In This Issue:
- The Economy & Your Finances: New unemployment claims unexpectedly increase
- The Market & Industry: Mortgage applications increase 25 percent
- Around the State: San Francisco becomes first Bay Area locale to enter orange tier
- Health Check-Up: California cases fall below plateau
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased during the week ending Sept 19, the most-recent data available. The weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department also showed 26 million people were receiving unemployment benefits in early September.
Many people who filed unemployment claims in the last six months have said they thought it was impossible to reach a live person at the Employment Development Department. According to a recent report released by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, they were correct. No more than one in 1,000 callers per day have reached someone at the number the EDD has told people to call for help with their claims.
And more people may be needing government assistance as roughly one out of every 100 businesses in the San Francisco metro area has closed permanently. The Bay Area has some of the highest business closure rates in the nation, according to newly released data from Yelp.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Latino small businesses such as bakeries, restaurants and mercaditos have suffered disproportionately. About 1 out of 3 Latinos have seen their business shut down or have experienced a significant drop in revenue.
To help Americans impacted by business closures, House Democrats on Monday released a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that would restore $600 weekly jobless benefits. The legislation includes money for restaurants, airlines, child-care centers and performance venues hit hard by the pandemic as well as funding for the postal service. A vote could happen as early as this week.
Sources: Reuters, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Government Operations Agency, Sacramento Bee, Mercury News, Yelp, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal
The Market & Industry: Mortgage applications increase 25 percent
New purchase mortgage applications increased 25 percent in the week ending September 18, 2020, compared with the prior year. While the increase may not be as strong as that observed in August, strong homebuying interest carried over from the summer may keep the growth in applications elevated for the coming weeks.
The average number of daily closed home sales rebounded to 881 transactions for the week ending Sept. 19, according to C.A.R. The sharp decline in the week prior was partly due to the Labor Day holiday, so the latest weekly surge was not a surprise.
Pending sales also climbed back after a soft showing in the week before, increasing 5.7 percent from the previous week. Despite the weekly increase in both closed and pending sales, housing demand is still softer than July and August when the market was booming.
Survey results from C.A.R.’s latest REALTOR® survey suggest that the market is leveling off. Respondents who entered escrow or closed a transaction were at the lowest level in the past five weeks. Nearly half (45 percent) of those who responded noticed a slowdown in market activity in the last couple weeks, the highest level since late July.
While there were more REALTORS® who expected an increase in new listings and sales in the upcoming week, C.A.R. is expecting business activity to slow in the last quarter of 2020.
Last Wednesday, Gov. Newsom signed an executive order allowing local jurisdictions to continue banning commercial evictions of tenants affected by the coronavirus pandemic until the end of March 2021.
Source: Mortgage Bankers Association, California Assn. of REALTORS®, Office of the Governor, The San Francisco Chronicle
Around the State: San Francisco becomes first Bay Area locale to enter orange tier
Yesterday, San Francisco became the first Bay Area locale to enter the orange, or “moderate,” tier of California’s color-coded reopening system. Starting today, San Francisco will allow indoor dining and places of worship to operate indoors at 25 percent capacity. Movie theaters will also reopen with modifications and at limited capacity on Oct. 7, and the red tape will come down from playgrounds in mid-October.
More signs of progress continued last week when several more counties, including San Mateo, Alameda and Riverside, were cleared to move from the state’s most restrictive purple tier to the less restrictive red tier — although Riverside County officials will still again weigh their own plan, which would defy state rules.
A bit of good news for those missing their mani pedis. Nail salons across the state were also allowed to reopen indoors with modifications. The move came after many in the industry said it was being unfairly singled out, while hair salons and barber shops were allowed to reopen.
Another industry pressuring Gov. Newsom to reopen is theme parks, specifically Disney Parks in Anaheim. During a virtual press conference last week, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro demanded that Gov. Newsom reopen California theme parks and pleaded with state and local government officials to provide clear guidelines that are fair and equitable. That pleading was for naught as the Walt Disney Co said on Tuesday it will lay off roughly 28,000 employees, mostly at its U.S. theme parks, where attendance has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in California where Disneyland remains closed.
For those returning to in-person work, Hollywood studios and entertainment unions have agreed to a new set of safety protocols and pay for TV and film crew should they become infected with the coronavirus while working.
Under the deal, all union employees will receive 10 days of COVID-19 paid sick leave, per production, which can be used for time for testing, or self-isolation or if a family member tests positive. The agreement ensures those who go on COVID-19 sick leave will be reinstated once they are cleared to return to work, alleviating any concerns among some crew that they may lose work if they reveal they have tested positive.
Sources: Mercury News, Press Enterprise, covid19.ca.gov, KTLA.com, Reuters, Los Angeles Times
After a stubborn plateau, California has, at least for a day, fallen below a plateau of cases and deaths that began two weeks ago, according to data reported by county health departments and compiled by the Bay Area News Group.
With 3,573 new cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths from the virus reported around the state Tuesday, each seven-day average fell to its lowest point in months. The 569 fatalities over the past week, or about 81 per day, are the fewest over any seven-day period since the first week of July, while the average 3,212 new cases per day over the past week are the fewest since June 16.
However, the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic in California rank among the deadliest in state history, deadlier than any other consecutive five-month period in at least 20 years.
And the grim milestone encompasses thousands of “excess” deaths not accounted for in the state’s official COVID-19 death tally: a loss of life concentrated among Blacks, Asians and Latinos, afflicting people who experts say likely didn’t get preventive medical care amid the far-reaching shutdowns or who were wrongly excluded from the coronavirus death count.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that over the summer months, the U.S. experienced a shift in the age groups most impacted by coronavirus. CDC officials noted that persons ages 20-29 account for more than 20% of all confirmed cases. This shift suggests that younger adults likely contributed to community transmission of COVID-19.
Part of this could be a result of new research suggesting that Americans under 25 are most likely to believe virus-related misinformation about the severity of the disease and how it originated.
In a survey of 21,196 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, researchers identified a clear generational divide. Respondents 18 to 24 had an 18 percent probability of believing a false claim, compared with 9 percent for those over 65, according to the study, conducted by researchers from Harvard University, Rutgers University, Northeastern University and Northwestern University.
Hoping to be the first to bring a vaccine to market is Johnson & Johnson which announced last week that it has begun the final stage of its clinical trials.
Johnson & Johnson is a couple of months behind the leaders, but its advanced vaccine trial will be by far the largest, enrolling 60,000 participants. The company said it could know by the end of this year if its vaccine works.
Last week, Google updated its Maps app to display seven-day averages of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. The chosen areas show if cases are increasing or decreasing and are shaded with one of six colors to signify how many new cases were reported.
Sources: Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, California Assn. of REALTORS®, Office of the Governor, San Francisco Chronicle, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Fox News, National Science Foundation, The New York Times, Mercury News