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COVID-19 Update for December 5, 2022-Cases, the Economy, the Flu and More

Cases: The 7-day average number of coronavirus patients at Huntington Health in Pasadena has spiked dramatically in recent days, lagging but mirroring to an extent Los Angeles County’s steady increases in daily infections and hospitalizations since the beginning of November.

As of Thursday, Pasadena’s 7-day average number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases had climbed 137% higher than the rate seen at the beginning of November. As of Friday, the County’s average daily number of new infections over the past seven days was up 44.9 percent. 

The current surge is being blamed largely on a pair of new variants of the virus, known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Both are offshoots of the BA.5 variant that was blamed for rises in infection numbers earlier this year.

Ferrer said Thursday that the rising case and hospitalization numbers have moved Los Angeles County from the “low” COVID community activity level to the “medium” category, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the County is on pace to reach the “high” level in a matter of days, when the rate of new cases reaches 200 per 100,000 residents. The rate is currently 185 per 100,000 residents.

The move to “medium” did not prompt any immediate changes to public health mandates, such as indoor masking — which remains “strongly recommended” by the County.

But masking could again become mandatory indoors in a matter of weeks, Ferrer said.

The masking mandate would return if the County enters the “high” community level, which is expected by next week, and if the County’s virus-related hospitalization numbers reach two thresholds — if the rate of daily hospital admissions tops 10 per 100,000 residents and the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients tops 10%.

The County has already surpassed the first threshold, with the rate of daily hospital admissions already at 11.9 per 100,000 residents as of Thursday. But the level of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was still 5.9% as of Thursday, below the 10% threshold.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner.

Ferrer again noted that the actual number of COVID infections in the community is likely much higher than the official numbers reflect — thanks to the prevalent use of at-home tests that aren’t reported to the County, and due to the number of people who are likely sick but don’t get tested at all.

Pasadena is experiencing high levels of COVID-19 circulating throughout the community, reflecting a broader surge in Los Angeles County, health officials said Friday.

With the city already in a high community transmission tier, under federal thresholds, officials said, the city’s public health and medical experts urged people to take resulting precautions as the holiday season arrives amid increasing instances of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus – otherwise known as RSV – and emerging COVID-19 variants.

Surrounding Los Angeles County could move into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high-transmission coronavirus category next week.

The good news, according to Shriner, is this year’s flu vaccine and the recently announced bivalent booster appear to be effective in preventing the flu and pushing back on coronavirus, despite uncertainty about emerging variants.

Coronavirus is still prevalent in the community, though, with officials reporting 70 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Dec. 1, almost double what was tallied at the start of the week, according to the online dashboard.

The status of Friday’s case count was unknown as of this newspapers’s deadline, but the most recent count equates to 37,474 total cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Pasadena has its own public health department, as does Long Beach. Both often operate in tandem with the county health department, but they also act independently.

Pasadena Public Health Division Manager Dr. Matthew Feaster noted the counts align with the regional increases of COVID-19 transmission, which is worrisome, since emergent variants and holiday-related social gatherings create “the perfect mix to bring large-scale COVID-19 surges,” he said.

To date, the city’s public health department hasn’t seen a circulating variant as influential as the original omicron, Feaster said.

The current surge is being blamed largely on a pair of new variants of the virus, known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Both are offshoots of the BA.5 variant that was blamed for rises in infection numbers earlier this year.

Countywide, another 4,744 COVID-19 infections were reported Friday, continuing a surge in daily cases that could soon lead to a renewed requirement for people to wear masks at all indoor public spaces.

The new cases gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,552,019. Another 14 deaths were also reported Friday, raising the overall virus-related death toll to 34,213.

According to state figures, there were 1,171 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, up from 1,164 a day earlier. Of those patients, 131 were being treated in intensive care units, up from 121 on Thursday.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 12.2% as of Friday.

The county has been logging steady increases in daily infections and hospitalizations since the beginning of November. As of Friday, the county’s average daily number of new infections over the past seven days was 3,053, up from 2,121 a week ago.

Ferrer said Thursday that the rising case and hospitalization numbers have moved Los Angeles County from the “low” COVID community activity level to the “medium” category, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the county is on pace to reach the “high” level in a matter of days, when the rate of new cases reaches 200 per 100,000 residents. The rate is currently 185 per 100,000 residents.

The move to “medium” did not prompt any immediate changes to public health mandates, such as indoor masking — which remains “strongly recommended” by the county.

But masking could again become mandatory indoors in a matter of weeks, Ferrer said.

Shriner, Huntington’s lead infectious disease specialist, recalled the hospital looking like “a warzone” at this time last year, but she doesn’t believe care centers will be as impacted this holiday season thanks to the prevalence of vaccines and related coronavirus treatments.

Shriner acknowledged she worries a new variant will evade vaccines, “and put us right back to square one,” she said. Shriner was hopeful masks would still be among prevention strategies.

Acting Director of Public Health Manuel Carmona encouraged all of Pasadena to follow suit and assess their own personal risk factors before heading out to travel.

Other ways to limit the spread of respiratory viruses, according to Pasadena Health Officer Dr. Eric Handler, include staying home if you’re sick, testing for COVID-19 and contacting your doctor for treatment options.

Babies hit hard by virus variant-Omicron increases hospitalization rate for infants to that of seniors, CDC reports. By Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money for the LA Times.

Infants younger than 6 months had the same rate of hospitalization as seniors age 65 to 74 during this summer’s Omicron wave, according to a new report.

The findings, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that COVID-19 can still cause severe and fatal outcomes in children too young to be vaccinated.

During the first Omicron surge last fall and winter, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate spiked for both the youngest infants and younger seniors, eventually reaching about the same rate. During the variant’s summer surge, the hospitalization rate for both groups climbed again, also hitting about the same rate.
In earlier surges, the youngest infants had been hospitalized at rates well below those for seniors age 65 to 74.

The COVID-19 hospitalization rate for the youngest infants during the summer’s Omicron wave was significantly higher than the previous summer’s peak, which was dominated by the Delta variant.

The findings may come as a surprise, especially given the conventional wisdom that younger children and infants are far less likely to fall seriously ill with COVID-19 than older groups.

But the data illustrate how the groups hit hard by the virus can change with the rise and fall of new coronavirus variants. The CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women be vaccinated “to facilitate the passive transfer of antibodies to these very young infants,” Dr. Krysia Lindan, a UC San Francisco professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, said at a recent campus town hall.

