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Bay Area gains jobs in May in big rebound

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The Bay Area’s economy staged a dramatic turnaround during May and muscled up for a huge gain in jobs — the region’s largest-ever employment increase for a single month — after huge losses the previous month during the peak of business shutdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Bay Area employers added 41,700 jobs during May, a huge change from April when the region lost a staggering half a million jobs, according to seasonally adjusted figures released by the state’s Employment Development Department. May’s increase was the largest one month gain ever recorded in data stretching back three decades, an indication that the Bay Area area has begun an economic recovery as more businesses reopened. But April’s losses were the Bay Area’s biggest drop in the same three-decade period.

“The Bay Area is in many ways most equipped to deal with this because of the kinds of industries there, such as tech,” said economist Christopher Thornberg, a founding partner with Beacon Economics. “Those industries are better able to adapt.”

The East Bay led the region’s employment rebound, adding 16,100 positions during May, the EDD reported. Santa Clara County gained 11,000 jobs. The San Francisco-San Mateo metro area added 7,000 positions.

But some neighboring regions continued to shed jobs: Santa Cruz County lost 1,100 jobs and Monterey County shed 1,000.

Construction came roaring back in a huge way in the Bay Area. Construction companies added 8,400 jobs in Santa Clara County, where construction reopened May 4 with safety protocols, 8,200 positions in the San Francisco-San Mateo region, and 8,100 in the East Bay, according to seasonally adjusted figures that Beacon Economics and UC Riverside compiled from the EDD report.

Hotels and restaurants added 5,000 jobs in the South Bay, 4,000 in the San Francisco-San Mateo County area, and 2,900 in the East Bay, the Beacon and UC Riverside assessment showed.

The tech boom faltered in San Francisco, however. Tech companies shed 1,300 jobs in the San Francisco-San Mateo region. Tech employment was unchanged in the South Bay. But the East Bay added 600 tech jobs in May.

California’s job market gained 141,600 jobs during May, according to seasonally adjusted figures released by the EDD. That, too, was an all-time, single-month record job gain for the state.

Nevertheless, significant economic pain persists. In May, 3.02 million California workers were unemployed. That was only a tiny improvement from the 3.04 million unemployed statewide in April, the EDD reported. The state suffered a staggering loss of 2.4 million jobs in April and the statewide unemployment rate still remains near its highest levels since the Great Depression.

“We are seeing record decreases in jobs, and then record increases,” said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Stockton-based Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific.  “It’s all unprecedented.”

California’s unemployment rate in May eased just barely from a historic high and improved to 16.3 percent, down from 16.4 percent in April, the state agency reported.

“There is definitely some significant improvement in the job market,” said Michael. “The labor market has definitely bottomed out.”

The improvements in the Bay Area amid counties easing some coronavirus-linked restrictions are part of a nationwide recovery. The United States economy in May added 2.5 million jobs, a figure that stunned prognosticators who had predicted a loss of 8 million jobs that month.

The May increases could indicate that the California job market, like the Bay Area and the nation, is beginning to recover from the economic fallout induced by the coronavirus.

“Some sectors are beginning to show gains, mainly those for which the lockdowns were lifted earlier,” said Michael Bernick, a Milken Institute fellow and a former director of the state EDD.

Originally, the state EDD had reported the statewide jobless rate in April was 15.5 percent, but for Friday’s report, the state agency revised that upward to 16.4 percent. The EDD also initially stated that California lost 2.34 million jobs, but also revised the job losses in its latest estimate, citing “rapidly-evolving data.”

Despite signs of improvement, the Bay Area economy must climb out of a deep hole. It lost a total of 619,700 jobs in March and April. That means the Bay Area still must add 578,000 jobs to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“A business recovery is under way,” University of Pacific’s Michael said. “We are seeing improvements across a broad range of industries.”

In Thornberg’s view, that economic recovery is poised to materialize as a sharp rebound, what economists typically call a V-shaped recovery that’s characterized by a steep nose-dive followed swiftly by a steep upswing. Other economists have argued that the recovery will be more prolonged.

