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Trump honours fallen soldiers on Memorial Day in twin events

Trump honours fallen

President Donald Trump honoured America’s fallen service members on Monday as he commemorated Memorial Day in back-to-back appearances in the midst of the pandemic.

“Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights," Trump said during a ceremony at Baltimore’s historic Fort McHenry. “No obstacle, no challenge and no threat is a match for the sheer determination of the American people.”

Earlier, Trump silently honoured the nation’s war dead at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, which is currently closed to the public. Presidents on Memorial Day typically lay a wreath and deliver a speech at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But because of the pandemic, which is expected to claim its 100,000th American this week, the ceremony looked different this year.

Many attendees arrived wearing masks but removed them for the outdoor ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Trump, maskless as always in public, gave no remarks. He approached a wreath already in place, touching it and giving a salute.

Trump then travelled to Baltimore, to the chagrin of the city's mayor, and noted that tens of thousands of service members and national guard personnel are currently “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.”

The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 97,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump said brave warriors from the nation’s past have shown that “in America, we are the captains of our own fate.”

The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is where a poem, written after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812, became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The fort is closed to the public because of the pandemic.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young objected to Trump’s visit, saying it sends the wrong message about stay-at-home directives and the city cannot afford the added cost of hosting him when it is losing $20 million a month because of the pandemic.

But Trump is intent on accelerating his schedule as he portrays the country as returning to its pre-pandemic ways. This month, Trump has toured factories in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan that make pandemic supplies. He plans to be in Florida on Wednesday to watch two NASA astronauts rocket into space, and he played golf at his private club in Virginia on Saturday and Sunday.

Young, a Democrat, last week cited the disproportionate effect the virus has had on his city and called on Trump to “set a positive example” by not travelling during the holiday weekend. “That President Trump is deciding to pursue non-essential travel sends the wrong message to our residents," he said.





Biden makes first in-person appearance in more than 2 months

Biden re-emerges

Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in more than two months on Monday as he marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home.

Since abruptly cancelling a March 10 rally in Cleveland at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has waged much of his campaign from his home in Wilmington. When Biden emerged on Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public as health officials suggest.

Biden and his wife, Jill, laid a wreath of white flowers tied with a white bow, and bowed their heads in silence at the park. He saluted. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made," he said after. “Never, ever, forget.”

“I feel great to be out here.” Biden told reporters, his words muffled through his black cloth mask. His visit to the park was unannounced and there was no crowd waiting for him.

But Biden briefly greeted a county official and another man, both wearing face masks and standing a few feet away. Biden also yelled to another, larger group standing nearby, “Thank you for your service.” His campaign says Biden has gone to the park for Memorial Day often in the past, though services were cancelled Monday in the pandemic.

Though low-key, the appearance was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen by the coronavirus outbreak. While the feasibility of traditional events such as rallies and the presidential conventions are in doubt, Biden’s emergence suggests he won’t spend the nearly five months that remain until the election entirely at home.

The coronavirus has upended virtually all aspects of American life and changed the terms of the election. Trump’s argument that he deserves another term in office because of the strong economy has evaporated as unemployment rises to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

As a longtime senator and former vice-president, Biden is trying to position himself as someone with the experience and empathy to lead the country out of a crisis. Trump counters that he is the leader who can preside over an economic rebound later this year or in 2021.

Biden has adjusted to the coronavirus era by building a television studio in his home, which he’s used to make appearances on news programs, late-night shows and virtual campaign events. Some of those efforts have been marred by technical glitches and other awkward moments.

Some Democratic strategists have openly worried that Biden is ceding too much ground to Trump by staying home. The president himself has knocked Biden for essentially campaigning from his basement.

Biden’s advisers say they plan to return to normal campaign activities at some point, including travel to battleground states. But they’re in no hurry, preferring to defer to the advice of health experts and authorities’ stay-at-home and social distancing recommendations.

At 77, Biden is among the nation’s senior population thought to be especially vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus — though so is Trump, who turns 74 next month.

“We will never make any choices that put our staff or voters in harm’s way,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said recently, adding that the campaign would resume more traditional activities “when safety allows, and we will not do that a day sooner.”

Trump has not resumed the large rallies that were the hallmark of his 2016 campaign and presidency but has begun travelling outside Washington in recent weeks. He visited a facility producing face masks in Arizona and a Ford plant in Michigan that has been converted to produce medical and protective equipment.

Trump even played golf at his club in Virginia on the weekend, hoping that others will follow his lead and return to some semblance of normal life and gradually help revive an economy in free fall.