And the FLU and RSV: Flu cases across state are ‘off the charts’- CDC finds California is among worst in U.S.; influenza and COVID surge in L.A. County.
By Rong-Gong Lin II for the LA Times. 

California is now reporting very high flu levels, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the respiratory illness continues to surge nationwide.

The CDC uses five overall levels, from minimal to very high, to measure influenza-like illnesses across the U.S. and its territories. On Friday, the agency’s color-coded map showed California and 10 other states, as well as New York City, shaded purple, the worst of the three shades in the very high flu level.
Since the start of October, CDC officials estimate, there have been 78,000 flu hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths nationally.

The California Department of Public Health classifies all of Southern California as having high flu levels, while Central and Northern California are rated moderate. Flu is the reason for nearly 4% of hospitalizations each week at Kaiser’s Northern California facilities, the highest in any of the prior four flu seasons.

In Los Angeles County, flu and COVID-19 cases are surging, and RSV — or respiratory syncytial virus — also remains at a high level.

“This triple threat … has a lot of potential to cause there to be significant circulating illness and to strain our healthcare system — both in terms of the number of beds that are available and the number of healthcare workers that are impacted by illness, which lowers the hospital’s capacity to take care of patients,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a recent briefing.

The flu positivity rate in L.A. County has reached 25%, a level not seen at this time of year in the last four years. “Clearly, we’re ... off the charts,” Ferrer said. California has recorded at least 36 flu-related deaths since the start of October, based on death certificate data. That figure is probably an undercount.

The positivity rate for RSV also remains elevated — around 15%, higher than in any of the four prior cold-and-flu seasons, which run October through September.

There are indications that RSV activity may have peaked in L.A. County in early November and is starting to decline. In late October, the positivity rate exceeded 20%, according to county data. But it’s possible the 15% rate is simply a result of more people being tested for the virus, Ferrer said.

At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the RSV positivity rate is 23%. That’s down considerably from Nov. 1, when it was 38%. But the latest figure is still quite high and is about the same as during the peak for all of last winter, 24%. The emergency room at Children’s Hospital is so busy that it cannot always accommodate patient transfers from other hospitals.

The positivity rate for flu at Children’s Hospital is 19%; before Thanksgiving, it was 12%.

Orange County’s RSV situation remains the same as it was the prior week, according to its Health Care Agency, where officials declared a public health emergency over RSV and other viral illnesses stressing children’s hospitals. Increasing coronavirus-positive hospitalizations are exacerbating the RSV situation, as a rise in COVID-19 hospital patients means there are fewer hospital beds available, the agency said.

At Kaiser’s Northern California hospitals, about 2.2% of hospital admissions are related to RSV, down from 2.3% last week, according to the most recent available data. Those rates are higher than in the five preceding cold-and-flu seasons.

There have been at least 14 RSV-related deaths, according to California death certificate data, since the start of October. The figure is probably an undercount.

In addition to wearing a mask, one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of catching the flu or other viral illnesses is to avoid touching your face, health experts say.

The CDC notes that people can be infected with flu and RSV by touching contaminated surfaces, where some viruses can survive for days, and then their face.

The Economy: The US economy added more jobs than expected in November in a sign that demand for new workers remains strong despite the Federal Reserve’s historic efforts to cool the economy.

Jay Powell tried to dampen investor expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates any time soon in a hawkish speech that signalled the US central bank has a long way to go in its fight against inflation.

Inflation in the eurozone has fallen for the first time in 17 months, raising hopes that the biggest price surge for a generation has peaked and the European Central Bank will be able to shift to smaller interest rate rises next month.

President Biden signed a bill Friday to avert a freight rail strike that he said could have plunged the U.S. into a catastrophic recession.

At the White House, Biden signed a measure passed Thursday by the Senate and Wednesday by the House.
It binds rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the railroads and union leaders in September but rejected by some of the union workers.

The president, for decades a vocal labor ally, called it the “right thing to do” given the risks to an economy that is battling high inflation.

Members of four of the 12 unions involved had rejected the proposed terms as lacking sufficient paid sick leave. Biden acknowledged the shortcoming as he said he would continue to push for that benefit for every U.S. worker.

Rejection of the settlement had created the risk of a strike beginning Dec. 9, jeopardizing key shipments during the holiday season.
A freight rail strike also would have had a big potential effect on passenger rail because Amtrak and many commuter railroads rely on tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The president said that a strike would have sunk the U.S. economy, causing about 765,000 job losses by rupturing supply chains. Basic goods, food and the chemicals needed to ensure clean drinking water and make gasoline could have gone undelivered.

Rising prices already have many Americans afraid of a coming downturn, but the U.S. job market has been steady.

Friday’s jobs report showed that wages for workers rose 5.1% last month from a year earlier. That’s an acceleration from October’s 4.9% gain and easily topped economists’ expectations for a slowdown.

Jumps in pay are helpful to workers who are struggling to keep up with higher prices for daily necessities. But the Federal Reserve worries that too-strong gains could cause inflation to become further entrenched in the economy. That’s because wages make up a big part of costs for companies in service industries, and they could end up raising their own prices further to cover higher wages for their employees.

Across the economy, employers added 263,000 jobs last month. That was stronger hiring than economists’ forecasts for 200,000, while the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%. Many Americans also continue to stay entirely out of the job market, which could increase the pressure on employers to raise wages.

A labor market that remains much stronger than expected could make an already dicey situation for the Fed even more complicated. It’s trying to slow the economy just enough to prevent the buying activity that gives inflation its oxygen, without going so far as to create a recession. The Fed has signaled it will probably push the unemployment rate to at least 4.4% in its fight against inflation.

But expectations are rising for what the Fed will do in 2023. Treasury yields jumped immediately after the release of the jobs report. That indicates strengthened expectations for the Fed to stay resolute in hiking interest rates.

The strong employment data follow up on several mixed reports on the economy. The nation’s manufacturing activity shrank last month for the first time in 30 months, for example, while the housing industry is struggling under the weight of much higher mortgage rates. Such data points had raised hopes the Fed’s rate hikes were taking effect and would ultimately pull down inflation.

Even though Friday’s report showed hiring was stronger than expected, it also clearly demonstrated that the nation’s downward trend in hiring is continuing. November’s job gains matched the low seen in April 2021.
More economists are forecasting the U.S. economy will fall into a recession next year in large part because of higher interest rates.
 