“The people who were predicting a U-shaped recovery believed the damage to the economy would be so profound that even after the coronavirus mandates were lifted, the economy would have trouble recovering,” Thornberg said. “What we see with the May report is that we are seeing a bounce in the job market even before the restrictions were largely lifted.”

Thornberg cautions, however, that more employment reports covering June and July will be needed before the pace of an economic rebound is fully understood. But he foresees further improvements.

“The economy has been able to adapt,” Thornberg said. “When all the mandates are lifted, presumably the post-lift numbers will look even better.”

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Victorino upbeat about Lanai’s COVID-19 status | News, Sports, Jobs

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Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino is confident that the COVID-19 outbreak on Lanai is under control after the issuing of a stay-at-home order Tuesday and encouraging results from recent surge testing.

After the virus outbreak last week, medical providers conducted nearly 1,000 tests Saturday, where six new coronavirus cases were discovered. Another three positive cases were added to the state Department of Health count for a total of nine Tuesday, but Victorino said that those three individuals were tested before the surge testing program.

All nine cases were included in Lanai’s total count, which was 87 as of Tuesday — the fourth highest island by cases in the state behind Oahu, Hawaii island and Maui.

“We’re in fairly good shape overall. However, I want the Lanaians to know that this lockdown is so important,” Victorino said Tuesday night during a news conference. “I’m very confident with keeping it under control. I think the community realizes the importance of working together and having respect for each other.”

The stay-at-home order will remain in place until Nov. 11. It requires people to only leave their home or place of lodging for essential activities, services or business. All travel to and from Lanai is restricted to essential work or medical purposes. All other travelers must quarantine for 14 days.

Essential workers to Lanai may request limited quarantine through the county.

Managing Director Sandy Baz said that these protocols will be evaluated on a daily basis.

So far, a total of 2,747 COVID-19 tests have been administered on Lanai — 87 percent of the resident population. The rate of positive cases was 3.13 percent. The seven-day average rolling rate was 4.66 percent.

“We want to give a big mahalo to all our health care workers, first responders and many others, who helped to provide this large scale testing event for our Lanai community,” Baz said.

Large social gatherings likely contributed to the outbreak, which shows “just how quickly” the virus can spread if mask wearing and social distancing protocols are not met, he added.

The Hawaii National Guard and the state Department of Health officials have been going “house to house” to ensure that families are taken care of by educating various groups and offering a native language translator.

“We are working very closely with the Lanai health providers as well as others to make sure that this cluster of our Polynesian community is managed and helped in every way possible,” Victorino said.

There will be testing available from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Lana’i Community Hospital.

Mass testing is set for 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday behind the Pulama Lana’i administrative building. Appointments are encouraged by calling Lanai’s Straub Medical Center at (808) 565-6423 or the Lanai Community Health Center at (808) 565-6919.

In other developments:

• Young Brothers said its barge service to Lanai will continue on schedule. The barge arrives Wednesdays at Kaumalapau Harbor from Honolulu and departs the same day back to Honolulu.

• Roselani Place, an assisted living facility on Maui, reported two possible cases from its recent round of testing Monday. The cases are pending further investigation by the Maui District Health Office, a news release said. Not counting the two cases, there have been 71 cases at the Kahului facility — 32 staff and 39 residents.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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Indonesia’s Pandemic Response: A Law to Create Millions of Jobs | Voice of America

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TAIPEI, TAIWAN – A landmark law passed this month in Indonesia will open the populous, impoverished country to labor-intensive industry like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors despite a hit to worker rights, people on the ground say. 

The 905-page Omnibus Bill on Job Creation bill will give millions of young people chances to work, including in formal jobs that can be hard to find because older Indonesian laws discouraged foreign investors from setting up factories, analysts believe. 

Indonesians are struggling to earn income during an unrelenting COVID-19 outbreak that prompted shutdowns from April. The nation with nearly 400,000 infections reported a sharp drop in retail sales from April through August and a fall in exports over the three months ending in September.   

“With this new law, it is expected that the investment would come not only to the Indonesian economy, but also come to the labor-intensive part, and by getting more investment in that area it is expected that more jobs will be created, and those jobs are more of the quality jobs, not only informal jobs,” said Yose Rizal Damuri, economics department head with the Center for Strategic and International Studies research organization in Jakarta.   

