Pasadena enters Yellow Tier: As of May 5, 2021, the City of Pasadena has entered the Yellow Tier of the State of California's Reopening Framework. The Pasadena Public Health Officer has issued a revised Public Health Order.
The City of Pasadena will move to Tier 4 (Yellow) for activities and businesses in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The City of Pasadena Health Officer has issued a Health Officer Order, which requires all individuals and businesses to comply with the restrictions and limitations set forth in the Yellow Tier.
Effective Wednesday, May 5, 12:01 a.m., the following activities will be permitted to occur in strict adherence with the updated Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) protocols:
- Restaurants may open for indoor dining at a maximum of 50% capacity in compliance with the protocol for restaurants, bars and breweries;
- Bars that are not able to provide a sit-down, bona fide meal with each alcohol transaction may operate indoors with modifications at a maximum capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer, and may operate outdoors with modifications, in compliance with the protocol for restaurants, bars and breweries;
- Breweries that are not able to provide a sit-down, bona fide meal may operate indoors at a maximum of 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer, with modifications in compliance with the protocol for restaurants, bars and breweries;
- All retail, including standalone grocers, may operate with modifications including physical distancing in compliance with the protocol for retail operations;
- Museums and galleries may open for indoor operations with modifications including physical distancing, in compliance with the protocol for museums and galleries;
- Movie theaters may operate indoors at a maximum of 50% capacity, in compliance with the protocol for movie theaters;
- Hotels and lodging may operate with modifications in compliance with the protocol for hotels and updated protocols for restaurants, bars and breweries, pools, and fitness facilities where applicable;
- Fitness facilities, gyms, yoga and dance studios may operate indoors at a maximum of 50% capacity, in compliance with the protocol for fitness facilities;
- Pools located indoors may reopen for routine use at a maximum of 50% capacity and pools located outdoors may be open for routine use at a maximum of 75% capacity, in compliance with the protocol for public pools;
- Offices may open with modifications including physical distancing in compliance with the protocol for offices, but telework is strongly encouraged;
- Family entertainment centers may open for indoor operation at 50% capacity (75% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination), in compliance with the protocol for family entertainment centers;
- Outdoor seated live events are permitted with maximum capacity of 67% and additional restrictions and modifications, in compliance with the protocol for outdoor seated live events and performances.
- Private events that are ticketed OR have a defined guest list, such as meetings, receptions, organized celebrations, conferences and similar events, are permitted to be held outdoors with a maximum of 200 guests with assigned seating. With proof of full vaccination or testing, private events up to 400 people outdoors or 200 guests indoors are permitted; all events must be in full compliance with additional restrictions and protocols;
- Indoor seated live events and performances are permitted subject to the following limitations and must be in full compliance with additional restrictions and protocols;
- In-state visitors only;
- Weekly worker testing program must be in place;
- All tickets must be delivered by digital, advanced purchase only;
- Eating and drinking may take place in pre-designated eating areas only (no eating or drinking in seats), with six feet of distance between customer groups;
- Suites are limited to 25% capacity, with a maximum of three households, and verified fully-vaccinated guests may occupy suites at full capacity;
- Venues with a capacity of up to 1500 attendees are limited to a maximum of 25% or 300 attendees, whichever is fewer (50% if all attendees show proof of full vaccination or testing as specified in the protocol;
- Venues with a capacity of greater than 1500 attendees are limited to a maximum of 10% capacity or 2,000 attendees, whichever is fewer, (50% if all attendees show proof of full vaccination or testing as specified in the protocol.
- Outdoor, informal private social gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted with wearing of face masks and physical distancing; if everyone is vaccinated, and 50 people or fewer are in attendance, face masks and physical distancing are not required. However, gatherings are not risk-free and measures should be taken to reduce risk as well as to protect high-risk individuals.