COVID-19 Update for November 28, 2022-Cases, the Econony and More

CasesPasadena Public Health Department case counts show the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Pasadena has risen from 18.4 cases on Nov. 1 to 30.1 cases on Nov. 23, an increase of 63.5%.

As of Friday, 5 patients were in Huntington Health’s ICU, of whom 60% were vaccinated. The hospital reported 23 COVID-positive patients in all, of whom 61% were vaccinated.

LA County health officials have said previously that roughly 40% of virus patients were actually admitted to hospitals for COVID-related issues, while the rest were admitted for other reasons but tested positive at the hospital.

Overall official case numbers are believed by County officials to be artificially low, due to residents who use at-home tests and do not report the results to the county. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis noted last week that many other people who may be infected don’t get tested at all.

The county has been seeing steadily rising case and hospitalization numbers since the beginning of November, prompting health officials last week to again “strongly recommend” that people wear masks at indoor public settings.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at locations where they are required by the operator.

“We are grateful for the support and kindness residents have shown each other as together we respond to the continued challenges of COVID-19,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Wednesday. “As we look forward to other upcoming winter holidays, getting vaccinated with the new updated fall COVID-19 booster offers you and your family additional protection as you make plans to travel, shop and gather with those you love.

She again noted the persistent spread of flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in the county, which are combining with COVID-19 to present a triple threat of respiratory illnesses. She urged residents to receive a flu shot in addition to the COVID booster vaccine.

A fully vaccinated person can still contract and transmit COVID, but health officials say the vaccines offer protection against developing severe symptoms that can result in hospitalization and even death.

Signs of hope against a third wave-After two devastating pandemic seasons, experts say this winter might be different. By Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money for theLA Times.

For the last two years, Thanksgiving served as a sobering reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic’s staying power.
For each, the holiday essentially marked the turbocharged start of the severe fall-and-winter COVID-19 wave, which both resulted in the deadliest surges of the pandemic, killing thousands of Americans a day.

But there’s some guarded optimism that this winter might be different — or at least not as bad as the 2020 and 2021 surges.

Some of the advantages we have this year include an updated COVID-19 booster shot that’s pretty well matched to the circulating strains of the coronavirus, ample supplies of at-home rapid tests, and general awareness of steps we can take to avoid illness, such as masking up in indoor public settings, staying home when sick, and improving air flow by taking events outdoors, opening windows and turning up air filtration units.

There’s even some promising news about the unrelenting emergence of coronavirus subvariants, none of which have dramatically raised alarm bells the same way the original Omicron strain did when it stormed onto the world stage last Thanksgiving.

One note of optimism comes from Singapore, which recently experienced a big wave in coronavirus cases fueled by the Omicron subvariant XBB, a recombinant of the sublineages BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75. XBB has generated concern that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

Two other Omicron subvariants, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, accounted for about 57% of estimated coronavirus cases for the most recent week available, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both are descendants of BA.5 — a long-dominant strain that fueled a surge this summer.

But some experts who had previously warned about the rise of new Omicron subvariants say the latest data appear reassuring for now. New York state, for instance, has the highest proportion of BQ.1.1 in the nation — yet there is no sign of hospital admissions likewise increasing.

In California, however, coronavirus-positive hospitalizations have been increasing. As of Wednesday, there were 2,782 coronavirus-positive patients in hospitals, up 84% from the autumn low of 1,514 on Oct. 24. This summer’s peak was 4,843, set on July 26, and last winter’s peak was 15,435, set on Jan. 21. The all-time high, 21,938, was set during the first pandemic winter on Jan. 6, 2021, and the all-time summer high was 8,353, set on Aug. 31, 2021.

Nationally, hundreds of Americans are still dying every day of COVID-19, which remains a leading cause of death . And there are signs that transmission is once again on the upswing.

Los Angeles County is averaging 2,337 coronavirus cases a day for the week that ended Friday, up 32% from the previous week. On a per capita basis, L.A. County is seeing 142 cases a week for every 100,000 residents. A rate of 100 or greater is considered high.
L.A. County’s coronavirus case rate has been climbing since mid-October, when it hit an autumn low of 60 cases a week for every 100,000 residents. The latest case rate is the highest it has been since Labor Day.

California is recording 95 coronavirus cases a week for every 100,000 residents for the seven-day period that ended Tuesday. The state’s rate climbed 16% over the previous week.

Estimates suggest the share of admitted coronavirus-positive patients statewide who are in the hospital due to COVID-19 illness has remained relatively stable, at around 45%, since April. The other patients are being treated for issues not related to COVID-19. BQ.1.1 has been concerning because of assessments that it was “one of the most immune-evasive SARS-CoV-2 variants yet seen,” Topol wrote in a blog post , including “resistance to all available monoclonal antibodies,” referring to medicine that can help treat coronavirus-infected patients or prevent infection.

It could be that cumulative immunity is now having an effect against the latest strains. 

The optimism doesn’t mean that “we’re out of the woods,” Topol said. And it’s not to say that the rise of BQ.1.1 is without consequence. Already, the variant has rendered monoclonal antibodies intended to be used as medicine to treat or prevent COVID-19 effectively useless. UC San Francisco said it is discontinuing administration of bebtelovimab and Evusheld due to “a rapid increase in circulation of Omicron subvariants predicted to have resistance” against the drugs. Paxlovid, an antiviral oral medication, continues to be an effective treatment against COVID-19.

The rate at which the coronavirus is mutating has risen by 30% in the last year, Topol added, so there’s still room for Omicron “to pose a significant threat.” And there’s still the possibility that problematic variants could emerge in the future.

Much of the optimism surrounding this fall and winter stems from the availability of updated COVID-19 booster shots. Data released this week show that the updated COVID-19 vaccines offer “significant additional protection” against symptomatic infection in people who were previously vaccinated or boosted with the older formulation.

However, uptake of those doses has been slow out of the gate.

Statewide, about 16% of eligible residents have gotten the updated booster.

The coronavirus is also not the only game in town heading into this winter. Flu is surging at a level not seen in years, and RSV is continuing to stress children’s hospitals across California. Regarding the flu, though, this season’s vaccine appears also well matched to the circulating strains.

Nationally, hospitalization rates related to RSV — or respiratory syncytial virus — are exceptionally high, said Dr. Theodore Ruel, chief of UC San Francisco’s pediatric infectious diseases and global health division.

