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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Life in the U.S. is increasingly divided into two realities — one in which things have almost never been better and another in which it's hard to imagine them being worse.

Driving the news: Bankruptcies led more companies to announce job cuts last year than at any time in more than a decade, WSJ's Aisha Al-Muslim reports (subscription), citing data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Details: Despite the latest jobs report from the Labor Department showing the unemployment rate near a 50-year low, 2019 saw the third highest number of total layoffs in the decade, with nearly 600,000 people losing their jobs, a 10% increase over 2018.

  • There were more job cuts related to bankruptcy in 2019 than in both 2008 and 2009, during the Great Recession.
  • 2019 was the year the oft-invoked healthy American consumer carried the economy, but U.S. retailers announced 9,302 store closings, a 59% increase from 2018 and the highest number since Coresight Research began tracking the data in 2012.

The intrigue: Overall, job gains and growth have been confined to certain areas and industries.

  • While the U.S. added an average of 180,000 jobs a month in 2019, the retail, mining and utilities sectors all saw net job losses for the year, as of November, which is the last month with available data.
  • The lion's share of new jobs has been in health care, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Philadelphia Fed shows nine states are expected to see their economies shrink this year, even as the central bank and most economists expect the U.S. as a whole will avoid recession.

  • The number of states projected to see contracting economies is the highest since July 2009.

What we're watching: The U.S. jobs report will be released Friday, Jan. 10, not today.

Go deeper: An unsettling future for millions of American jobs

Go deeper

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Schumer pushes for doomed filibuster changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus Tuesday night he plans to propose instituting a one-time "talking" filibuster requirement, and bypassing the 60-vote threshold for major legislation, to pass the party's election reforms package via simple majority.

Why it matters: While Schumer acknowledged both votes are expected to fail — and some vulnerable Democrats up for re-election feel it will put them in a tough spot — he argued it's worth putting members on the record for historic legislation.