Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

United Airlines warned its employees on Wednesday of furlough notices going out to 36,000 employees, or about 45% of its U.S. workforce, by October, according to a company memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Demand for air travel has plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic. Despite a slight rebound from its lows in April, United's scheduled capacity for July is down 75% compared to the same time last year, per the memo. It expects scheduled capacity for August to be down 65% compared to last year.

What they're saying: "[G]iven the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country, it’s increasingly likely that travel demand will not return to normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine," the company wrote.

  • "The reality is that United simply cannot continue at our current payroll level past October 1 in an environment where travel demand is so depressed. And involuntary furloughs come as a last resort, after months of company-wide cost-cutting and capital-raising."

The big picture: The company told employees it was able to stave off the furloughs by cutting costs and raising capital, but leadership had believed for months its workforce was too large to match demand.

  • Not everyone who receives a notice will be laid off, according to the memo. The company expects the need for some layoffs to be offset via "increased participation in new and existing voluntary programs as well as continued discussions with our union partners about creative ways to help reduce furloughs."
  • Under the union contracts, United employees who are furloughed have recall rights when demand returns — meaning they may be able to return to the company in two or three years.

Go deeper

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. reports over 63,000 daily COVID-19 cases

A health worker handling a coronavirus test sample Oct. 15 in Roxbury, Mass. Photo: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

The U.S. reported 63,172 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the nation's highest daily count since July 31 when it saw more than 66,000 new cases in a single day, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Why it matters: Over 37,000 people are currently being hospitalized due to the virus in the U.S., while the country reported 951 new deaths from the virus. COVID-19 infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C.

Go deeper: The United States' stubbornly high coronavirus death rate

Stocks close down more than 3%

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld via Getty Images

Stocks took a hit on Wednesday, with the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrials Average and Nasdaq dropping more than 3% across the board.

Why it matters: The volatility is a break from the stock market grinding higher in the face of spiking coronavirus cases, a stalling economy and gridlocked negotiations over an additional stimulus package.