Stocks drop and bond yields jump, extending Wall Street’s turbulent week.
Hiring slowed significantly at the end of last year, a stark indication that employers are struggling to fill positions even as the United States remains millions of jobs short of prepandemic levels.
The economy added 199,000 jobs in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said Friday, down from 249,000 in November. The gains were the smallest in a year that nonetheless produced record job growth.
At the same time, there were signs that those looking for jobs last month were finding them. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent, from 4.2 percent. Wages continued to surge, rising 0.6 percent in December and 4.7 percent for the year, reflecting intense competition among employers for workers.
Taken together, the data suggest that a dearth of available workers — and not a lack of demand — may be part of the reason hiring has languished.
“The unemployment rate is a reliable barometer, and it’s going down fast,” said Julia Coronado, founder of the research firm MacroPolicy Perspectives. “It does speak to not having enough labor supply to meet demand — not faltering demand.”
Economists said the report increased the chances that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates quickly to cool off the economy, since wage growth threatens to keep prices increasing as businesses try to cover their climbing labor costs.
The December numbers cap a year defined by swings in a job market that remains entwined with the pandemic nearly two years on.
And they could prompt a split-screen on the state of the economy heading into a midterm election year that will determine the fate of President Biden’s agenda, as well as control of pivotal state governorships and legislatures.
Democrats are pointing to wage growth and overall job gains. The economy added more than 6.4 million jobs in total last year, the biggest annual gain on record, as it climbed out of the hole created by the pandemic. Despite the slowdown at the end of the year, an average of 537,000 jobs a month were added in 2021, and unemployment plummeted faster than just about anyone had forecast.
“I think it’s a historic day for our economic recovery,” Mr. Biden said at a White House news conference on Friday, noting that the one-year decline in the unemployment rate was the sharpest ever. The economic stimulus package that was passed last year was crucial, he said, declaring, “America is back to work.”
But Republicans cited the recent deceleration in hiring to flay Mr. Biden’s economic policies. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, said on Twitter that December hiring was “another massive miss” and that the administration “has sabotaged what should’ve been a V-shaped recovery.”
The report on Friday came with an important caveat: The data was collected in mid-December, before the pandemic’s latest wave revealed its strength. Since then, the Omicron variant has ignited a steep rise in coronavirus cases, driving up hospitalizations and keeping people home from work.
There is widespread optimism that the Omicron surge will be short-lived and that the economy will then regain momentum. But economists are bracing for the surge in cases to curtail job growth in January and in the coming months.
“I think Omicron will slow hiring in January,” Nela Richardson, chief economist at the payroll processing firm ADP, said before the report. “It might hit in early February as well.”
Industries with face-to-face interactions, including restaurants, remain particularly vulnerable to case levels.
“It’s really like a huge game of Ping-Pong,” said Danielle Boyce, the owner and general manager of an American Flatbread restaurant in Middlebury, Vt. “You’re constantly trying to adjust.”
Ms. Boyce said hiring had been extraordinarily difficult in recent months, so much so that she had to take on bartending duties. She is worried that the latest pandemic surge will only make things harder.
When nearby Middlebury College went fully remote in December after detecting a spike in cases on campus, “business dropped off,” she said. Some of her staff members, who were students, left town early. This week, she finally thought she’d have two servers and a bartender, only to find out that one of the employees was sick and awaiting the result of a Covid-19 test.
“Covid just hasn’t let up,” she said.
The latest climb on the pandemic roller coaster has made it difficult for businesses to plan. Already facing challenges in hiring and retaining employees, they are now contending with a fresh swirl of questions.
Many businesses have postponed return-to-office plans as cases have risen, sometimes indefinitely. Restaurants and theaters have increasingly gone dark amid staff shortages and renewed fears of infection. Some schools have returned to remote learning, or are threatening to, leaving many working parents in limbo.
“We’re all sort of at the whims of these variants and surges in cases, and it’s hard to know when they might strike,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “Any sort of projections or outlook on the pace of gains over the next year or so is still dependent on the virus.”
Employment levels are still depressed compared with the period before the pandemic, even as job openings remain remarkably high by historical standards. The economy has added 18.8 million jobs since April 2020 — when pandemic-related lockdowns were at their peak — but still has 3.6 million fewer positions than in February 2020.
Part of the worker shortage may reflect retirement decisions prompted by the pandemic. Some people may be waiting to go back when health risks from the virus are less pronounced, or may be struggling to find child care during school and day care shutdowns.
Dana Ewer, 42, a nurse in Salt Lake City, said she and her husband were steeling themselves for the possibility that the day care center where they send their two sons, ages 5 and 2, would close because of a staffing shortage or virus spread.
Should that happen, or if anyone in the family got sick, she isn’t sure how they would manage work and child care during the day, she said.
“There is a possibility that I could work from home on a very temporary basis, but it would be hard to negotiate,” Ms. Ewer said, adding, “I’m more worried about what would happen with my husband.” He has just a handful of days off from work a year, and they do not know how his employer would handle a longer absence.
There was also a sharp divergence in employment along racial lines in December. White employment rose by 665,000, while Black employment fell by 86,000. The unemployment rate for Black workers rose to 7.1 percent, compared with 3.2 percent for white workers. Hispanic employment fell slightly as well.
Still, there is plenty of evidence of momentum underlying the uneven economic recovery, and signs abound that jobs are numerous even if workers are hard to find. The share of people quitting their jobs just touched a record, and a shortfall of workers has caused many businesses to curtail hours or services.
