Happy Thursday! A lot of things going on in both Washington DC and Springfield as lawmakers return from their breaks. Speaker Pelosi announced today that she will not bring up a bill on expansion of the Supreme Court, the daily vaccine update is plentiful as it concerns number of vaccinated individuals contracting covid & the pause continues, and since it’s Thursday we have job reports (and they’re encouraging!).
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Jobless Claims Fell to a New Pandemic Low Last Week
Unemployment claims declined to the lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic struck last spring, adding to signs the U.S. economic revival is picking up speed.
Jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell to 576,000 last week from 769,000 a week earlier. That is the lowest weekly figure since March 2020. Claims remain higher than the pre-pandemic levels of around 220,000, but economists expect they will continue to drop as the recovery accelerates. “We are seeing both a strong reopening and rehiring in the economy at this time,” said Kathy Bostjancic, economist at Oxford Economics. “It’s been faster than most economists expected.”
Several factors are converging to boost growth across the economy. Vaccination rates are powering consumer spending, governments are relaxing restrictions on businesses, and federal-stimulus funds are flowing through the economy.
U.S. employers added 916,000 jobs in March, and the jobless rate edged down to 6%, from 6.2% in February. Consumers are spending more on gyms, restaurants, hotels, and other services that they had shunned over the past year. U.S. retail sales surged 9.8% in March from the month before, the largest monthly gain since last May, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
The four-week moving average for claims, which smooths out weekly volatility, declined last week to a pandemic low of 683,000. The total number of people receiving unemployment assistance is declining as the labor market heals. About 16.9 million people were collecting unemployment benefits through state and federal programs in the week ended March 27, down from 18.2 million a week earlier.
Statewide Unemployment Rate Down, Jobs Up in March
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate decreased -0.3 percentage point to 7.1 percent, while nonfarm payrolls were up +32,200 jobs in March, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The February monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report, rising from +21,100 to +37,300 jobs. The February unemployment rate was unchanged from the preliminary report, remaining at 7.4 percent.
In March, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Leisure and Hospitality (+13,700), Construction (+6,300) and Professional and Business Services (+6,300). The industry sectors that reported monthly payroll declines were: Government (-2,600), Financial Activities (-700) and Information (-200).
“Today’s data is a positive step in the right direction in restoring the workforce a year after the COVID-19 pandemic devastated state and national economies and left thousands jobless,” said Deputy Governor Dan Hynes. “While there is still more work to recover from the effects of this virus, the Pritzker administration remains fully committed to supporting claimants and dislocated workers and getting our economy back on track.”
“Deliberate actions taken by the State to protect and support our residents, businesses and communities during the pandemic are continuing to pay off as Illinois has recorded back-to-back improvements in 2021 reducing unemployment and bringing jobs back to our communities,” said Sylvia Garcia, Acting Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). “With strong indications that the Illinois economy is turning a new corner, Governor Pritzker’s administration will continue to bring forward investments needed to support job creation, economic recovery and enable a safe environment for workers and consumers to return with confidence.”
The state’s unemployment rate was +1.1 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for March, which was 6.0 percent, down -0.2 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was up +3.4 percentage points from a year ago when it was 3.7 percent.
The number of unemployed workers fell from the prior month, a -4.0 percent decrease to 436,400, and was up +85.2 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was down -0.1 percent over-the-month and down -3.4 percent over-the-year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.
Pelosi Says She Will Not Bring Bill Up on Supreme Court Expansion … For Now
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she has “no plans” to bring a Democratic-led bill to expand the Supreme Court to the House floor for a vote, while saying such an idea is “not out of the question.”
Pelosi was asked during a press briefing if she supported a bill brought forward by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to expand the Supreme Court by four seats and if she would bring it to the House floor. “No. I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal, but frankly I’m not — right now, we’re back, our members, our committees are working. We’re putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest,” Pelosi said.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. I think it’s an idea that should be considered and I think the president’s taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing. It’s a big step,” she continued. Pelosi added of expanding the court: “It’s not out of the question. It has been done before in the history of our country a long time ago. And the growth of our country, the size of our country, the growth of our challenges in terms of the economy, etc., might necessitate such a thing.”
Several House Democrats are expected to introduce a bill on Thursday that would expand the size of the Supreme Court from nine seats to 13 if passed. The move comes about a week after President Biden signed an executive order forming a commission to investigate the possibility of adding more seats to the Supreme Court.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause to Continue
An independent advisory group to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday postponed making a recommendation about the continued use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. As a result, the current pause is likely to continue until the panel can gather more evidence about the risk of rare blood clots and the possibility that the shot is responsible.
During an emergency meeting, members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said they did not feel comfortable making a decision about whether to continue vaccinations because there was not enough evidence about the patients who experienced the serious but rare side effects.
Panel members said they wanted more information about the people who may be most at risk for blood clots such as age and gender. The panel did not set a date for when they will meet again, but it could be in the next week to 10 days. There is also a regularly scheduled meeting on May 5.
Panel members stressed that they did not think the shot was necessarily dangerous or that the risks outweighed the benefits. But they wanted to be cautious and continue the pause until they felt comfortable with the level of evidence. The committee’s recommendations are non-binding, but health officials have indicated they will use the panel to help inform their final decision about the shot.