It was the president’s first trip to one of his money-making properties since March 8, when he visited his private golf club in West Palm Beach. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, and Trump followed with the national emergency declaration two days later.



Japan lifts coronavirus emergency in all remaining areas

Japan lifts virus emergency

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and four other remaining areas on Monday, ending the restrictions nationwide as businesses begin to reopen.

Abe also unveiled a plan for a new stimulus package to support businesses hit by the pandemic.

Experts on a government-commissioned panel approved the lifting of the emergency in Tokyo, neighbouring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, and in Hokkaido to the north, which had more cases and remained under the emergency declaration after it was removed in most of Japan earlier this month.

Under the emergency, people were asked to stay at home and non-essential businesses were requested to close or reduce operations, but there was no enforcement. Since May 14, when the measures were lifted in most of Japan, more people have been leaving their homes and stores have begun reopening.

Japan, with about 16,600 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 850 deaths, has so far avoided a large outbreak like those experienced in the U.S. and Europe despite its softer restrictions.

“We were able to bring the outbreak nearly under control in just a month and a half in a uniquely Japanese way” without enforcing measures with penalties, Abe said. “We demonstrated the power of the ‘Japan model.’”

But the world’s third largest economy has fallen into a recession, and public discontent over Abe’s handling of the outbreak has sent his support ratings tumbling. Recent media surveys show public support for his Cabinet has plunged below 30%, the lowest since he returned to office in December 2012.

Abe said the lifting of the emergency does not mean the end of the outbreak. He said the goal is to balance preventive measure and the economy until vaccines and effective drugs become available.

”Our goal is to create a new normal," he said. “We need a new approach to resume our daily social and economic activity."

Abe also announced a new stimulus plan worth about 100 trillion yen ($930 billion) to provide financial support for companies hit by the pandemic. Cabinet approval of a second supplementary budget to fund the additional stimulus is expected later this week.

Combined with an earlier 117 trillion yen stimulus, the amount of spending will be more than 200 trillion yen ($1.9 trillion), he said. The new package will include loan programs to reduce the burden of rent for store owners and subsidies for local governments to step up regional measures.





White House imposes coronavirus travel ban on Brazil

U.S. travel ban on Brazil

President Donald Trump on Sunday further limited travel from the world's coronavirus hotspots by denying entry to foreigners coming from Brazil, which is second to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases.

Trump had already banned certain travellers from China, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Iran. He has not moved to ban travel from Russia, which has the world's third-highest caseload.

Trump had said last week that he was considering limiting travel from Brazil.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cast the step announced Sunday as another “decisive action to protect our country” by Trump, whose management of the crisis has come under sharp scrutiny.

The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases, and a death toll that is expected to surpass 100,000 later this week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil, now Latin America's hardest-hit country, is second, with more than 347,000 cases and more than 22,000 deaths. Third on the list is Russia, with more than 344,000 reported cases and more than 3,500 deaths.

“Today's action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” McEnany said.

Filipe Martins, who advises Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on international affairs, said the U.S. was treating Brazil as it had other populous countries and suggested the news media were overplaying Trump's ban.

“By temporarily banning the entry of Brazilians to the U.S., the American government is following previously established quantitative parameters that naturally reach a country as populous as ours," Martins tweeted. "There isn’t anything specifically against Brazil. Ignore the hysteria from the press.”

The ban on travel from Brazil takes effect late Thursday. As with the other bans, it does not apply to legal permanent residents. A spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident also would be allowed to enter the country. The restrictions also do not apply to trade between the U.S. and Brazil.

Earlier Sunday, Robert O'Brien, the U.S. national security adviser, had said an announcement was likely.

“We're concerned about the people of the Southern Hemisphere and certainly the people of Brazil. They’re having a rough go of it,” he said on CBS' “Face the Nation.” He said the travel ban would likely be temporary.

“But because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people.” O'Brien said.

Data from Brazil’s civil aviation agency shows there has already been a sharp reduction in U.S.-bound flights from the South American country. There were more than 700 flights from Brazil to the U.S. in February of this year, with the number dropping to just 140 in April, two months later.

There were more than 700 flights to the U.S. from Brazil in April 2019, the data shows.



Hong Kong police fire tear gas, water cannon at protesters

Police fire tear gas at protest

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and a water cannon at protesters in a popular shopping district Sunday, as thousands took to the streets to march against China's move to impose national security legislation on the city.

Pro-democracy supporters have sharply criticized a proposal, set to be approved by China's rubber-stamp parliament this week, that would ban secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference, in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The pro-democracy camp says the proposal goes against the “one country, two systems” framework that promises Hong Kong freedoms not found in mainland China.