- Indoor, informal private social gatherings are strongly discouraged, but are allowed with modifications. Private indoor gatherings can occur with up to with a maximum of 50% capacity in settings where capacity limits exist or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Wearing of face masks and physical distancing of 6 feet or more are required. Food and drink indoors is strongly discouraged. While face masks are removed for eating or drinking, individuals must stay at least 6 feet away from everyone outside their own household, and put their mask back on as soon as they are done with the activity. When persons are not able to consume food and drink outdoors instead of indoors, windows and doors should remain open as much as possible to provide good air circulation and ventilation. If everyone is vaccinated, and 25 people or fewer are in attendance, face masks and physical distancing are not required. However, gatherings are not risk-free and measures should be taken to reduce risk as well as to protect high-risk individuals.
Residents are reminded to stay diligent about COVID-19 protocols including wearing a mask in public, frequent hand washing, keeping distance from others, and staying home if you feel sick, even if you have been vaccinated. The public is strongly urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and people who are fully vaccinated are also much less likely to be contagious or transmit the virus to someone else. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the greater the risk of contracting COVID-19, and infecting a friend, loved one, or coworker.
COVID-19 vaccines are available through the Pasadena Public Health Department at no cost to people age 16 years and over. For more information and to register for an appointment, visit myturn.ca.gov.
Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals
In alignment with the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH) COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Fully-Vaccinated People and the CDPH Guidance for Use of Face Coverings, fully-vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks outdoors except in the following situations, when a mask must still be worn:
i) At crowded outdoor events, such as live performances, parades, fairs, festivals, sporting events, or other similar settings;
ii) In crowded spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained and it is not known whether everyone in the space is fully vaccinated or at high risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19;
iii) In indoor public settings, unless expressly permitted by the Health Officer Order;
iv) At worksites and businesses; and
v) In any setting where masking is required by the facility operator or business or by the Health Officer Order or its associated protocols.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks or more after receiving the second dose in a 2-dose series such as Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks or more after receiving a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen.
Health Department to Resume Administering Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
On Friday, April 23, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced they would accept the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) recommendations to lift a pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for all adults. Pasadena Public Health Department Director and Health Officer Dr. Ying-Ying Goh concurs with the findings of the ACIP and Western States Scientific Safety Review (WSSR) that the review of all available data at this time shows that the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.
The CDC recommends that providers resume use of this vaccine in the US, with the additional disclosure to potential vaccine recipients of the possibility of a rare but increased risk of blood clots with low platelets (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome [TTS]) and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen. According to the CDC, to date most of these reports have been in adult women younger than 50 years old, but there have been reports in men and older women. The reporting rate for this event in women 18-49 years old is about 7 cases per million doses, and for both women 50 years and older and men, is less than 1 per 1 million people vaccinated. Informational materials in an accessible reading level in multiple languages are available from the CDC, and must be made available by providers, so that the members of the public can make an informed decision.
People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact their primary healthcare provider if they have concerns or if they develop severe symptoms of headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination. For more information visit the CDC.
As part of the new Public Health Order, the following business protocols have been updated for compliance with the Yellow Tier:
- Restaurants, Bars & Breweries
- Family Entertainment Centers
- Office Worksites
- Fitness Facilities
- Museums & Galleries
- Indoor Seated Live Events
- Outdoor Seated Live Events
Portal for Indoor & Outdoor Events: Under the Yellow Tier, certain types of events may now occur in accordance with the Health Order and State framework. Businesses, cultural institutions, and event sponsors should submit their event to the Pasadena Public Health Department for review to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 health protocols for these business activities. To access the Event Portal, click here. Note that certain events may require additional city permits depending upon the nature of the activity.
City Hall Meeting for Pasadena Restaurateurs- May 13th at 3 pm: All restaurant owners and managers are invited to attend a virtual meeting with Pasadena's City Manager Steve Mermell and key city staff to discuss updates related to outdoor dining within the public right-of-way and private parking lots. City Staff will discuss important updates that all restaurants will need be aware of as it pertains to future plans and allowances for these business activities that were expanded during the pandemic. The meeting will take place on Thursday, May 13th at 3 pm and attendees can log-in with Zoom at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89582442605 or dial-in by calling 1-669-900-6833 and using passcode: 895 8244 2605.
Vaccines Available for Pasadena Businesses: Pasadenans, including individuals who work in Pasadena, 16 years of age or older may register for the COVID vaccine. Pasadena's Public Health Department will be hosting a number of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. A schedule of Pasadena's upcoming clinics can be found here. To register for clinics, visit myturn.ca.gov. All vaccines will be administered on a first come, first serve basis.
