s quite fair to call what we’ve done so far ‘reopening’ because there’s still a lot of people who are out of work and a lot of businesses that are closed.”

Layoffs and business closings persist, trends likely to keep showing up in the weekly jobless claims numbers. But as vaccination rates increase, the weather warms up and more government help arrives, via President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan, which won final approval from Congress on Wednesday, many economists expect a vibrant economic resurgence. Mr. Biden is expected the sign the measure on Friday.

“We’re seeing a huge pickup in hiring,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist with the employment site ZipRecruiter. “I think for many employers, it’s becoming real, and for many job seekers it is as well.”

A prototype of General Electric’s Haliade-X wind turbine in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Its blades will be manufactured in England, the company said.
Credit…Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

General Electric said it planned to build the football-field-long blades for its new offshore wind turbines at a plant in northeastern England.

The new factory will be in the Teesside region, an area that was recently named by the British government as a so-called freeport, with tax benefits and other business incentives. The plant will open in 2023 and create 750 jobs, according to a statement from G.E. late Wednesday.

Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, is working to rejuvenate the region by attracting investment in clean energy, including offshore wind power and a carbon-capture development. The new plant will produce blades for a large wind farm called Dogger Bank offshore in the North Sea.

Although Britain has become the world’s largest market for offshore wind turbines, some critics point out that most of the turbines are manufactured elsewhere, including Denmark and Germany. Blade factories are eagerly sought by local authorities, because they employ large numbers of people.

The blades, which will be about 350 feet long, will go on top of G.E.’s Haliade-X turbines, a prototype of which is being tested in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The new turbine has already set off a race among manufacturers to build bigger machines.

Adam Aron, AMC’s chief, said the distribution of vaccines would be the company’s “real salvation.”
Credit…Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

Adam Aron, the chief executive and president of AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater chain, called the past year “the most challenging market conditions in the 100-year history of the company,” when presenting year-end earnings on Wednesday that included the loss of $4.6 billion.

Yet Mr. Aron struck an optimistic note about his company’s outlook for the year ahead based on the reduction in coronavirus cases, the reopening of theaters and the slate of blockbuster movies set to arrive beginning in May. He pointed specifically to Disney’s “Black Widow,” Universal’s “F9” and Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick.”

He added that “the real salvation” of AMC would be the jump in vaccinations both domestically and around the world.

“The most important person in the entire movie business,” Mr. Aron said, is not employed by “a studio nor any movie theater circuit,” but is Albert Bourla, the chief executive of Pfizer.

“He and his colleagues and those of Moderna and J&J have given us our newfound fortitude,” he added.

AMC lost $946 million in the quarter ending Dec. 31, even as theaters started to open back up after being closed for months.

At year’s end, 78 percent of the company’s U.S. operations had reopened with limited seating capacity. Internationally, 90 percent of the company’s theaters resumed operating in October, only to have to close again in the fourth quarter owing to a resurgence of the virus.

AMC said it shut down 60 low-performing theaters in 2020: 48 in the United States and 12 internationally. It also spent the year renegotiating its terms with studios, specifically Universal and Warner Bros., as they sent more films to their streaming platforms with theaters closed.

“Over the past several years, AMC has indicated that it is willing to be the most experimental movie circuit around with respect to window strategies,” Mr. Aron said, adding that the deals have to be good for AMC shareholders. “I continue to be optimistic that having been partners for a century, we can adjust our business relationships so they support both streaming and theatrical releases and do so, not at our expense.”

President Biden is expected to sign his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill on Friday.
Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Wall Street futures were pointing upward, and global markets were higher, as investors on Thursday were relieved by relatively modest inflation data in the United States and looking forward to the stimulus coming from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, which won final congressional approval on Wednesday.

The enormous piece of spending, one of the largest infusions of federal aid since the Great Depression, will provide another round of direct payments to millions of American, extend federal jobless benefits and provide millions for small businesses, state and local governments and schools. Mr. Biden is expected to sign it Friday.

  • Futures were pointing to a 0.7 percent rise on the S&P 500 when trading begins later in the day, and a 1.8 percent rise on the Nasdaq.

  • European markets were mostly higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.2 percent, the Dax in Germany unchanged and the FTSE 100 in Britain 0.3 percent lower. Asian markets ended the day higher, with the Nikkei in Japan up 0.6 percent and the Shanghai Composite in China gaining 2.4 percent.

  • The Labor Department released data on Wednesday that showed inflation remained tame: Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.1 percent in February. The news seemed to calm some concerns about an overheating economy, and on Thursday the 10-year Treasury yield was lower.

  • The European Central Bank will conclude a two-day meeting on Thursday with a statement on interest rates and any changes it plans to make in its bond purchasing program. The bank’s president, Christine Lagarde, has said in recent weeks she is carefully watching bond yields creep up, and the bank could announce it is increasing the pace of its purchases in the bond market, a way the bank can keep interest rates lower.

  • Oil futures, which have meandered in recent days, gained a bit. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up 0.8 percent after briefly touching $69 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, gained 1.1 percent, at about $65.20 a barrel.


Iowa Journalist Who Was Arrested at Protest Is Found Not Guilty

An Iowa jury acquitted a journalist on Wednesday in a highly unusual trial of a reporter who was arrested last spring as she covered a protest against racism and police violence.