Crowds of demonstrators dressed in black gathered in the Causeway Bay district on Sunday, chanting slogans such as “Stand with Hong Kong," “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our times.”

The protest was a continuation of a monthslong pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong that began last year and has at times descended into violence between police and protesters.

Police raised blue flags, warning protesters to disperse, before firing multiple rounds of tear gas. They later fired a water cannon at the demonstrators.

At least 180 people were arrested, mostly on charges of unlawful assembly, police said.

They also said that some of the protesters threw bricks and splashed unidentified liquid at officers, injuring at least four members of the police media liaison team. They warned that such behaviour is against the law and that police would pursue the matter.

Earlier in the afternoon, prominent activist Tam Tak-chi was arrested during the protest for what police said was unauthorized assembly. Tam said he was giving a “health talk” and was exempt from social-distancing measures that prohibit gatherings of more than eight people.

The bill that triggered Sunday's rally was submitted at the opening of China’s national legislative session on Friday. It would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and could allow mainland agencies to be set up in the city, sparking concern that Chinese agents could arbitrarily arrest people for activities deemed to be pro-democracy.

Speaking at an annual news conference during the legislative session, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday that Hong Kong affairs were an internal matter for China, and that “no external interference will be tolerated.”

“Excessive unlawful foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs has placed China’s national security in serious jeopardy,” Wang said, adding that the proposed legislation “does not affect the high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong.”

"It does not affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents. And it does not affect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the proposal “a death knell for the high degree of autonomy” that Beijing promised the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong prior to its handover to China, lamented what he called “a new Chinese dictatorship.”

“I think the Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it further than you can throw it,” Patten said in an interview with The Times of London.

Patten is leading a coalition of at least 204 international lawmakers and policymakers who are decrying the proposed legislation. In a statement, the coalition called it a "flagrant breach" of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a 1984 treaty that promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy even after the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said it appeared that China was violating the 1984 treaty.

“And I can’t see how Hong Kong remains the Asian financial centre if the Chinese Communist Party goes through and implements this national security law and takes over Hong Kong,” O'Brien said Sunday on CBS's “Face the Nation.”

“That would be a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, but it will also be very bad for China,” he said.

Bernard Chan, a top-level Hong Kong politician and delegate to the National People’s Congress in Beijing, defended the national security legislation pushed by China, saying it was written into Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the city's mini-constitution — but never enacted.

Chan expressed concern that Hong Kong would inevitably face economic hardship given trade frictions between the U.S. and China.

“I think we are definitely the collateral damage being dragged into this thing. But then, I don’t think there’s any alternatives," he said.

“But with or without this law, honestly, the U.S. and China are always going to be continuing this loggerhead for quite some time to come,” Chan said. "China will remain as a threat to the U.S. in terms of the ... world economic dominance.”



Trump deems churches 'essential,' calls for them to reopen

Trump wants churches open

President Donald Trump said Friday that he has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential" and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus.

“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services," Trump said during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House, where he didn't take questions. He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had prepared a draft of reopening guidelines for churches and other houses of worship weeks ago that included measures like maintaining distance between parishioners and limiting the size of gatherings.

But that guidance had been delayed for more than a month by the administration until Trump abruptly changed course Thursday.

“I said, ‘You better put it out.’ And they’re doing it,” Trump said Thursday at a Ford Motor Co. plant repurposed to make ventilators in Michigan. “And they’re going to be issuing something today or tomorrow on churches. We've got to get our churches open.”

Trump on Friday stressed the importance of churches in many communities and took issue with some of the businesses that had been allowed to reopen.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential” but not churches, he said. “It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque," he said.



Pakistan jet with 98 aboard crashes near Karachi airport

Airliner crashes into alley

A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed Friday in a crowded neighbourhood near the airport in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing. Officials said there were at least three survivors from the plane, and it was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt, with at least five houses destroyed.

The pilot of Pakistani International Airlines Flight 8303 was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before the crash. of the Airbus A320, which was flying from Lahore to Karachi. Video on social media appeared to show the jet flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines.

The plane came to rest about 2:39 p.m. in a narrow alley in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony between houses smashed by its wings. Police in protective masks struggled to clear away crowds amid the smoke and dust so ambulances and firetrucks could move through the .

As darkness settled over the crash site, flood lights illuminated the wreckage, where crews were still recovering bodies. A portable morgue was set up.

Three passengers survived, said Meeran Yousaf, Sindh provincial Health Department spokeswoman. Two passengers have been identified by their DNA and returned to their family, she added.

At least three people on the ground were injured.