COVID-19 Infection Rate Hits Record Low in Pasadena-California exceeds 60,000 total pandemic deaths: The rate of daily COVID-19 infections in Pasadena again reached a record low on Friday as the city reported a single new case of the virus and no additional fatalities for a second day in a row. Over the prior week, Pasadena reported an average of 2.1 new infections daily, according to city data. The same average was recorded on April 17. Prior to that, the city had not seen such a low rate of infection since March of 2020. In total, Pasadena Public Health Department officials had documented 11,205 cases of COVID-19. The local death toll has held at 340 since the last fatality in the city was reported on April 15.
Los Angeles County health officials announced that the county would resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine formulation on Saturday. Use had previously been halted nationwide as authorities investigated potential serious side effects. It was not immediately clear of the Pasadena Department of Public Health would follow suit. Officials previously said the city had only a small supply of that formulation, amounting to a couple of hundred doses.
Meanwhile, county officials reported 489 new infections and 27 deaths on Friday. Since March of 2020, the county had seen 1,230,786 documented infections and 23,759 fatalities. Just over 450 patients were being treated at county hospitals, with 24% of them in intensive care units, authorities added. Los Angeles County’s daily positivity rate was recorded at 0.8%. As of Friday, L.A. County represented 34% of California’s total COVID-19 infections and 40% of the state’s fatalities.
At the state level, public health officials announced 1,818 new infections and 94 deaths on Friday, bringing the pandemic totals to 3,626,656 cases of the virus and 60,086 fatalities. The statewide average positivity rate over the prior week held at 1.5%, according to California Department of Public Health records.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced new employer tax credits and other steps to encourage people reluctant to be inoculated to get the COVID-19 vaccine as his administration tries to overcome diminishing demand for the shots. The moves came as Biden celebrated reaching his latest goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office.
With more than 50% of adults at least partially vaccinated and roughly 28 million vaccine doses being delivered each week, demand has eclipsed supply as the constraining factor to vaccinations in much of the country.
In a White House speech Wednesday, Biden acknowledged entering a “new phase” in the federal vaccination effort that relies on increased outreach to Americans to get their shots, both to protect them and their communities.
President Joe Biden will propose almost doubling the capital gains tax rate for wealthy individuals to 39.6% to help pay for a raft of social spending that addresses longstanding inequality, according to people familiar with the proposal.
For those earning $1 million or more, the new top rate, coupled with an existing surtax on investment income, means that federal tax rates for wealthy investors could be as high as 43.4%. The new marginal 39.6% rate would be an increase from the current base rate of 20%, the people said on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet public.
A 3.8% tax on investment income that funds Obamacare would be kept in place, pushing the tax rate on returns on financial assets higher than rates on some wage and salary income, they said.
California lawmakers Monday revived a multibillion-dollar tax break for some businesses after the Biden administration assured them the proposal would not jeopardize the state’s own federal coronavirus aid.
The federal government has given California companies about $97 billion in loans during the pandemic, the majority of which business owners won’t have to pay back. Congress already lets business owners deduct expenses associated with those loans from their federal taxes. But California business owners still owe state taxes on that money.
California lawmakers wanted to change that, and they were prepared to do it earlier this year. But they put it off because they were afraid the proposal could force them to lose some of their own federal coronavirus aid.
That’s because Congress barred states from using coronavirus relief money to pay for tax cuts. Since the proposal would reduce how much money business owners pay in state taxes, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration worried it would count as a tax cut and would put some of the state’s $26 billion in federal aid at risk.
The U.S. Treasury Department assured the state it could pass the bill without forfeiting billions of dollars in federal aid. Monday, the state Senate voted 37-0 to do just that. The bill now heads to the state Assembly, where Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon called it “one of the biggest proposed tax cuts in California history.” The California Department of Finance says the tax break will cost the state between $4.4 billion and $6.8 billion over the next six years.
Vaccines: From the Wall Street Journal: Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one Covid-19 shot, the government said Sunday.
