Another 3.2 Million Added to Weekly Unemployment Roll

The U.S. Department of Labor May 7 said 3.2 million people filed unemployment claims for the week ended May 2. The filings come on top of more than 30 million claims filed over the previous six weeks.

The previous week’s level was revised upward by 7,000 from 3.83 million 3.84 million. The four-week moving average was 4.17 million, a decrease of 861,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 1,750 from 5.033 million to 5.035 million.

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The agency also announced the award of six “Dislocated Worker Grants” (DWGs) totaling more than $10 million to help address the workforce-related impacts of the public health emergency related to the coronavirus. These awards are funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $345 million for DWGs to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.

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Movie Theaters Part of Trump’s Phase One ‘Guidelines for Opening Up America Again’

There could be light at the end of the tunnel for movie theaters and large venue events.

President Trump April 16 unveiled a three-part plan that would enable individual states and local government to re-open businesses, events and gatherings at their preference in accordance with following strict healthcare and social distancing mandates.

Notable in Phase One of Trump’s campaign-themed “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” are movie theaters and sporting events, the latter reportedly a special interest to the president.

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The plan, which would require states to showcase downward trajectories of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 documented cases within a 14-day period, would then enable employers offering “large venues,” such as sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, and places of worship, the right to operate under strict physical distancing protocols.

Second and third phases of the White House plan, which like the first phase have no timelines, include schools re-opening, group gatherings of 50 or more people, non-essential travel and “moderate physical distancing” protocols.

Many states have suspended non-essential business and group gatherings through the end of April. Trump has said he would like to see parts of the country back to work beginning in May.

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“These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives,” the White House said in a statement.

Wedbush Securites media analyst Michael Pachter believes theater chains such as Cinemark, AMC and others can be profitable operating at just 20% to 30% capacity (due to social distancing) provided fixed costs such as rent and film costs are renegotiated. The analyst also believes exhibitors will lose more than $2 billion for the year following a return to reduced operations.

“This could [still] be a significant positive as the exhibitors’ ability to weather the closures depends to varying degrees on the flexibility of landlords,” Pachter wrote in a note.

The White House stressed that for states to authorize a return to business as usual (in a pandemic) would require across-the-board testing and contact tracing of COVID-19; adequate healthcare system capacity; and plans in place to safeguard the health and safety of workers in critical industries and those living and working in high-risk facilities (e.g., senior care facilities); protections for employees and users of mass transit; and advising citizens on protocols for social distancing and face coverings.

The guidelines are not insignificant considering there continues to be widespread shortages of COVID-19 tests, face masks and protective equipment for healthcare workers.

States would have to prove they could adequately monitor conditions and be able to “immediately take steps” to limit and mitigate any rebounds or virus outbreaks by restarting a phase or returning to an earlier phase, depending on severity of the situation.

Indeed, Trump’s plan to re-open America comes on the day domestic deaths attributed to coronavirus topped 32,000 and infections approached 700,000, according to new data from Johns Hopkins University. Nearly a third of the country’s virus-related deaths have happened in New York City.

The White House stressed that states and local officials might need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances (e.g., metropolitan areas that have suffered severe COVID outbreaks, rural and suburban areas where outbreaks have not occurred or have been mild).

Additionally, the White House said state governors should work on a regional basis to satisfy the aforementioned criteria and to progress through the separate phases.