Pakistan had resumed domestic flights earlier this week ahead of the Eid-al Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus.

Southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, is the epicenter of the virus infections in Pakistan. The province has nearly 20,000 of the country's more than 50,000 cases.

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar initially said all aboard died, but two civil aviation officials later said that at least two people survived. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Local TV stations reported that three people sitting in the front row of the aircraft survived and showed video of a man on a stretcher they identified as Zafar Masood, the head of the Bank of Punjab. They reported that at least 11 bodies were recovered from the crash site.

Pakistan's civi aviation authority said the plane carried 91 passengers and a crew of seven. Earlier, the airport in the northeastern city of Lahore had said 107 were on board. Civil aviation authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said the discrepancy was due to confusion in the chaotic aftermath of the crash.

A transmission of the pilot's final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling to make another attempt.

“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

“Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.

In one of the radio communications, at least one exchange from the flight sounded like a warning alarm was going off in the cockpit.



Star college football recruit charged with attempted murder

Football star charged

A high school football player designated as a star recruit for colleges by ESPN is accused of trying to kill his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend.

Luke Hill, 18, faces charges including attempted first-degree murder after allegedly firing gunshots that struck a home in Accokeek, Maryland, on Monday night, according to charging documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Hill, a defensive back who graduated from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore after withdrawing from St. John’s College High during his junior year, had committed to play at the University of Oregon, but Coach Mario Cristobal told The Oregonian that he was cut from their program this spring.

Prince George’s County Police redacted the name of the target, but ESPN reported that it was Ishmael Leggett, Hill’s former classmate at St. John’s. Leggett, a 6-foot-4 guard who has committed to play basketball this fall at the University of Rhode Island, wouldn’t comment to the Post, but his next coach expressed relief that the gunshots missed.

“I am aware of the situation with Ishmael Leggett and have been in contact with him and his family,” University of Rhode Island Basketball Coach David Cox told the Providence Journal. “Thankfully, he was not harmed, as his well-being is my primary concern.”

Responding police officers said the target told them he was playing basketball outside his house when someone inside a white car began shooting at him. The mother of the target told officers she heard gunshots and saw the white car as she was pulling into her driveway.

The target told officers that his girlfriend had gotten threatening calls from Hill about her current relationship, and that Hill was upset about a photo she posted on social media. Investigators questioned Hill and then obtained a search warrant for his house in Temple Hills, Maryland, where they found a handgun matching the calibre of a casing at the shooting scene, charging documents said.



China hikes defence spending by 6.6%, lowest rate in years

China hikes defence spend

China will increase its defence spending by 6.6% in 2020, the lowest rate in years as it battles an economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, the government said Friday.

The figure is down from the double-digit percentage increases of just a few years ago that have given China the second biggest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. Spending will total 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion), according to the website of the National People's Congress, the ceremonial parliament that opened its annual session Friday.

The People’s Liberation Army, the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, is the world’s largest standing military and in recent years has added aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal, most of them produced domestically.

China says the increases in spending mostly go toward improving conditions for troops, while foreign analysts say actual spending could be much higher because many items are not included in the official budget.

Defence outlays rose by 7.5% last year to 1.2 trillion yuan ($178 billion), while independent experts estimated real spending on the military exceeded $220 billion when off-budget expenses were added in.

This year's spending will expand China’s navy and acquire advanced aircraft and other weapons to help Beijing enforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea and expand its military presence in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Another key priority is maintaining a credible threat against Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy China considers its own territory to be brought under its control by military force if necessary.

"We will ... resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking ‘Taiwan independence,’” China's Premier Li Keqiang said in a policy address to the congress.

The increase comes despite a 6.8% contraction in the world’s second-largest economy in the first quarter and a swelling government budget deficit required to help meet targets including creating 9 million new urban jobs.



Michigan governor wins legal fight with lawmakers over virus

Governor wins COVID fight

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prevailed Thursday in a high-stakes challenge by Republican lawmakers who sued over her authority to declare emergencies and order sweeping restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak.

A 1945 law cited by Whitmer, a Democrat, is not limited to regional emergencies and can have no end date, said Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Court of Claims.

The opinion effectively means the governor's orders stand, including a stay-home decree that is likely to be extended beyond May 28.

“It would take a particularly strained reading of the plain text of the (law) to conclude that a grant of authority to deal with a public crisis that affects all the people of this state would somehow be constrained to a certain locality,” Stephens said.

The claims are “meritless,” she said.

The lawsuit from the House and Senate grew out of frustration with Whitmer's one-size strategy to stop the spread of the coronavirus by keeping people at home statewide and shutting down businesses, even if regions far from the Detroit area were not harmed as much by the virus or COVID-19.