Economy: From the Wall Street Journal:Almost 130 million people 18 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 50.4% of the total adult population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Almost 84 million adults, or about 32.5% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.
The U.S. cleared the 50% mark just a day after the reported global death toll from the corona-virus topped three million, according to totals compiled by Johns Hopkins University, though the actual number is believed to be significantly higher.
The country’s vaccination rate, at 61.6 doses administered per 100 people, currently falls behind Israel, which leads among countries with at least five million people with a rate of 119.2. The U.S. also trails the United Arab Emirates, Chile and the U.K., which is vaccinating at a rate of 62 doses per 100 people, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
U.S. employers might have trouble hiring workers fast enough in coming months to keep up with the projected burst ofeconomic growth. Consumer spending at restaurants, hotels and salons is already starting to take off as the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic eases and more people get vaccinated and draw on their stimulus checks and savings.
But many economists expect economic activity to pick up faster than payrolls, at least initially, for several reasons, causing bottlenecks and wage pressures.
This happened last year for many manufacturers that experienced labor shortages as Americans working from home ordered more furniture, exercise equipment and other goods than before the pandemic. This year, it is likely to be the case particularly for providers of services requiring proximity to people, since they saw the biggest drops in business and employment during the pandemic and are poised to see the biggest rebound in demand this year.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal project U.S. gross domestic product— the value of all goods and services produced—will grow 6.4% this year, measured from the fourth quarter of last year to the same period of this year. That would lift output to nearly 4% above its pre-pandemic level measured in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, the economists expect employers to add 7.1 million jobs in the 12 months ending in December 2021, a gain of 5%. That would leave employment 1.6% lower than in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Unemployment claims in California rose slightly last week but remained below 100,000 for the second week in a row.
Workers across the state filed approximately 72,000 initial jobless claims during the week ending April 17, up about 3,000 from the 69,000 claims filed the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The latest unemployment filings in California marked the sixth time during the last 57 weeks that jobless claims ran below 100,000. Governmentordered business shutdowns and restrictions began in mid-March 2020.
Nationwide, unemployment claims totaled 547,000 for the week ending on April 17, a decline of 39,000 from the 586,000 claims filed the week ending April 10.
The current level of jobless claims is still far above what was the typical weekly amount prior to the start of the business shutdowns. During January and February of 2020, unemployment claims in California averaged 44,800 a week.
Workforce: From the Pasadena Star-News: Californians who swapped mind-numbing traffic and packed trains for “commutes” to a home office or living room don’t want to go back to their old daily grind. That’s according to a USC survey released Monday, which found more than half of those surveyed who are now telecommuting want to keep working from home at least three days a week after the pandemic ends. Just 18% are hoping they’ll go back to in-person work every day. USC professor Hernan Galperin, the study’s lead researcher, said the results show remote work has “great potential to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions.”
Then again, the shift might also pose a threat to public transportation agencies that count on streams of daily commuters for much of their revenue. The survey, from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the California Emerging Technology Fund, looked at the impact that access to broadband internet has had on people’s ability to work, learn and conduct doctor’s visits remotely.
Like other research on remote working during the pandemic, the survey found wealthier workers are more likely to telecommute — those who were considered “lowincome,” meaning they earned less than 200% of the federal poverty level, were twice as likely to report they are working in-person five days per week compared with higher earners.
Vaccine Passports: From the New York Times: Baseball is back across the state. Tickets to see Bad Bunny early next year were snatched up in no time. The Musso & Frank Grill — the iconic, very much indoors Hollywood haunt — has announced it will reopen on May 6.
That’s all been possible, officials and experts say, because increasing numbers of Californians are vaccinated.
And though the biggest hurdle for the state’s vaccine campaign has been a limited supply of doses, that’s changing quickly, officials say.
As of Monday, one in four Californians was fully inoculated and more than 40 percent of Californians have received at least one shot. All adults 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.
Many businesses have been allowed to reopen — but some can open at higher capacity if they require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. The state is also allowing larger groups to gather, if everyone is tested or fully vaccinated.
So how does one quickly and consistently prove they’ve been vaccinated? One option is what has come to be known as a “vaccine passport.”
