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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

Here's the good news for workers: The unemployment rate fell by a full percentage point to 6.9% last month — in the face of rising coronavirus cases, continued pressure on businesses, and no economic relief in sight from the government.

The bad news: That rapid snapback in employment after initial economic lockdowns eased is over. Job growth has slowed every month since June.

Between the lines: The labor market is still 10 million jobs short of where it was before Covid-19 wrecked the economy.

  • What they're saying: "We need bigger than this, and for many months, just to get out of the hole that we're in," Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, told CNBC this morning.

The dynamic at play: “There’s fewer jobs for people to go back to at the same time we have a lot more people unemployed,” Eliza Forsythe, an economics professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, tells Axios.

By the numbers: The number of long-term unemployed (out of a job for over 6 months) rose by 1.2 million to 3.6 million — a troubling sign because the longer you're out of work, the more difficult it is to get a job.

  • "That holds down the whole economy," Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Thursday.
  • But, but, but: The number of people who said they couldn't look for work because of Covid-19 fell last month to 3.6 million from 4.5 million.
  • Plus: Workers came back into the labor force last month, reversing the trend of people giving up looking for work in September.

What to watch: With Joe Biden edging closer to a win in the presidential race, he could be inheriting a labor market that's improving but desperately needs support.

  • There's need to pass a new stimulus package through what is shaping up to be a divided Congress, with prospects that the economy and job market might get worse in the interim.
  • The desperation for state and local government aid is right there in the numbers: They're shedding thousands of jobs. That held down the overall payroll gain.

The bottom line: The U.S. labor market is recovering better than anybody had dared to hope in the face of a deadly pandemic infecting 100,000 new people every day.

  • But it’s still far from healthy, and will only get there once the coronavirus is brought under control.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

2020 was the economy's worst year since 1946

Source: FRED; Billions of chained 2012 dollars; Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the last major economic report cards of the Trump era lends perspective to the historic damage caused by the pandemic, which continued to weigh on growth in the final quarter of 2020.

By the numbers: The U.S. economy grew at a 4% annualized pace in the fourth quarter, a sharp slowdown in growth compared to the prior quarter. For the full year, the economy shrank by 3.5% — the first annual contraction since the financial crisis and the worst decline since 1946.

Federal watchdog finds lack of data, resources impede COVID response

A patient rests in a COVID-19 care site in a parking garage at Renown Regional Medical Center, Reno, Nevada, on Dec. 16. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

National data on COVID-19 testing is incomplete, "critical gaps in the medical supply chain" remain, and a lack of data has stalled delivering key resources to people who need it most, a nonpartisan federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), has found.

Why it matters: The findings come as the rise of more contagious variants ensures that Americans’ risk remains high, despite a three-week decline in the number of COVID infections in the U.S. A greater number of people are also dying from the coronavirus over less time.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Reddit traders' real-world positive consequences

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Thanks to Reddit, AMC Entertainment has managed to take $700 million of debt off its balance sheet, as well as raising $506 million of fresh cash in the stock market.

Driving the news: The movie-theater chain and hot meme stonk of the moment converted $100 million of junior debt into equity on Monday, while also raising fresh equity capital. Then, on Thursday, it announced that $600 million of senior debt had also been converted into equity, at a price of $13.51 per share.