Top Biden administration officials said this week they expect the pause will last days or weeks, not months. But it’s not clear what affect the lack of a vote from the committee will have on that timeline, nor is it clear what level of evidence the committee members want before making any recommendations.
While most of the committee members who spoke seemed to favor the pause and were convinced it would only reinforce confidence in the vaccine, some expressed frustration at the lack of action, as well as about the impact a continued pause will have on vulnerable communities.
Moderna Says Data Proves Vaccine is More Than 90% Effective Six Months After 2nd Shot
Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting against Covid and more than 95% effective against severe disease up to six months after the second dose, the company said Tuesday, citing updated data from its phase three clinical trial.
The update brings Moderna a step closer to filing its request for full U.S. approval for its vaccine. Full approval requires a more rigorous review process to show the shot is safe and effective for its intended use. Once it gets full approval, Moderna can begin marketing the shots directly to consumers and selling them to individuals and private companies in the U.S.
The new data included Covid-19 cases through April 9 and evaluated over 900 cases, including more than 100 severe cases, it said. The vaccine is currently authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration for people who are age 18 and older, and the agency can revoke the emergency use authorization, or EUA, at any time. Moderna submitted only two months of follow-up safety data for the EUA. The FDA usually requires six months for full approval. The company said its results are preliminary. Moderna said throughout the year it will share updated data on efficacy against asymptomatic infection as well as the persistence of antibodies.
The new data comes after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed antibodies induced by the Moderna vaccine were still present six months after the second dose. It also comes after Pfizer said earlier this month its vaccine, which uses technology similar to Moderna’s, was also shown to be highly effective six months after the second dose.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist who has sat on several drug data and safety monitoring boards, called Moderna’s update “amazing news” and said he’s glad to hear that both mRNA vaccines are highly effective at six months. “I think it is fair to estimate that they will both have decent efficacy for many months beyond this,” he said.
Moderna is still evaluating its vaccine in people ages 17 and younger. The company said Tuesday its trial testing the vaccine in adolescents ages 12 to 17 is now fully enrolled, with about 3,000 participants in the U.S. It said its trial testing the vaccine in children 6 months to 11 years old is currently enrolling participants. It expects to enroll 6,750 healthy pediatric participants in the U.S. and Canada. As in Pfizer’s study, kids will begin by receiving a low dose of the vaccine before progressively moving to higher doses.
CDC Says Only 5,800 COVID-19 Infections Among 66 Million Fully Vaccinated Americans
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified a small cohort of approximately 5,800 cases of Covid-19 infection among more than 66 million Americans who have completed a full course of vaccination.
These so-called breakthrough cases, which are defined as positive Covid-19 test results received at least two weeks after patients receive their final vaccine dose, represent 0.008% of the fully vaccinated population.
Officials said such cases are in line with expectations because the approved vaccines in the U.S. are highly effective but not 100% foolproof. They are a reminder that even vaccinated people are at risk and should continue to take precautions such as masking and social distancing in many circumstances.
The CDC earlier this year asked state health departments to track and report breakthrough cases to the federal government. So far, the cases that have been reported come from about 40 states.
At press briefings over the past two weeks, Dr. Fauci has tried to assure the public that a small number of these infections are to be expected.
Patients can become infected after vaccination for a number of reasons. Older people or those with compromised immune systems might not produce a sufficient immune response to the vaccine, leaving the body vulnerable, said David Hirschwerk, an infectious-diseases physician at Northwell Health System in Manhasset, N.Y. Other times, more aggressive variants of the virus can evade the protections brought on by immunization, or a patient could simply be exposed to a high viral load in a superspreader event, which could simply overwhelm the body’s defenses.
Of the breakthrough cases identified by the CDC, more than 40% occurred in people older than 60, while 65% of the cases were in female patients, according to Tom Clark, leader of the vaccine evaluation team at the federal agency. The CDC found that 29% of breakthrough infections were asymptomatic and 7% of patients experiencing a breakthrough infection were hospitalized. So far, 74 people have died after experiencing breakthrough infections. The agency is expected to publish some of these findings next week.
Doctors and public-health officials emphasize that such cases aren’t surprising when dealing with a disease for which no vaccine provides 100% efficacy at preventing infection. All three vaccines approved for use in the U.S.—manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE together; Moderna Inc.; and Johnson & Johnson—were found in clinical trials to be highly effective at preventing both serious and symptomatic cases of Covid-19.
Should Michigan’s Covid Surge Cause Worry
New infections in Michigan surged to 6,500 per day from 1,100 between March 1 and April 10, making it the nation’s hotspot. Illinois could be heading in the same direction, with case counts and hospitalizations rising again after months of decline. Like Michigan, Illinois also has seen a trend of increasing infections among younger residents.
Exponential spread like Michigan has seen “is absolutely possible” in Illinois, said Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medicine. It’s more isolated here, but it’s already happening in certain communities, Landon said, referring to case counts rising in North Side Chicago neighborhoods and in Illinois counties like Peoria.