Here’s what you need to know about what that would mean in California:
What is a vaccine passport?
Mostly, the term has been used to describe a digital certificate of vaccination. Think of the boarding pass you’d show on your phone to get through airport security, or of a digital concert ticket with a QR code.
Right now, you should receive a paper vaccination card when you get your first dose, but, of course, any kind of paper document is vulnerable.
Still, experts say that the term “passport” is misleading. It’s actually more like vaccine verification — something that has long existed in various contexts and forms. (Schools and summer camps, for instance, often require children to be inoculated against certain diseases.)
“We’re not calling it a passport, because that implies it’s a government-issued document,” Dr. Christopher Longhurst, U.C. San Diego Health’s chief information officer, told me. “That’s not what we’re talking about.”
Why is there a debate over the use of vaccine passports?
As with most things that involve health data, there are concerns about privacy. And as with everything that involves sorting people into groups of haves and have-nots, there are questions about fairness and ethics.
There are wide disparities in vaccination rates among countries, and vaccine passports could make international travel much easier for residents of wealthy countries.
In the United States, my colleagues reported, conservative politicians have turned “vaccine passports” into a political and cultural flash point, arguing that they infringe on Americans’ freedom. Some states, like Texas, have barred organizations receiving state money from requiring vaccine credentials.
The White House has said the federal government won’t support “a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.”
But legal experts have said that businesses like airlines, concert venues or warehouse operators are within their rights to require employees or customers to do things in the interest of public health. Many businesses have said they want to be able to assure customers that their fellow patrons are inoculated in order to coax them back.
Dr. Michael Jerrett, a professor of environmental health science at the U.C.L.A. Fielding School of Public Health, told me that as long as there is “equal access” to vaccines themselves, vaccine verification could be used to help prevent workplace outbreaks in the future.
The White House has said the federal government won’t support “a system that requires Americans to carry a credential” to prove they have received a coronavirus vaccine.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Will I need a vaccine passport if I live in California?
Not exactly. As The Los Angeles Times reported, the state is effectively encouraging venues to require proof of vaccination, as they are allowed to bring in more people if they do.
But state officials have emphasized they won’t require them.
So, Dr. Longhurst said, the state has effectively “tossed the ball” to private companies.
U.C. San Diego Health is partnering with the Vaccine Credential Initiative in an effort to ensure that whatever digital vaccine verification is required, there’s an “open standard” that’s consistent and secure no matter where you go.
From the Wall Street Journal: Newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. rose from a day earlier but are broadly edging lower, as the average number of vaccine doses administered continued to slide. There were 44,510 new cases reported in the U.S. on Wednesday, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That figure was up from 40,733 a day earlier but down from 55,125 a week earlier. More than 32.5 million cases have been reported in the U.S. overall, the data show.
Not all states report new cases on a daily basis. The seven-day moving average, which helps smooth out states’ different reporting schedules, was 46,656 as of Wednesday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data. The 14-day average was 49,668.
When the seven-day average is lower than the 14-day average, as it has been since April 17, it indicates cases are declining.
Hospitalizations stood at 39,554, according to the latest data posted by the Department of Health and Human Services. There were 776 deaths reported for Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins data, bringing the U.S. death toll to more than 579,000. Wednesday’s figure was down from 934 a day earlier and 959 a week earlier.
The decline in Covid-19 cases comes as some 41.3% of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated, and 56.7% have received at least one dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. An average of 2.1 million doses a day were administered over the past week, according to a Journal analysis of CDC data. That was down from 2.2 million a day earlier and 2.7 million a week earlier.
The center of the global Covid-19 pandemic has shifted decisively to low- and middle-income countries, fueling sickness and death on a scale that trends suggest could quickly exceed the world-wide toll in 2020.
More than 1.4 million Covid-19 deaths have been reported this year as the virus has torn through Latin America and swaths of Asia, according to official tallies compiled at the University of Oxford.
With recorded deaths rising by about 13,000 daily, the virus’s toll looks set within weeks to surpass the 1.8 million deaths recorded for 2020. Patchy recording of cases and deaths means those figures are almost certainly underestimates, disease experts said.