Tension between the governor and Republicans also has been fueled by her status as a possible running mate for presidential candidate Joe Biden and provocative anti-Whitmer demonstrations by gun-toting protesters. Barbers and hair stylists, out of work because of virus restrictions, gave free haircuts Wednesday at the Capitol to highlight their resentment.

The Legislature did not extend Whitmer’s emergency declaration in late April but she acted anyway, covering her bases by using the '45 law and a 1976 statute.

The Legislature said Whitmer violated the '76 law, which says lawmakers get a role in emergency declarations after 28 days. Indeed, the judge said the governor can't use that law to extend emergencies without input from lawmakers. But Whitmer won the case anyway.

Stephens' decision was a third time that a Court of Claims judge has ruled in the governor's favour. The other lawsuits were brought by residents, a business owner and a new group that has organized protests at the Capitol.

The House and Senate plan to appeal. 



Police: 90s TV actress arrested during street racing raid

Actress street racing arrest

An actress with credits from a '90s TV sitcom was among 44 people arrested in Atlanta after police disbanded what they described as an illegal street racing event.

Maia Campbell, 43, was arrested Saturday and charged with being a pedestrian in the roadway, news outlets reported Wednesday.

Atlanta police said they arrested 44 people and issued 114 tickets over the weekend for offences related to illegal street racing. Authorities didn't elaborate on the charge against Campbell.

Racers have been particularly noticeable in Atlanta since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with less traffic giving them more room to speed along Georgia’s roads and freeways. But the activities, including some widely circulated videos, drew the attention of police.

Campbell played Tiffany Warren on the sitcom “In the House” with LL Cool J and Alfonso Ribeiro from 1995 to 1999. In recent years, Campbell was the subject of headlines regarding substance abuse and bipolar disorder. In 2012 she appeared on the OWN channel show “Iyanla: Fix My Life," to discuss her issues.

In 2017, LL Cool J, the rapper and actor also known as James Todd Smith, asked his social media followers to help find Campbell after a disturbing video surfaced that appeared to show Campbell asking a man at an Atlanta gas station for drugs. Campbell, who had been off the acting radar for some time, subsequently declined Smith's help.

It wasn't immediately known if Campbell had an attorney who could comment for her.



Nearly 39 million have sought US jobless aid since virus hit

Nearly 39M seek jobless aid

More than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the viral outbreak that triggered widespread business shutdowns two months ago and sent the economy into a deep recession.

Roughly 38.6 million people have now filed for jobless aid since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks, and last week the figures declined in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Yet historically, they remain immense — roughly 10 times the typical figure that prevailed before the virus struck.

“While the steady decline in claims is good news, the labour market is still in terrible shape,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial.

The continuing stream of heavy job cuts reflects an economy that is sinking into the worst recession since the Great Depression. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that the economy is shrinking at a 38% annual rate in the April-June quarter. That would be by far the sharpest quarterly contraction on record.

Nearly half of Americans say that either their incomes have declined or they live with another adult who has lost pay through a job loss or reduced hours, the Census Bureau said in survey data released Wednesday More than one-fifth of Americans said they had little or no confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage on time, the survey found.

During April, U.S. employers shed 20 million jobs, eliminating a decade’s worth of job growth in a single month. The unemployment rate reached 14.7%, the highest since the Depression. Millions of other people who were out of work weren’t counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for a new job.

Since then, 10 million more laid-off workers have applied for jobless benefits. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview Sunday that the unemployment rate could peak in May or June at 20% to 25%.

Across industries, major employers continue to announce job cuts. Uber said this week that it will lay off 3,000 employees, on top of 3,700 it has already cut, because demand for its ride-hailing services has plummeted. Vice, a TV and digital news organization tailored for younger people, announced 155 layoffs globally last week.

Digital publishers Quartz and BuzzFeed, magazine giant Conde Nast and the company that owns the business-focused The Economist magazine also announced job cuts last week.

The total number of people receiving benefits rose 2.5 million to 25 million in the week that ended May 9, the latest period for which data is available.

Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, said the most recent layoffs may be particularly worrisome because they’re happening even as states are gradually reopening their economies. This could mean that many companies foresee scant likelihood of a substantial economic recovery anytime soon and so still feel a need to cut jobs.

“There’s a high probability that those layoffs could persist for longer than those that were a function of (businesses) just being closed,” Stanley said.

At the same time, some companies have begun to rehire a limited number of their laid-off employees as states have eased restrictions on movement and commerce.



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