Andrea Sahouri, a public safety reporter for The Des Moines Register, was arrested May 31 while covering a sometimes chaotic demonstration near the Merle Hay mall in downtown Des Moines. Police ordered protesters to disperse and used pepper spray against them. Ms. Sahouri, who said she identified herself as a reporter, was arrested along with her then-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, who had accompanied her that day.

Ms. Sahouri, 25, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of failing to disperse and interference with official acts, each punishable by up to 30 days in jail. On Wednesday, a six-person jury found Ms. Sahouri and Mr. Robnett not guilty of both charges.

“I’m thankful to the jury for doing the right thing,” Ms. Sahouri said in a statement after the verdict. “Their decision upholds freedom of the press and justice in our democracy.”

part of a nationwide movement that sprang up after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed last May while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The Register decried the charges against Ms. Sahouri as “a violation of free press rights and a miscarriage of justice.”

The trial, which took place at the Drake University Legal Clinic in Iowa City, started on Monday, with Judge Lawrence P. McLellan presiding. It was also live-streamed.

body cam footage taken by another police officer that captured Ms. Sahouri stating that she was a journalist for The Register. “This is my job!” she shouted.

Amnesty International, said the prosecution represented “a clear violation of press freedom and fit a disturbing pattern of abuses against journalists by police in the U.S.A.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project comprising a number of press freedom organizations, said that 11 other journalists working for U.S. publications were facing criminal charges after being arrested while covering protests last year.

Kirstin McCudden, the managing editor of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, expressed concern about the prosecution of Ms. Sahouri. “It’s a concerning precedent for her to have not only been arrested and assaulted with pepper spray while reporting but then to also face trial,” she said.

Tomas Murawski, a reporter for The Alamance News in North Carolina, is among the other journalists facing prosecution. He was arrested Oct. 31 while covering a protest in Graham, N.C., and charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing a police officer. The case is set for a March 31 court hearing.

April Ehrlich, a reporter for Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Ore., was arrested Sept. 22 while reporting on a police action to clear homeless people from a park in Medford, Ore. Ms. Ehrlich, who won an Edward R. Murrow award last year, was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. A pretrial conference hearing is scheduled for March 16.

Another journalist who has been charged is Richard Cummings, a freelance photographer. He was arrested June 1 while covering a demonstration in Worcester, Mass. He had a court hearing on Monday, and his next court date is April 20.

Thomas J. Healy, a constitutional law professor at Seton Hall University law school, said that arrests and prosecutions of journalists could have “a chilling effect on the press.”

“We rely on journalists to cover protests and the police response to protests,” he said. “This kind of transparency is how our democracy functions effectively.”


Jury selection gets under way in Derek Chauvin murder trial

Jury selection in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd began on Tuesday, after a 24-hour delay for legal reasons, with the first potential juror excused after she revealed during questioning that she thought the way the officer acted was “not fair”.

The woman said she saw bystander video showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck and did not understand why the officer didn’t get up when Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

“That’s not fair because we are humans, you know?” she said.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson noted that the woman said on her questionnaire she wanted to be on the jury “to give my opinion of the unjust death of George Floyd”.

Potential jurors must show they can set aside their opinions and view evidence fairly.

The woman said she would be willing to change her mind if she saw evidence from a different perspective, but Nelson used one of his 15 challenges to dismiss her without providing a reason.

Up to three weeks have been allocated for jury selection. Opening arguments are not due before 29 March and presentation of evidence is expected to take two to four weeks.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Jury selection is proceeding despite uncertainty over whether a third-degree murder charge will be added, following an appeals court ruling last Friday.

The state has asked the Minnesota court of appeals to stop proceedings until that is resolved, because of fears that going ahead without the roster of charges being solidified could give Chauvin grounds for appeal or lead to the collapse of the case.

That could mean a delay of weeks or months but the judge, Peter Cahill, has resisted pressure from prosecutors.

Floyd, who was Black, was declared dead on 25 May last year after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for almost nine minutes, holding his position and casually keeping one hand in his pocket as Floyd begged for his life, persisting even after Floyd went limp.

The killing sparked the biggest civil rights uprising in the US since the 1960s, spilling over at times into rioting but reinvigorating the Black Lives Matter movement and forcing a fresh reckoning on police brutality and systemic racism.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired and arrested. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges.

Cahill ruled on several pre-trial motions on Tuesday, setting parameters for testimony.

He said jurors will hear when Chauvin stopped working for the police department but they will not be told he was fired or that the city made a “substantial offer” to settle a lawsuit from Floyd’s family. Those details could imply guilt, Cahill said.

The city had no immediate comment on the settlement offer. A message left with an attorney for the Floyd family was not immediately returned.

Hundreds protest in the name of George Floyd in Minneapolis – video
Hundreds protest in the name of George Floyd in Minneapolis – video

Cahill also ruled that a firefighter heard in the bystander video urging the officers to check Floyd’s pulse will be allowed to testify about what she saw and whether she thought medical intervention was needed.

But she will not be allowed to speculate that she could have saved Floyd if she had intervened. Testimony on Chauvin’s training will be allowed.

Hundreds gathered outside court on Monday, many carrying signs such as “Justice for George Floyd”, “Convict Killer Cops” and “The whole world is watching”.

Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, sat in the back of the courtroom for part of the proceedings, her hands crossed in her lap.

Chauvin did not have a family member or supporter in the courtroom, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Tuesday.