RSV also continues to stretch the available emergency room capacity at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, meaning the facility cannot always accommodate patient transfers from elsewhere. The primary pediatric hospital in Orange County is observing a high number of emergency room visits daily, according to the county’s Health Care Agency.

Riverside County reported the death of a child younger than 4, possibly from RSV, in the eastern part of the county, officials said Monday. The child died after a short illness at a hospital.

Officials say that babies at high risk for severe RSV — like premature infants and young children with heart and lung conditions — can take a medicine known as palivizumab to help protect them. “If you are concerned about your child’s risk for severe RSV infection, talk to your child’s healthcare provider,” the Riverside County public health agency said.

The EconomyMost Federal Reserve officials back slower rate rises ‘soon’-A “substantial majority” of Federal Reserve officials support slowing down the pace of US interest rate rises soon, even as some warned that monetary policy would need to be tightened more than expected next year, according to an account of their most recent meeting.

THE U.S. economy faces the bleakest holiday outlook in recent memory-By Olivia Rockeman for Bloomberg- The recent wave of relief across the retail industry is giving way to a sense of foreboding ahead of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season.
Shoppers helped companies such as Macy’s Inc. avoid the worst-case scenario in the third quarter, loading up credit cards to absorb higher prices for food and household items while taking advantage of steep discounts for overstocked TVs and furniture. And although results from retailers including Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Best Buy Co. exceeded forecasts, sales were still down — the contraction just wasn’t as bad as expected.
That’s in large part because retailers offered promotions earlier than normal this year to clear out excess inventory.

But executives voiced caution and repeatedly referred to economic uncertainty. And the cost of unloading piled-up inventory, while still dealing with inflation and staffing challenges, is expected to put pressure on profits.

For shoppers, that could translate into big markdowns. But those bargains may be on spring’s leftover sweatpants as merchants continue to struggle with too much stock of everything purchased early in the year, including apparel and toys.

Add it all up and the U.S. economy is looking at the bleakest holiday outlook in recent memory, with sales that will struggle to top the record-setting levels of the last few years. Apparel companies across the board are conservative about expectations for the fourth quarter, citing an uncertain environment and declining sales activity in late October and early November.

Overall spending this holiday season is seen growing 2.5% from a year ago, compared with 8.6% last year and 32% in 2020, according to data from Adobe Inc. Those figures aren’t adjusted for inflation, meaning that sales could be down by volume.

The challenges are especially acute for brands that cater to lower- and middle-income consumers, who have become more cautious when it comes to spending on discretionary items. At Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, the higher-priced namesake brand reported growth in third-quarter net sales while the lower-cost Hollister brand posted a decline.

On the flip side, higher-income shoppers are still spending. That trend was illustrated in results at Macy’s-owned Bloomingdale’s and Gap Inc.-owned Banana Republic that were better than those at the parent companies’ lower-cost brands

Consumers still plan on spending: More than three-quarters of customers expect to spend as much as or more than in 2021 on the holidays, and 85% said they will do at least some of their holiday shopping on Black Friday, according to survey data from Placer.ai, a location analytics firm that tracks foot traffic.
But some consumers are relying more on credit and buy-now, pay-later options than they did a year ago. Macy’s said last week that customers are building larger balances on credit cards.

A U.S. recession — which a growing number of economists have warned may be imminent as the Federal Reserve keeps raising interest rates in an effort to curb inflation — may have a wider effect on spending across the income spectrum.
 

 

 

COVID-19 Update for November 21, 2022:

Cases: Pasadena Reported 36 new cases and no fatalities from COVD-19 on Thursday. 

2,200 new COVID cases logged in LA County, with 8 more deaths. According to state figures, there were 666 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, up from 648 on Thursday. Of those patients, 74 were being treated in intensive care, down from 77 the previous day.

Los Angeles County continued reporting inflated numbers of COVID-19 cases on Friday, Nov. 18, with more than 2,200 new cases logged, along with eight more virus-related deaths.

The 2,249 new cases reported Friday gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,515,225. The eight new deaths lifted the county’s virus-related death toll to 34,098.

According to state figures, there were 666 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, up from 648 on Thursday. Of those patients, 74 were being treated in intensive care, down from 77 the previous day.

Health officials have said previously that roughly 40% of the patients were actually admitted for COVID-related issues, while the rest were admitted for other reasons but tested positive at the hospital.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 6.8% as of Friday.

The county has been seeing steadily rising case and hospitalization numbers since the beginning of November, prompting health officials on Thursday to announce that they are again “strongly recommending” that people wear masks at indoor public settings.

The recommendation falls short of a masking mandate, but masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at locations where they are required by the operator, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said Thursday.

For the past few months, indoor masking has been a matter of personal preference, unless individual businesses or locations chose to require them. The county shifted back to “strongly recommending” indoor mask wearing on Thursday when the local seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 infections rose to 100 per 100,000 residents, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 residents.

The increasing case rate mirrored steady rises seen in daily reported case numbers and hospitalizations since the beginning of November.

Davis said the county is currently reporting about 1,500 new cases per day, up from 1,300 per day a week ago and up 52% since Nov. 1. He noted that the reported cases only represent a portion of actual infections occurring in the county, since many residents rely on at-home tests that are not reported to health officials, while many more don’t get tested at all.

Average daily COVID-related hospital admissions are averaging 97 per day, up 26% from 77 per day last week, and a 54% jump since Nov. 1, Davis said.

Daily reported virus-related deaths remain relatively low, at about eight per day, but Davis said with the increases in case rates and hospitalizations, that number could begin to climb.

Health officials have been warning of a third straight winter surge of COVID-19 cases, noting the increased risk of transmission as people spend more time indoors due to colder weather and the winter holidays. Davis on Thursday also noted the continued threat of new variants emerging that can spread more rapidly from person to person, even those who are vaccinated.

Vaccines: from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: Information on COVID-19 Booster Facts. Spanish translation is pending. You will find details on Boosting your protection against severe COVID-19, Getting a Booster dose if it has been at Least 2 months since your last dose, and Getting the Booster even if you have already been infected with COVID-19. 

BoosterFacts.pdf

Please see our Vaccine FAQ Resources webpage for more information.

Other pertinent information and resources can be found on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health website at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to protect the health and well-being of Los Angeles County residents.

From the New York TimesOperation Warp Speed, the Trump-era program that poured billions of dollars into developing Covid shots, seemed to signal a new dawn of American vaccine making, demonstrating how decades of scientific grunt work could be turned into lifesaving medicine in a matter of months.