The seven-day rolling average of daily cases in Illinois has nearly doubled since March 1, hitting 3,305 on April 11, according to a Crain’s analysis of state data. At the same time, the test positivity rate has jumped from 2.4 to 4.2 percent and hospitalizations have increased. The uptick is more drastic in Chicago, where the average daily case count has increased 114 percent to 721 during the same period. Meanwhile, the test positivity rate has gone from 2.7 to 5.7 percent, according to the city’s COVID dashboard.
Illinois can learn from Michigan’s experience, and surge vaccines to areas that might be at risk of combining with Michigan’s COVID conflagration. But it takes most people six weeks to become fully vaccinated on a Pfizer or Moderna schedule, and Johnson & Johnson’s pause makes quick immunization more difficult. The goal is to stop the spread among people who are not yet vaccinated by using other mitigation measures, and by working to vaccinate as many people as possible—as quickly as possible,
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Here are our upcoming no-cost webinars:
Government Certification Process (with Rita Haake at COD) on April 27th at 1pm
Certifications: Interpreting the alphabet to pursue profits! Which small business certification is the best one for you?
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• State: DBE, FBE, FMBE, MBE, PBE, VBE
• Local: DBE, MBE, WBE, VBE
You will learn the details of the application process, documentation requirements, certification options, and how to market and leverage certifications for the growth of your business.
Webinar: The Certification Process (ecenterdirect.com)
Small Business Administration Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
The Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) Grant program was established by The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-Profits, and Venues Act, signed into law on December 27, 2020. The SBA has announced that have temporarily closed the application portal due to technical difficulties. The hope is to reopen ASAP. The application portal will open in a tiered approach. Please check the SBA website (link below) for more information.
Eligible applicants may qualify for SVO Grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. $2 billion is reserved for eligible applications with up to 50 full-time employees. Eligible entities include:
o Live venue operators or promoters
o Theatrical producers
o Live performing arts organization operators
o Relevant museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria
o Motion picture theater operators
o Talent representatives, and
o Each business entity owned by an eligible entity that also meets the eligibility requirements
Applicants can apply for PPP prior to applying to the SVOG program. If they do receive a PPP loan after 12/27/20, they will have the SVOG reduced by the PPP loan amount. To follow updates on this program, please click here to go to the SBA’s website. Applicants must also have a valid SAM.gov registration to apply for this program. Here’s a link to a video on how to apply: SAM.gov Entity Registration Training – YouTube .
Small Business Administration Program: Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)
This week SBA announced that for loans approved starting the week of April 6, 2021, the maximum loan amount will be increased to $500,000. For loans approved prior to the week of April 6, 2021, please click here for information from SBA on loan increases.
The SBA is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses and non-profit organizations that are suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. These loans may be used to pay debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact, and that are not already covered by a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for non-profits. The first payment is deferred for one year. Applicants must be physically located in the U.S. or designated territory and suffered working capital losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, not due to a downturn in the economy or other reasons. Eligible applicants include the following:
- Businesses with 500 or fewer employees or defined as small per www.SBA.gov/SizeStandards
- Cooperatives with 500 or fewer employees
- Agricultural enterprises with 500 or fewer employees
• Most private nonprofits
• Faith-based organizations
• Sole proprietorships and independent contractors
The deadline to apply for this program has been extended to December 31, 2021. The SBA has also extended deferment periods for all disaster loans including EIDL until 2022. All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2020, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 24-months from the date of the note. All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2021, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 18-months from the date of the note. For more information and the application, please click here to go to the SBA’s website.
Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity
Team RED will be hosting numerous program webinars over the next few weeks. Please join us and learn about these programs. While different team members from around the state are hosting the webinars, they are open to anyone to attend. You can view the full list of upcoming events on our website here.
Advantage Illinois: How local community banks can partner with the State of Illinois to help small business
Date and time: Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:00 am
Enhancing access to capital for Illinois businesses is a top priority. The Brookings Institution has noted that more than 95% of new jobs are derived from business expansion or start up activity. Small businesses are the backbone of the Illinois economy, and the Advantage Illinois program is here to assist. In this webinar you will learn how the state’s banking community can help entrepreneurs and small businesses start up, expand, and create new jobs at a faster rate by partnering with the State of Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity through this participation loan program. Guest speakers include John D. Hill and Mark Schultz, Advantage Illinois Team for the Office of Business Development. Local community banks are encouraged to attend!
Team RED Office hours
DCEO’s Regional Economic Development Team is hosting weekly office hours on the days and times listed below. These sessions are designed as open times that the Team is available. The Team will provide you with the latest updates and answer any questions you may have on state or federal programs. Feel free to drop in for any assistance you need. If these times do not work for you, please reach out to your regional Team RED representative. We’re always here to help.
Mondays from 3pm – 4pm
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=mdac63fc058a28665bc12f2db155d8e81
Wednesdays from 1pm – 2pm
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=mab7683a4fd7c1b69c9aead26b0fce1ea
Thursdays from 3pm – 4pm
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=me64c9d6620b31db8645644cf588f956b
Fridays from 10am – 11am
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=m097b6d22cef426d023f9d5375ba167b4
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry