May 14, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 500 words, a 2-minute read.

🚨Sen. Richard Burr is stepping down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee pending an investigation into possible insider trading.

1 big thing: 22.8 million on unemployment

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is at its highest level — 22.8 million — in American history.

Data: U.S. Employment and Training Administration via St. Louis Fed; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The big picture: 36 million Americans have filed jobless claims in the past two months, including 3 million last week, the lowest tally of that span, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports.

The better news: For those who've managed to get applications approved, the extra $600 a week should help avert household financial catastrophe.

  • The Treasury Department paid out $48 billion in unemployment in April, "greater than three times the amount paid at the monthly peak of the 2007-09 recession, according to a Brookings Institution analysis." [WSJ]
  • "The April unemployment payments helped offset more than half of the wages and salaries that were lost during the month."

The bad news: The extra cash won't last forever, and timelines for economic recovery are becoming less optimistic.

  • "Several executives have said on earnings calls that they are expecting various other shapes of recovery — U-shaped, L-shaped, and W-shaped among them — that indicate that the rebound will be slower." [WSJ]

The worst news: Most of the layoffs so far have been considered temporary, but that could change if their employers close for good in the months to come.

  • "One in every four U.S. restaurants will go out of business due to the coronavirus quarantines that have battered the food-service industry, according to a forecast by OpenTable." [Bloomberg]

Between the lines: The pace of new applications has slowed from its peak in March, but the weekly numbers are still way higher than before businesses shuttered to contain the outbreak, Courtenay notes.

  • The pre-pandemic record number of claims filed in a single week was 695,000 in 1982.
  • More Americans are eligible for unemployment, including gig workers, and unemployment offices are racing through an avalanche of unemployment filings.

The bottom line: Measuring the backlog is "like trying to measure the ocean, it's constantly moving," said New York Labor Department commissioner Roberta Reardon.

2. ⚡️Ousted health official Rick Bright

The former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority told Congress today that the U.S. doesn't have a plan to distribute a vaccine for the coronavirus "in a fair and equitable manner."

  • Rick Bright said a vaccine may become available by "this fall, winter or maybe even next spring."
  • But he cautioned that the 12- to 18-month timeline that has been touted by some in the Trump administration is an "aggressive schedule."

President Trump's response: "To me, he is nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person. ... I don't know, I never met him, I don't want to meet him, but I watched him, and he looks like an angry, disgruntled employee who, frankly, according to some people, didn't do a very good job."

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Christian Verheyen/Borussia Mönchengladbach via Getty Images

Fans of the German soccer club Borussia Mönchengladbach are buying cardboard characters that will be printed and then displayed at the stadium should the Bundesliga continue with matches behind closed doors.

3. Catch up quick
  1. Federal government: America's lack of agreement on the danger of the pandemic is taking a devastating toll.
  2. Insurance: The vast majority of insurance policies explicitly exclude pandemics.
  3. 🎧 Podcast: The state of small business.
4. 1 helpful thing

Welcome to "Quaranchella," where musician Adam Chester — who subs for Elton John in rehearsals with the rocker’s band — plays weekly, socially distant concerts in his suburban Los Angeles cul-de-sac. [AP]

  • “I was going out of my mind inside the house here as a lot of musicians are,” Chester said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we take this outside once a week?’”
  • The most recent show, on Mother’s Day eve, had a maternal theme. Chester’s own mother, who raised him alone after his father died when he was 11, sat behind him in his front yard.