India continues to set world records in new cases, with the virus overwhelming hospitals in many areas. It reported more than 400,000 new daily cases on Thursday for the second time in a week, according to government data, bringing the total to more than 21 million.
From Nepal and Iran to Uruguay and Argentina, health systems are buckling as patients swamp hospitals, compounding the disease’s deadly toll. In some countries, oxygen is running low and intensive-care units are brimming. Crematoriums are running full tilt. New variants of the virus are advancing faster than overworked labs can track them.
Vaccines: The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is extraordinarily effective at protecting against severe disease caused by two dangerous variants, according to two studies published Wednesday.
The studies, which are based on the real-world use of the vaccine in Qatar and Israel, suggest that the vaccine can prevent the worst outcomes by B.1.1.7, the variant first identified in the U.K., and B.1.351, the variant first identified in South Africa.
Previous research suggested that B.1.1.7 is more infectious and more deadly than other variants, but that vaccines still worked well against it.
But vaccines appeared to be less effective against B.1.351, according to earlier studies.
From the New York Times:
As employers in the U.S. bring workers back to the office, they’ll face a fraught question: Should they require employees to be vaccinated?
Doing so would protect staff, ease fears of those reluctant to return, and help boost vaccination rates. But it could also create a backlash among people who see it as an invasion of privacy. Vaccinations also bring up issues employers would rather avoid — employees’ private lives, religious preferences and medical histories, such as whether someone is pregnant, breastfeeding or immunocompromised.
In polls, many executives say they’re interested in requiring shots for all employees, but few have taken steps to do so. Most companies, it seems, hope that nudges will be enough. Some are offering incentives like paid time off, coupons and Waffle House gift cards.
Requiring vaccines for access to public life is not new. The Supreme Court ruled about a century ago that states could require vaccinations for children attending public school. In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance stating that employers are legally allowed to require employees to be vaccinated before they return to offices.
But 25 states are considering legislation that could limit a company’s ability to require vaccines for students, employees or the public.
The Economy: From the Wall Street Journal: The Covid-19 pandemic remains one of the biggest near-term risks to the stability of the financial system, the Federal Reserve said, while noting that asset prices are vulnerable to significant declines if investor sentiment shifts.
“Should risk appetite decline from elevated levels, a broad range of asset prices could be vulnerable to large and sudden declines, which can lead to broader stress to the financial system,” the central bank said in its semiannual Financial Stability Report.
Such scenarios could materialize if progress on containing the virus falls short of expectations or the recovery stalls, straining some households and firms, the Fed said.
The report said other parts of the financial system appear resilient. Banks remain well capitalized, it said, and leverage is low among broker-dealers. Household debt is manageable, and businesses are better able to service their obligations as interest rates remain low and earnings improve, it said. High asset valuations were also flagged in the previous financial stability report, released in November. Thursday’s report showed measures of risk-taking have continued to rise in equity and bond markets since then. It also noted pockets of opaque risk and high leverage, particularly among hedge funds and related entities.
Unemployment: From the Pasadena Star-News: California workers filed fewer unemployment claims last week, but the state’s labor agency is falling behind again as it works to whittle down a mountain of backlogged claims, separate government reports show.
Workers statewide filed 71,200 first-time claims for unemployment during the week ending May 1, which was down 7,400 from the 78,600 claims filed in the week ending April 24, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday.
However, the backlog of unemployment claims that have yet to be paid or resolved by state labor officials remains steep at 1.05 million as of April 24, a report from the Employment Development Department shows.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell to 498,000, the lowest point since the viral pandemic struck 14 months ago and a sign of the job market’s growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending.
Thursday’s report showed applications declined 92,000 from a revised 590,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly jobless claims — a rough measure of the pace of layoffs — has declined significantly from a peak of 900,000 in January as employers have ramped up hiring.
As vaccinations have been more widely administered, restrictions on businesses have gradually lifted and consumers have become more willing to travel, shop and dine out, stronger spending has boosted hiring, slowed layoffs and accelerated growth. The economy grew last quarter at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate, with expectations that the current quarter will be even better.
