WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. companies added nearly 2.4 million jobs in June, according to a private survey, a large gain that still leaves the job market far below its pre-pandemic levels. The payroll company ADP said that small businesses reported the largest gain, adding 937,000 jobs. Construction firms and restaurants and hotels also posted big increases in hiring.
US construction spending fell 2.1% in May
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction spending fell 2.1% in May with both home building and nonresidential activity declining.
The Commerce Department said the May decline followed an even larger 3.5% fall in April. Construction spending was down 0.3% in March.
The construction industry has been rocked by the shutdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Home building dropped 4% in May with construction of single-family homes down 8.5%. Nonresidential construction dropped 2.4% with office building and the category that covers shopping centers both down.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-US HOARDING
Health experts slam US hoarding of only licensed virus drug
LONDON (AP) — Health experts have slammed the U.S. decision to hog nearly the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19, warning that type of selfish behaviour sets a dangerous precedent for attempts to share scarce treatments amid the pandemic.
In a press release Tuesday, the U.S. government announced President Donald Trump had struck “an amazing deal” to buy the drug for Americans, which will virtually deplete global supplies for the next three months.
Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex called it “disappointing news” and said the move could have a “chilling effect.”
It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for severe COVID-19.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE RACE
Pfizer reports encouraging, very early vaccine test results
UNDATED (AP) — Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are reporting encouraging signs from its very early testing of a possible COVID-19 vaccine.
Preliminary results released Wednesday from 45 volunteers showed hoped-for immune reactions in two of the tested doses. Side effects were typical for vaccines, mostly injection-site pain and fever.
The companies are testing four somewhat similar vaccine candidates. They aim to move the most promising shot into large-scale studies later this summer.
About 15 potential COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of human testing around the world, with no guarantee any will pan out.
States scale back restaurant, bar plans
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says the state’s restaurants will not be allowed to fully reopen their bars as previously planned.
He announced the decision Tuesday, a day before the state was set to allow people to congregate if practicing social distancing. Instead, restaurants can still operate under Phase 2 restrictions, which allows limited table service in bar areas but generally prohibits sitting at bar counters.
Northam’s office says the decision to keep stricter rules on bars was made because of a spike in virus cases in other states that reopened earlier than Virginia. Over the past few days, Florida, Arizona, Texas and California have closed or otherwise clamped down on bars, shut beaches, rolled back restaurant capacity and put limits on crowds at pools.
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is delaying the planned resumption of indoor dining at restaurants in the city out of fear it would ignite a a spike in coronavirus infections. New Jersey and Delaware are also moving to restrict indoor dining.
PUERTO RICO-ECONOMIC CRISIS
Puerto Rico board approves $10B budget as resignations loom
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances has approved a new budget that largely suspends austerity measures and government cuts for one year as the U.S. territory struggles to recover from hurricanes, earthquakes and the pandemic. The $10 billion budget was approved Wednesday after the board rejected a different one that Gov. Wanda Vázquez recently submitted and contained numerous incentives and spending increases that critics say were unrealistic. Puerto Rico’s 2021 consolidated fiscal year budget is 10% bigger than last year’s, mainly because it anticipates a 17% increase in federal funds. The majority of spending targets health care, education and government pension payments. Areas including housing and agriculture will see cuts.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-LATIN AMERICA-TOURISM
Report: Tourism to Latin America hammered by COVID
MIAMI (AP) — Countries south of the U.S. border are bracing for unprecedented declines in tourism as the coronavirus keeps Americans at home this summer.
A new report Wednesday by the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that some of the most tourism-dependent economies in Latin America and the Caribbean could shrink by as much as 19% as a result of fewer travelers to the region. Overall tourism arrivals are expected to fall by between 40% and 70%.
The report says Caribbean destinations like Aruba and the Bahamas will be the most affected. But even larger and more diversified economies like Mexico and Brazil are expected to suffer.
UK regulator urges reforms to curb Google, Facebook ad power
LONDON (AP) — British regulators want new rules to foster competition in digital advertising markets and rein in the industry’s dominant players, Google and Facebook.
The Competition and Markets Authority took aim at the U.S. tech giants in a report Wednesday that recommends the British government adopt a new regulatory approach to governing big digital platforms making money from online ads.
The authority says it’s concerned that the two companies have developed “such unassailable market positions” that rivals can’t compete on equal terms, resulting in higher prices for hotels, flights, electronics, insurance and other goods and services that are heavily advertised online.