April 13, 2024


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The Week in Business: Jobs Added, but at a Slower Pace

Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope you are enjoying some rest, even if it’s just a staycation. Here’s the business and tech news you need to know for the (short!) week ahead. — Gillian Friedman

The United States added 1.4 million jobs in August, as employers continued to bring back workers but at a slower pace from the 1.7 million jobs added in July and down significantly from the additional 4.8 million jobs in June. And while the unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, from 10.2 percent in July, payrolls are still more than 11 million jobs below their pre-pandemic level. The jobs report on Friday provided some of the first data on the state of the economy as emergency federal spending, including the $600 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits, came to an end. But because the data was collected early in August, economists warn that it may not reflect the full impact of the loss of those benefits. Still, the relatively strong jobs report could ease pressure on Congress to agree on a new stimulus bill.

The Justice Department is said to be planning to file an antitrust case against Google before the end of this month, over the objections of career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the wealthiest and most formidable technology companies in the world. Some of the roughly 40 lawyers who had been working on an antitrust inquiry into Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, expressed concern that Attorney General William P. Barr wanted to announce the case in September to demonstrate that the Trump administration was taking aggressive action against a dominant tech company ahead of the election. This comes a little over a month after the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were grilled by both Democrats and Republicans on the House antitrust subcommittee.

After marching steadily upward for weeks, the markets fell late in the week, ending that winning streak. A sell-off on Thursday led to a 3.5 percent decline in the S&P 500 Index, its worst drop since June. Stocks continued to fall early Friday but bounced back by the end of the day, with the S&P 500 recording a decline of less than 1 percent. By virtue of their size, tech companies have strong influence over the markets, and it was big tech that helped drive stocks up and then, helped drive their two-day fall.

The N.F.L. season is scheduled to begin on Thursday with the Kansas City Chiefs playing at home against the Houston Texans. The Chiefs are one of the few teams that will allow fans to attend home games — but will cap attendance at 22 percent capacity in their stadium, they said last week. The league is also finalizing plans to have crowd noise piped into stadiums without spectators. Players were tested for the coronavirus daily through at least this weekend, and face shields have been developed for players to use on the field.

President Trump’s tax deferral plan kicked off on Sept. 1, which means that those who qualify may see a higher paycheck between now and the end of the year. This payroll-tax holiday, the result of an executive action from Mr. Trump early last month, applies to employees paid up to $4,000 every two weeks. Employers — if they choose to participate — would then withhold the deferred amount from workers’ paychecks early next year, so workers would see a decrease in pay for the first few months of 2021.

Apple and Google said they would make it easier for states to opt in to their virus tracing technology, which uses Bluetooth technology to detect phones that are close to one another and can notify people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. States that sign up will be able to send residents an alert to their smartphones asking them to turn on “exposure notifications.” If someone using the technology tests positive for the virus, that person can enter the result into the app, and an automatic notification will then be sent to other phones that had been in close contact. Maryland, Virginia, Nevada and Washington, D.C., are already planning to use the new technology.

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