But as a third pandemic winter begins in the United States, its vaccine-making effort has lost steam. Efforts to test and produce next-generation Covid vaccines are bogged down by bureaucratic problems and funding shortfalls. Foreign rivals have raced ahead in approving long-awaited nasal-spray vaccines, including one invented in St. Louis, creating a scenario in which Americans would have to travel abroad for the latest in American vaccine technology.

The Biden administration has launched a last-ditch effort to restore the country’s edge. In a bid to resurrect Operation Warp Speed, President Biden asked the lame-duck session of Congress this week for $5 billion for next-generation vaccines and therapeutics, as part of a broader $9.25 billion pandemic spending request. But Republicans, having blocked requests for next-generation vaccine funding since the spring amid complaints about how the White House spent earlier pandemic aid allocations, have shown no signs of dropping their resistance.

As a result, even with the pandemic still taking a heavy toll, prospects have dimmed for the two most coveted kinds of next-generation vaccines: nasal sprays that can block more infections, and universal coronavirus shots that can defend against a wider array of ever-evolving variants.

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The Economy: Economic warning signs are mounting in California — foreshadowing potentially tough budget decisions for the state officials and policymakers who emerge victorious from the Nov. 8 election.

One particularly eye-popping statistic: Just nine companies headquartered in the Golden State went public in the first three quarters of 2022, compared to 81 during the same period last year, according to a Bloomberg News analysis.

Bloomberg also found that: As of Sept. 30, initial public offerings in California had raised just $177 million, compared to an average of $16 billion during the same period over the past five years. The $177 million figure represents just 2% of funds generated by U.S. companies that went public through the end of September. Last year at this time, California accounted for 39% of funds nationally.

If this trend continues, it could spell an end to the streak California has maintained since 2003 of generating more IPOs than any other state.
“We are already seeing an immediate effect,” Brian Uhler, deputy legislative analyst for the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, told Bloomberg. “And it does appear to be significant,” contributing to a 5% decline in California employers’ income tax withholding payments in September compared to last year.

Indeed, California collected about $2.8 billion less in taxes in September than it thought it would, marking the third straight month of revenues coming in below projections, according to a report released this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of Finance.

From Jonathan Lansner for the Pasadena Seat-NewsSouthern California’s 8 million jobs sets new record-The joblessness rate was 4% in October, the same as in September.

The Southern California job market hit record employment in October, defying the efforts of the Federal Reserve to cool an overheated economy with steep interest rate hikes.

State job figures released Friday, found bosses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties added 109,200 workers in October — the best month for hiring since February 2021. That put a total of 8 million at work in the region, up 360,300 in 12 months and topping the 7.953 million high of November 2019.

October also marks the first time Southern California jobs exceeded February 2020’s level, the last month before COVID-19 upended the economy. The statewide job market also became “fully recovered” in October, erasing what had been a loss of 2.6 million jobs when the pandemic locked down the economy.

October’s local hiring pace was faster than the average 30,025 workers added monthly in the past year. Record employment was set in October for the local transportation/warehouses, business services and healthcare/personal services industries.

Here’s how the job market performed in the region’s key metropolitan areas:

  • Los Angeles County: 4.61 million workers, 99.8% of February 2020 after adding 58,800 in a month and growing by 196,600 in a year. Unemployment? 4.5% – same as a month earlier; 6.2% a year ago; 4.3% in February 2020.
  • Orange County: 1.69 million workers, 100.5% of February 2020 after adding 22,800 in a month and growing by 77,600 in a year. Unemployment? 2.8% vs. 2.7% a month earlier; 4.1% a year ago; 2.8% in February 2020.
  • Inland Empire: record 1.69 million workers, 107% of February 2020 after adding 27,600 in a month and growing by 86,100 in a year. Unemployment? 3.9% – same as a month earlier; 5.4% a year ago; 3.9% in February 2020.

 

Uneven rebound: The pandemic era’s rebound in hiring has not been an even reversal, with large differences in employment recovery in key job niches. Look at four-county worker counts by key industries, ranked by size of pandemic-era recovery:

  • Transportation/warehouses: 123% of pre-coronavirus jobs at a record 468,900 workers. That’s up 88,300 from February 2020 after adding 10,500 last month.
  • Business services: 105% of pre-coronavirus jobs at a record 1,202,900 workers. That’s up 59,500 from February 2020 after adding 19,300 last month.
  • Healthcare, personal services: 105% of pre-coronavirus jobs at a record 1,225,600 workers. That’s up 58,200 from February 2020 after adding 15,700 last month.
  • Retailing: 102% of pre-virus employment at 750,800 workers. That’s up 12,600 from February 2020 after adding 12,200 last month.
  • Construction, real estate, finance: 101% of pre-pandemic staffing at 680,100 workers. That’s up 5,900 from February 2020 after adding 9,700 last month.
  • Restaurants: 99% of pre-pandemic jobs  at 676,700 workers. That’s down 4,000 from February 2020 after adding 1,300 last month.
  • Manufacturing: 97% of pre-virus employment at 576,500 workers. That’s down 19,900 from February 2020 after adding 1,700 last month.
  • Government: 95% of pre-pandemic staffing at 984,800 workers. That’s down 47,000 from February 2020 after adding 18,200 last month.
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation: 94% of pre-pandemic staffing at 165,000 workers. That’s down 9,900 from February 2020 after adding 4,700 last month.
  • Hotels: 82% of pre-virus employment at 79,000 workers. That’s down 17,900 from February 2020 after adding 1,100 last month.

 

California’s pandemic job losses fully recovered, but economic woes percolate-California has now had positive job growth for 13 consecutive months. 

California said Friday it had recovered all of the 2.7 million jobs it lost at the start of the pandemic, a moment that normally would celebrate the end of a downturn but instead was tempered by signs of a wobbly economy amid layoffs in the state’s historically strong tech industry.

The 56,700 new jobs California employers added in October was enough to push the state past the symbolic milestone, led by strong gains in the state’s health care, professional services and leisure and hospitality industries. California has now had positive job growth for 13 consecutive months.

From the New York Times: With the pandemic receding, children back in school and businesses telling employees to return to the office, the companies that own big office buildings were hoping to move on this fall from a nightmarish two years.

Instead, things got worse.