Indonesia’s government and House of Representatives passed the bill ahead of schedule on October 5, the Jakarta Post reported. The bill aims to cut bureaucracy and make it easier for investors to create jobs, said Richard Borsuk, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies adjunct senior fellow in Singapore.

Protest against the government’s proposed labor reforms in Sukabumi, West Java, Oct. 7, 2020.

President Joko Widodo’s government sees this bill as part of his “legacy” to stimulate the 270 million-person country’s economy, Rizal said. Minerals, oil and farming make up much of Indonesia’s $1 trillion-plus GDP today. “Labor-intensive” industry players find Indonesia too expensive now, Rizal said, explaining why that sub-sector makes up just 2% of the country’s total investment. 

Foreign manufacturers of garments, shoes and textiles normally pick other low-cost Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, over the past decade because of stiff pro-labor laws, economists say. Foreign investment eventually raises the living standards, as witnessed in China and eventually Vietnam

“It’s probably something that will be a long-term benefit, if this does go through,” said Rajiv Biswas, senior regional economist with IHS Markit, a London-based analysis firm. 

“It creates a better environment for foreign multinationals to hire, because from the perspective of foreign multinationals, it’s very restrictive labor laws there,” Biswas said. “They’re worried about hiring because it’s very hard to reduce the workforce later on.”   

Foreign investors will consider the law a “step in the right” direction for making Indonesia friendlier, forecast Song Seng Wun, an economist in the private banking unit of Malaysian bank CIMB.

“This Omnibus Bill is part of something that Jokowi [was] looking to see how they can help sort of improve the investment landscape to make it a little bit more attractive in Indonesia, just to make sure Indonesia doesn’t get pushed down the investible list of countries,” Song said, using the Indonesian president’s nickname. 

But the law sparked staunch opposition. Some governors have asked Widodo to revoke the law and other people protested in the streets over three days, sometimes violently, Borsuk’s study says. 

The law effectively eliminates the power of labor unions, said Paramita Supamijoto, an international relations lecturer at Bina Nusantara University in greater Jakarta. 

The October bill would roll back legal support for fair wages, safe working conditions and excessive overtime, U.S.-headquartered human rights advocacy group Amnesty International said in a statement in August. It called the bill’s preparation process “opaque.”   

Severance pay for laid-off workers will also slip, Damuri said. 

For workers, the law means that “whatever you do, your life will be determined by your employers,” Supamijoto said.

But the law could stoke enough investment to stop people from migrating overseas in search of work, she said. “Under our current president’s administration, they prefer to invite the investors rather than sending workers abroad, so it’s better to invite you to come here to spend money, to invest your money, then to help us to build the infrastructure,” she said. 

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Cindy Knier | News, Sports, Jobs

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Cindy Knier (nee McCarty) slipped off to be with Jesus on Oct. 24, 2020, at 58 years of age. As much as she loved staying home with her family in Muncy, she was ready to be with the Lord and to rest in His everlasting peace after bravely battling that insidious beast, cancer.

She will be lovingly remembered and missed by her husband of 39 years, Rodney Knier; children: Michael (Jenny) and Katie Artley (Jade); grandson Samuel Artley; siblings Geri Schnure (Ed), Jeannie Bontomase (Dale), Melinda McCarty, Joyce McCarty, Lisa McCarty, John McCarty (Lourie), and last but not least, Jacque McCarty; and a vast number of cousins, nieces and nephews.

The favorite daughter of Lewis and Lola McCarty of Muncy, Cindy was a hometown girl who served as the editor of the local newspaper, The Luminary. Recent students of Muncy High School had the delight of knowing her as their school librarian. Cindy loved taking pictures (even when it got on her friends’ nerves), listening to and singing along with the oldies, sipping Lipton tea and spending time with family and friends. She was a fiercely devoted mother and a proud new grandmother. She hated the sound of chewing, so please chew quietly to honor her memory.

Cindy was famous for her beautiful laughter. Forevermore, heaven will ring with its glorious sound and earth will be the poorer.

A celebration of Cindy’s life is being planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a charitable donation to The Son Light House of Muncy or Camp Victory.

Rod Knier

ministrare quam ministrari

to serve rather than to be served




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