Chamber Members:

Unemployment numbers are of focus today as the report is not as promising as weeks before, but there are some positives to take out. Also, talks progress of specific federal aid items, but as always, there are some needs attached. See below for more details and an announcement of the next presidential debates or some type of format.

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Employment Report 
First-time claims for unemployment benefits totaled 840,000 last week, higher than expected in another sign that the spike in job growth over the summer has cooled heading into Election Day.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting 825,000 new claims. Though the total was a bit worse than Wall Street expected, it still represented a modest decline from the upwardly revised 849,000 from a week earlier. It also was the lowest level of claims since the virus-induced shutdown in mid-March.

Continuing claims again fell sharply, dropping by just over 1 million to 10.98 million, according to the Labor Department release. Continuing claims trail the weekly claims number by a week.

The insured unemployment rate, a basic measure of the workforce compared with those collecting benefits, also slid to from 8.2% to 7.5%, its lowest since March 28. The numbers come a week after the Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 661,000, a total well below Wall Street estimates of 800,000. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9%, but that was largely the product of a drop in the labor force participation rate.

There are still 25.5 million workers claiming some form of unemployment benefits, according to totals through Sept. 19. More than half that total, or about 13.4 million, comes from those collecting under pandemic-related programs set up for those who normally wouldn’t be eligible.

The total of those getting benefits fell by just over 1 million for the most recent week and has been trending lower. First-time claimants under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program fell by 44,270 to 464,437 for the week of Oct. 3.

Pelosi Says No Airline Aid without Broader Stimulus
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday there could be no action on a stand-alone bill to aid airlines or any other sector of the economy without an agreement with the White House and Republicans on a broader economic stimulus package.

Pelosi’s remarks suggested that there would be no quick relief for airlines or resolution of the standoff over aiding the U.S. economy, even as there are signs the recovery could weaken without further stimulus.

Pelosi said aid for airlines would have to be part of a larger stimulus conversation. She has rebuffed President Donald Trump’s called for Congress to pass relief legislation piecemeal.

Pelosi said in an interview on Bloomberg television that she drew the “inference” that Mnuchin was interested in broader stimulus talks and that she had confidence in the Treasury secretary. But she said the White House hasn’t provided a full counteroffer to the $2.2 trillion plan that the House passed as the Democrats’ negotiating position.

After accusing Pelosi on Tuesday of not negotiating in good faith, Trump has since changed course and urged trying for a deal on some individual aid packages. On Thursday he told Fox Business that talks on an economic stimulus plan are now “starting to work out.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor that the two sides should continue to try to negotiate a deal, but said there are “vast differences about how much we should spend.”

Even if there was a breakthrough in Pelosi’s talks with Mnuchin, negotiations among House Democrats and the Senate calendar make it unlikely that a stand-alone bill to help airlines — which are already hemorrhaging tens of thousands of jobs — will reach the president’s desk before the end of October.

While a measure could pass quickly if no lawmaker in either chamber objects, that’s unlikely to happen. Two Republican senators, Pat Toomey and Mike Lee, said in a statement Thursday that they oppose a bailout for the airline industry without some protections for taxpayers and the ability to make changes to the legislation. And some House Democrats remain opposed to the idea of singling out the airline industry for such action — opposition Pelosi previously shared. There would almost certainly have to be some explaining by the speaker to avoid objections.

COVID Spikes with Neighbors to North
Wisconsin state health officials announced they were opening a field hospital at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee after a surge in COVID-19 cases threatened hospital capacity locally.

Their average seven-day percent test positivity has been hovering at around 9 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Illinois, by contrast, has been around 3.5 percent. Hospital beds statewide are 84 percent full. The state’s Southeast region, which includes Walworth, Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee, have seen hospitalization numbers more than double since Sept. 19 (from 135 to 287).

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Wisconsin Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm put “back in place some restrictions the state hasn’t seen since May,” including capping capacity at bars and restaurants to 25 percent. Those limits were struck down “when the state Supreme Court agreed with Republican lawmakers and threw out the administration’s stay-at-home order.”

COVID Takes Next Debate to Virtual Platform … Or Maybe Not
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the second meeting on October 15 between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be virtual “to protect the health and safety of all involved.”

The commission said the debate will take place with the candidates participating from separate, remote locations. The moderator and questioners will still be in Miami.

“I’m not doing a virtual debate,” Trump said, saying it would be a waste of his time. The President indicated the commission did not inform his campaign prior to the announcement that the debate would be virtual. The Biden campaign indicated the former vice president would still participate, despite the change in format.

Health experts have argued it was not worth the risk for the two candidates to debate in person when there are alternatives available.

But that’s not where this ends. More continues to develop with this story.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he will take part in a town hall forum hosted by ABC News next Thursday on the night of what was supposed to be the second presidential debate. The former vice president will solely participate in an event in Philadelphia moderated by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.

In addition, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign is calling for changes to the final debate after President Trump pulled out of next week’s debate. The Oct. 15 debate — which was supposed to be the second out of three — was designed as a town hall-style event between Trump and Biden. The Biden campaign is now calling on the commission to change the debate format for the Oct. 22 event to a town hall.

Is anyone else confused yet? More to come as details evolve.

COVID Cuts to State Budget 
Governor Pritzker said Wednesday that agencies under his control are looking at grant programs and personnel costs to reduce expenses but did not offer additional details of cuts that could be in the works.

At the same time, Pritzker struck an optimistic tone that Congress will still eventually approve additional aid to states and cities to offset the loss of revenue from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a virtual news conference, Pritzker addressed questions about the kinds of reductions state agency directors are suggesting following his directive that they identify cuts of up to 5% this year. The governor also has asked directors to identify 10% reductions that can be proposed for next year’s budget.

Pritzker acknowledged what will be tough are cuts to personnel costs in the state. Illinois already has the lowest per capita state workforce in the country. Pritzker did not say when he might start to impose the cuts directors identify.

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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