More office workers are back at their desks than a year ago, but attendance at office buildings in New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and other cities is languishing well below prepandemic levels. As leases come up for renewal, companies are often opting for smaller offices, saddling landlords with millions of square feet in vacant space. And more space is expected to hit the market in the coming months as companies like Meta, Salesforce and Lyft lay off workers. More than 100,000 technology workers have lost their jobs this year, according to Layoffs.fyi, a site that tracks job cuts.

Higher interest rates are also weighing on the industry. Many landlords are no longer willing or able to acquire and spruce up older buildings or build new ones. Seeing little upside in holding on to sparsely occupied buildings and paying interest on mortgages, some landlords are handing over properties to lenders. Others are seeking to convert office buildings into residential complexes, though that can be expensive and take years.

Wall Street investors appear to think the office space sector is in for a deep slump. The shares of large landlords and developers are trading close to or below their pandemic lows, underperforming the broader stock market by a huge margin. Some bonds backed by office loans are showing signs of stress.

The value of U.S. office buildings could plunge 39 percent, or $454 billion, in the coming years, according to a recent study by business professors at Columbia and New York University.

Office vacancy rates across the country stand at a record 19.1 percent, with Chicago, Houston and San Francisco running above 20 percent, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate services company. That includes the record 185 million square feet, or 3.85 percent of total office space in the country, that is available for sublet. Another 104 million square feet will come onto the market through 2024 as new office buildings are completed, according to Jones Lang LaSalle.

Office landlords made it through the pandemic in reasonable health because corporate tenants with long leases kept paying rent even if their employees weren’t coming into the office.

But the landlords, who typically flash sunny optimism even in dark days, are now sounding more cautious. They acknowledge that many corporate tenants are sticking with some form of work-from-home policy, and their bullishness is mostly focused on new buildings.

California mortgage-making takes record 63% dive-Soaring interest rates made most loans unaffordable. That’s the second-slowest slowest three months of the century. It’s also a stunning 63% nosedive from the year-ago period, making this the biggest 12-month drop on record.

The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate tumbled by nearly a half-point this week, but will likely remain a significant barrier for potential homebuyers as Federal Reserve officials have all but promised more rate hikes in the coming months.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate fell to 6.61% from 7.08% last week, the largest weekly drop since 1981. A year ago the average rate was 3.1%.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with those refinancing their homes, fell to 5.98% from 6.38% last week. It was 2.39% one year ago.

The UK’s rate of inflation hit a fresh 41-year high in October, accelerating to 11.1 per cent on the back of rising energy and food prices. Economists had expected a rate of 10.7 per cent.

COVID 19 (and more) Update for November 7, 2022-Cases, RSV, the Economy and More

Cases: After months of decline, Los Angeles County health officials have reported a sharp increase in the average daily number of new COVID-19 infections, again raising concerns about an impending winter spike in cases.

But in Pasadena, no such increase has materialized. In fact, the Pasadena Public Health Dept. reported Nov. 3’s 10-day average of new cases was 19.1 cases — compared with Oct. 3’s 10-day average of 19 new cases and Sept. 3’s 10-day average of 24 new cases.

Huntington Health reported an increase in COVID-related hospitalizations, but the 7-day moving average of new hospitalizations was just 3 patients as of Nov. 3.

Outside Pasadena, the county said the seven-day average daily number of infections rose by 10% over the past week, according to the county Department of Public Health, jumping from 988 new cases per day to 1,083.

The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals has been rising too in recent days, increasing by another 34 people as of Saturday to 453, according to the latest state figures. Of those patients, 44 were being treated in intensive care, down from 50 the previous day.

She also urged residents to receive a flu shot and practice infection-control measures such as hand-washing, mask-wearing and staying home if sick.

According to the county, while 85% of residents aged 5 and older have received their initial COVID vaccinations, only 11% of those eligible have taken advantage of the new bivalent booster, which is designed to combat the currently circulating Omicron variants of the virus.

The county on Friday reported 1,447 new COVID infections and seven new virus-related fatalities. The new cases gave the county an overall total from throughout the pandemic of 3,493,150, while the cumulative death toll rose to 33,999.

Health officials have said the majority of people who die from COVID- 19 are either elderly, have underlying health conditions, or both.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus also ticked up slightly, reaching 5% as of Friday.

On Thursday, November 3rd, the City of Pasadena reported 26 new COVID cases and no new fatalities. Since the pandemic began the city has confirmed 35,632 cases and 434 fatalities. Pasadena has a nearly 100% vaccination rate of persons with at least one dose. More than 93% of Pasadena's eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

LA County reported 1,332 new cases of COVID on Thursday and seven fatalities. So far, LA County has recorded 33,992 deaths and 3,491,716 COVID infections. 80% of LA County eligible residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.

California has 10,519,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 96,185 deaths since the pandemic began. California reported 16,778 new cases on November 3rd and 88 fatalities resulting from COVID infections. 82% of Californians have received at least one dose of vaccine. 

COVID: Health officials eye rise of subvariants- By Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II for the LA Times. The rise of new coronavirus subvariants is continuing to erode the grip the Omicron strain BA.5 has held for months, worrying health officials that a winter resurgence of COVID-19 may be ahead.

Eating into BA.5’s long-running dominance are a pair of its own descendants: BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Like BA.5, the two are subvariants of the original Omicron coronavirus strain that walloped the world last fall and winter.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.5 has long accounted for the vast majority of new coronavirus cases nationwide. That these two other strains are increasing in their respective share of cases, however, could indicate they enjoy an additional growth advantage.

But what that ultimately means for this fall and winter — a period when many health experts have already predicted some degree of COVID-19 resurgence — remains to be seen.

At this point, BA.5 remains the most common version of the coronavirus in circulation in the U.S. — making up an estimated 49.6% of new cases over the weeklong period ending Saturday, CDC data show. As recently as a month ago, federal health officials estimated it was the culprit behind nearly 82% of new cases.

During that same time, BQ.1 has increased its estimated share from 1.2% to 14%, CDC data show. BQ.1.1 has swelled from an estimated 0.5% to 13.1%.

There are no epidemiological data currently suggesting that BQ.1 or its descendants are associated with increased disease severity or that they will significantly diminish vaccine protection against serious illness, according to the statement.

Even if BQ.1 or BQ.1.1 don’t make people sicker, that’s not to say their rise is riskless. As has been seen throughout the pandemic, higher numbers of infections threaten to put additional stress on the healthcare system.