From the Pasadena Star-News: The recovery of America’s job market hit a pause last month as many businesses — from restaurants and hotels to factories and construction companies — struggled to find enough workers to catch up with a rapidly strengthening economic rebound.
Employers added just 266,000 jobs in April, sharply lower than in March and far fewer than economists had expected. With viral cases declining and states and localities easing restrictions, the recovery from the pandemic recession has been so fast that many businesses have been caught flatfooted in the face of demand.
Last month’s hiring slowdown appears to reflect a host of factors. Nearly 3 million people are reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus, according to government surveys. More women also dropped out of the workforce last month, likely to care for children, after many had returned in the previous two months.
In addition, construction companies and manufacturers, especially automakers, have been left short of parts because of clogged supply chains and have had to slow production for now. Both sectors pulled back on hiring inApril. And some businesses say they believe that a $300-a-week jobless benefit, paid for by the federal government, is discouraging some of the unemployed from taking new jobs. Still, companies have added jobs for four straightmonths, theLabor Department said Friday, though the government lowered its estimate of job growth for February andMarch by a combined 78,000. April’s total is far below March’s gain of 770,000.
The resumption of hiring has encouraged some Americans to start looking for jobs, whichmeans they are newly counted as unemployed if they don’t immediately find work. This is what happened in April, when the unemployment rate ticked up from 6% to 6.1%.
Employers are now posting far more jobs than they did before the pandemic, and “helpwanted” signs dot many restaurant windows. Other telltale signs of labor shortages have emerged as well: Average hourly pay rose 0.7% in April to $30.17, which the government said suggests that the fast reopening of the economy “may have put upward pressure on wages.” The average workweek also rose, evidence that companies are asking their employees to work more.
The drop in hiring suggests the Federal Reserve is still months away from slowing its purchases of Treasurys and other bonds, which are intended to keep long-term interest rates low. Chair Jerome Powell has said that it would take “a string” of reports like the one for March to show that the economy was on track for a full recovery. Fed officials have signaled that they don’t intend to raise their shortterm benchmark rate until after 2023.
Most economists expect job growth to strengthen as more vaccinations are administered and trillions ingovernment aid spreads through the economy. Even if another uptick in COVID-19 cases were to occur, analysts don’t expect most states and cities to reimpose tough business restrictions. Though, the gains in the job market couldprove choppy, as Friday’s jobs report suggested.
From the LA Times: State’s jobless claim backlog rising again, Outraged lawmakers recommend against creating a new department before the problem is resolved. By Patrick McGreevy
State lawmakers have rejected a proposal by the governor to create a new state agency to improve working conditions in California, with opponents saying the state should first resolve serious problems that have delayed payment of unemployment benefits to many of those left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Assembly panel recommended Tuesday against creating the new department at a hearing where lawmakers noted that a backlog of delayed claims has grown in the last month. Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and others said unemployed Californians are still facing frustrating delays in getting benefits.
The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration’s unanimous bipartisan recommendation, which next goes to the full budget committee, signaled continuing frustration with problems at the EDD that Director Rita Saenz acknowledged need further action.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 proposed the creation of a Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages within the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, but state officials said the move is premature while the agency struggles to resolve problems with the unemployment claims system.
The Newsom administration had proposed the new department, saying it would “integrate policy development and workforce innovation with existing employment, training, and data collection services” currently provided by the labor agency and the EDD. The tasks of the new department, which would include efforts to “improve equity for all workforce participants,” are already within the responsibilities of the existing labor agency, noted the state’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office.
The LAO analysis said the proposal would shift about 1,600 employees of the EDD to the new department, although they are assigned to workforce services and not responsible for processing unemployment claims.
Still, the analyst’s office said the reorganization would require considerable attention from leaders of the EDD and labor agency “at a time when the state’s urgent goal is to eliminate the backlog of unemployment insurance claims and prevent further fraud.”
“In our view,” the LAO said, “the administration’s decision to move forward with a complex reorganization during the pandemic poses a potentially serious risk to the state’s ongoing efforts to eliminate the backlog of unemployment insurance claims.”
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the Assembly’s Budget Committee chair, agreed the time wasn’t right to create “a new bureaucracy” in the labor agency.