Coronavirus-positive patients, whether admitted for COVID-19 illness or with an incidental infection , require particular attention and resources to keep them from spreading the virus to others. Greater community transmission also can sicken healthcare workers, causing staffing interruptions and even shortages.

The circulation of other respiratory illnesses — namely influenza and respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV — also could compound any challenges presented by a coronavirus rebound. Both RSV and the flu are much more active now than typical for this time of year, a development some worry could foreshadow particularly severe seasons.

Because vaccine protection wanes over time, many could be at higher risk, depending on how long it’s been since they were last inoculated.

As of mid-October, the California Department of Public Health said about 21.9 million people — roughly 78% of all vaccinated recipients — were at least six months removed from their last dose.

Uptake of the updated bivalent boosters, designed to protect not only against the original coronavirus strain but also the Omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4, also has been slow.

About 11.4% of eligible Californians have gotten the additional dose, state data show. Nationwide, bivalent coverage among eligible recipients is 7.3%, according to the CDC .

In L.A. County, coronavirus cases are no longer declining at the rate seen over the summer and appear to have plateaued. For the seven-day period that ended Monday, L.A. County was averaging 979 cases a day, a 7% increase from the prior week. On a per capita basis, L.A. County was recording about 68 cases a week for every 100,000 residents.

Statewide, cases also may be starting to increase. The daily average number of cases in California rose by 18% for the most recent week of data available, from 2,681 to 3,152. On a per capita basis, the state was recording 56 cases a week for every 100,000 residents.

Viral levels in wastewater — a key metric as many coronavirus cases are being self-diagnosed using at-home tests and aren’t officially reported to public health departments — also are increasing in L.A. County. The level is now 31% of the summer peak recorded in July, up from 21% a week earlier.

L.A. County’s death rate has remained largely stable for the last month, averaging 65 to 84 COVID-19 deaths per week. That’s an improvement from the summer Omicron peak of 122 deaths a week but still well above the springtime lull in May, when weekly deaths fell to a low of 24 COVID-19 deaths a week.
The U.S. averaged roughly 400 COVID-19 deaths a day in October, higher than the springtime lull of about 300 daily deaths.

Thus far, however, they remain at low levels in L.A. County. For the week that ended Oct. 8, both accounted for only 2.7% of weekly specimens in L.A. County.

Vaccines: A new study by Pfizer and BioNTech suggests that their updated coronavirus booster is better than its predecessor at increasing the antibody levels of people over age 55 against the most common version of the virus now circulating.

Federal officials are hoping that the encouraging results will improve what has so far been a dismal public response to the retooled shots. Only about 8 percent of Americans ages 5 and up have received the new boosters from Pfizer and Moderna since they were introduced in September.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced the study results in a news release on Friday. The companies said that one month after getting the new booster, clinical trial participants over 55 had antibody levels that were about four times as high as those who received the original booster. The study measured the levels of neutralizing antibodies against two sister subvariants of Omicron known as BA.4 and BA.5.

R.S.V.: You may have seen respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., in the news recently, as rates of the virus have ticked up across the United States. R.S.V. usually circulates from late December to mid-February. But this year, an early spike in cases is resulting in markedly higher numbers of infections and hospitalizations.

As rising R.S.V. rates coincide with the expected wintertime surge in Covid-19 as well as an early flu season, experts are worried about a “tripledemic” and the strain it could place on hospitals and emergency departments that are already stretched thin.

Here’s what to know about R.S.V., who is most at risk and what you can do to avoid getting sick.

But many experts believe masking, social distancing, school closures and other precautions taken during the first year or two of the pandemic protected most children from exposure to the virus and other germs. “As a result, there are still many children who are less than 3 years old who’ve never been exposed to R.S.V.,” said Dr. James Antoon, an assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatric hospitalist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “The virus is now playing catch-up in all these kids.”

Can adults get R.S.V.? They can. “Adults still get R.S.V. fairly regularly and they can get reinfected multiple times throughout adulthood,” Dr. Martin said. Because adults already have a lot of antibodies against the virus from previous exposures, their illness tends to be much milder. In fact, it can be almost indistinguishable from the common cold or even a mild case of the flu or Covid-19, she said.

Most adults with R.S.V. are able to shake off an infection in a week or two, but seniors and those who have weakened immune systems, as well as those with chronic lung or heart disease, can develop more severe cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 177,000 older adults are hospitalized with R.S.V. each year and 14,000 of them die.

What are the symptoms of an R.S.V. infection? In adults and children, R.S.V. typically causes mild symptoms like a cough, runny nose and fever. These appear gradually, four to six days after getting exposed. In young babies, the only signs of an infection may be general lethargy, irritability and a decreased appetite, said Dr. Priya Soni, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s in Los Angeles. Parents should also be on the lookout for signs that their child is having difficulty breathing, Dr. Soni said. For example, if an infant or toddler is breathing faster than usual, if you notice more of their ribs or belly moving as they breathe or if their nostrils are flaring, those are all signs that you should take them to see a doctor.

Young children tend to struggle more, not just because their immune systems are still learning to recognize and fight off viruses, but also because their airways are so small, Dr. Soni said. An R.S.V. infection can dramatically increase mucus secretions in the airways, which older children and adults are able to cough or sneeze out. But infants and toddlers do not yet have strong enough muscles to cough up all the extra fluid, so parents or health care providers need to do the job for them by suctioning their airways.

If mucus collects in the small airways in the lungs, it can cause blockages and inflammation known as bronchiolitis, which is one of the most common complications that results in hospitalization. Another outcome of severe R.S.V. in young children is pneumonia. Several studies have also linked severe R.S.V. to an increased risk of recurrent wheezing and asthma later in life. “R.S.V. can be extremely disruptive to young lungs,” Dr. Martin said.

Those at highest risk for severe infections include premature infants, babies under 6 months of age, and infants and toddlers with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease, as well as children with weakened immune systems and those who have neuromuscular disorders that make it difficult to clear out mucus.

Is there a test for R.S.V.? There are rapid antigen tests and P.C.R. tests to check for R.S.V., but they are typically reserved for young children or older adults, because there is no treatment for an infection if you do not need hospitalization, Dr. Soni said. If a patient is showing signs of a severe infection, a health care provider may also check their breathing with a stethoscope and order a white blood cell count or other tests, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan.

What can you do to avoid R.S.V.? Unlike Covid, R.S.V. can spread when people touch contaminated surfaces. It also spreads through respiratory droplets, Dr. Martin said. So it’s a good idea to disinfect surfaces, particularly in settings like day care centers, where young children are constantly touching things, sneezing on things and sticking them in their mouths.

Premature infants and children with certain medical conditions can also take a monthly monoclonal antibody medication called palivizumab during R.S.V. season to help keep them out of the hospital.

Although several vaccines in clinical trials have started to show promise for R.S.V., none are available yet. That’s why experts recommend more general measures to prevent infection, such as frequent hand-washing — and for those who are sick, staying home.

The Economy: Rent delinquency rates among US small businesses increased significantly this month, a new report shows.

About 37% of small businesses, which between them employ almost half of all Americans working in the private sector, were unable to pay their rent in full in October. That’s according to a survey from Boston-based Alignable, a network of 7 million small business members. It’s up seven percentage points from last month and is now at the highest pace this year, the survey showed.

Chuck Casto, head of research, at Alignable, said that small business owners are resilient but incomes are “basically being eaten away by inflationary pressures.”

The survey of 4,789 small business owners was conducted between Oct. 15 and Oct. 27. The findings partly reflect how inflation is affecting small businesses. More than half say their rent is at least 10% higher than it was six months ago, and in seven say rents have increased at least 20%.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark policy rate by 0.75 percentage points for the fourth time in a row as it advanced its long-running battle to bring down persistently high US inflation.

The Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to increase the federal funds rate to a new target range of 3.75 per cent to 4 per cent following its latest two-day meeting. The fourth successive rate rise comes as the US central bank tries to stamp out price pressures in an economy that is proving more resilient than expected in the face of its monetary tightening campaign.

Stocks seesawed on Wednesday, but eventually ended the day lower, after Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, dashed investors’ hopes that an end to the central bank’s rate increases may soon be over.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index ended the day 2.5 per cent lower and the Nasdaq Composite fell 3.4 per cent after a volatile afternoon of trading.

Stocks had started the day lower as investors braced for the Fed to raise interest rates a further 0.75 percentage points. The central bank followed through on that expectation, but attention quickly shifted to what the Fed was thinking about interest rate increases to come.

The Fed’s initial statement, released alongside its rate decision, appeared to point to a more cautious approach, accounting for the large rate increases that have already happened and noting that it may still take time for the economic effect of those rate increases to be felt.

US stocks sank after Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell cautioned that it was still “very premature” to think about pausing interest rate rises as the central bank delivered its fourth supersized increase in a row.

Those higher loan costs have weakened the home market, in particular. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which was just 3.14% a year ago, topped 7% last week for the first time since 2002, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported. Nationwide, sales of existing homes have fallen for eight straight months.

Fed officials have emphasized that they need to raise rates significantly to tame inflation, which has caused hardships for millions of households. High inflation has also become a central point of attack for Republicans in the midterm congressional elections.

Yet some economists have said the Fed should soon consider scaling back the fastest pace of rate increases since the early 1980s.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 261,000 in October, and the unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Notable job gains occurred in health care, professional and technical services, and manufacturing.

From the New York Times: Two measurements tell two stories about the strength of U.S. employment.

Job alerts: Here’s something pretty much anyone who follows economic data closely can agree on: The U.S. labor market is hot, but cooling.
What’s less clear is just how hot it is, or how fast it’s cooling down. That question matters a lot to Federal Reserve policymakers trying to find a way to bring inflation under control without causing a recession.

Supply and demand-The biggest problem facing the economy right now is that prices are rising much too quickly. That dynamic stems partly from the lingering effects of the pandemic, which continue to disrupt international supply chains, and global forces, like the war in Ukraine, which has pushed up the price of food and energy. Most economists agree that rapid inflation is also at least partly the result of excessive demand: American consumers want more cars, airline tickets and restaurant meals than companies can produce, pushing up prices.

The Fed is trying to tamp down demand by raising interest rates, which makes borrowing money more expensive for consumers and businesses. Yesterday, the central bank announced it would raise rates by three-quarters of a point for the fourth time since June.

That move was widely expected. But experts are less in agreement about what the Fed will do in the months ahead. Some economists argue it should hold off on further rate increases and see whether inflation begins to ease. Others say the Fed should keep going until its efforts clearly have an effect.

Which path policymakers choose depends in part on how Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, and his colleagues view the labor market. If companies keep adding jobs and raising pay, inflation is likely to remain high, and the Fed is likely to remain aggressive in its fight to tame it. If job growth stalls and unemployment rises, the Fed could pause sooner to avoid causing a recession.

So far, the Fed seems firmly on the side of those who see the job market as too hot. Powell said yesterday that any talk of a pause in rate increases is “premature.”

Job openings-For the past year, the Fed has been focused on one measure of the labor market in particular: job openings. Powell has repeatedly noted that there are roughly twice as many vacant jobs as unemployed workers available to fill them.

The logic behind Powell’s attention on job openings is simple. They are a direct measure of demand, since employers typically don’t try to hire when no one is buying their products. And they have a clear connection to wage growth — and therefore inflation — because when lots of companies are hiring, they have to pay more to compete for workers.

Fed officials have been hoping that as interest rates rise, companies would respond by cutting back on recruitment. So far, we’ve seen only limited evidence of such a trend.

Some economists, however, have begun questioning the Fed’s focus on job openings. Other signals, like the unemployment rate, show the labor market is strong, but not nearly as strong as openings would imply.

Quitting time-Which brings us to our second indicator: what economists call quits.

You probably read about the “great resignation,” the surge in people leaving their jobs as the economy re-emerged from Covid-induced lockdowns. The phenomenon was real, but the narrative often missed a crucial element: Most weren’t quitting to sit on the couch. They were taking other, usually better-paying, jobs.

Economists see quitting as a sign of confidence among workers: Changing jobs is a risk, so people avoid doing so if they’re worried about the economy. And since people typically don’t jump employers without a bump in pay, job-switching contributes to wage growth. Data released yesterday from ADP, the payroll-processing giant, showed that people who switched jobs in October saw their pay rise roughly twice as quickly as people who stayed put.

In late 2020 and early 2021, resignations and job openings rose roughly in tandem. But then the number of people quitting began to level off, even as openings kept rising. Americans are still changing jobs more than they were before the pandemic, but only modestly so.
So if openings suggest the labor market is a raging inferno, resignations imply it is more like an uncomfortably hot day.