The abundant opportunities and the chance for fatter paychecks have lured some people back into the job market. Among civilians 16 or older, 61.9 percent were working or looking for employment in November and December, the highest rate since the pandemic took hold.
Participation in the labor force remains depressed compared with its February 2020 level, 63.4 percent, but the combination of rapidly declining joblessness and briskly increasing wages has prompted many economic policymakers to declare that the economy is at or near “full employment,” a situation in which everyone who wants a job and is available to work can find one.
The job market has returned to that milestone much more quickly than economists expected, which is a point of pride for the White House.
Brian Deese, the director of the White House National Economic Council, wrote on Twitter that 3.9 percent — the December jobless rate — was “a simple number” but that “behind it are millions of American workers and families” whose “lives are better because of the historically strong economic recovery in 2021.”
Economists said the latest report affirmed the Fed’s belief that the economy was “at or near” full employment even with millions of jobs and workers missing compared with before the pandemic.
“We’ve never seen anything like the job market we’re seeing today,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. “It is stunning.”
Strong wage growth — and an uptick in the share of people who are working or looking for a job — provided an optimistic undertone to a jobs report that showed a slowdown in hiring at the end of the year.
That is good news for President Biden and his administration, which has been trying to capitalize on strong economic growth and a swiftly healing labor market as rising prices have shaken the public’s confidence in the economy.
Average hourly earnings climbed by 0.6 percent in December from the prior month, and had surged by 4.7 percent over the past year. Both of those numbers are much stronger than what economists in a Bloomberg survey had projected.
“Wages are just skyrocketing,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. “This is a hot labor market.”
The pop in pay came as employers scrambled to hire workers. The share of people in the labor force applying for jobs — the official unemployment rate — dropped to 3.9 percent last month, at a time when job openings are elevated.
The plentiful opportunities and the chance for fatter paychecks have lured some people back into the job market. Among civilians 16 or older, the share working or looking for employment rose to 61.9 percent in November and December, the highest rate since the pandemic started.
Participation in the labor force remains depressed compared with its February 2020 level — 63.4 percent — but the combination of rapidly declining joblessness and briskly increasing wages has prompted many economic policymakers to declare that the economy is at or near “full employment,” a situation in which everyone who wants a job and is available to work can find one.
The job market has returned to that milestone much more quickly than economists had expected, which is a point of pride for the White House.
Brian Deese, the director of the White House National Economic Council, wrote on Twitter that 3.9 percent — the December jobless rate — is “a simple number” but “behind it are millions of American workers and families” whose “lives are better because of the historically strong economic recovery in 2021.”
Mr. Biden, speaking at the White House after the report was released, took credit for strong progress toward low unemployment and higher pay in 2021, arguing that his administration’s stimulus package in March 2021 had helped to put the economy back on its feet.
“Americans are moving up to better jobs, with better pay, with better benefits,” Mr. Biden said. “This is the kind of recovery I promised and hoped for, for the American people.”
Economic officials at the Federal Reserve have also taken note of the rapid wage growth in recent months. Fed officials care about the quickly rising pay not just because it signals that employers are competing for workers, but also because it threatens to keep prices rising as businesses try to cover their climbing labor costs.
Economists said the latest report — and especially the wage data — increased the chances that the Fed might need to raise interest rates quickly to cool off the economy this year. And they said it affirmed that the economy was “at or near” full employment even with millions of jobs and workers still missing compared to before the pandemic.
“We’ve never seen anything like the job market we’re seeing today,” Ms. Swonk said. “It is stunning.”
New data showing that the unemployment rate is falling and wages are rising is expected to cement — and maybe even hasten — the Federal Reserve’s plan to begin raising interest rates this year as it tries to put a lid on high inflation.
The jobless rate fell to 3.9 percent in December, based on data collected during a period that largely predated the worst of the Omicron-driven virus surge.
Unemployment peaked at 14.8 percent in April 2020, and had hovered around 3.5 percent for months before the onset of the pandemic. The fact that it is returning so rapidly to near-normal levels has caused many central bankers to determine that the United States is nearing what they estimate to be “full employment,” even though millions of former employees have yet to return to the job market.
“This affirms the Fed’s conclusion,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, said following the report. “This is a hot labor market.”
Signs abound that jobs are plentiful but workers are hard to find: Job openings are at elevated levels, and the share of people quitting their jobs just touched a record. Employers complain they are struggling to hire, and a shortfall of workers has caused many businesses to curtail hours or services.
As a result, employers have begun to pay more to retain their employees and lure in new applicants. Average hourly earnings climbed 4.7 percent in the year through December, faster than economists in a Bloomberg survey had expected and much more quickly that the typical pace of progress before the pandemic, which oscillated around 3 percent.
Those quick pay gains are a signal to Fed officials that people who want jobs and are available to work are generally able to find it — that the job market is what economists call “tight” and would-be workers are relatively scarce — and that wages might begin to feed into prices. When companies pay more, they may also charge their customers more to cover their costs.
Some Fed officials are worried that rising wages and limited production could help sustain elevated inflation — now at nearly a 40-year high. The combination of a healing job market and the threat that price increases will jump out of control has prompted central bankers to speed up their plans to withdraw policy help from the economy.
Fed officials are already slowing the big bond purchases they had been using to support the economy. In addition to that, they could raise rates three times in 2022, based on their estimates, and economists think those increases could begin as soon as March. That would make borrowing for cars, houses and business expansions more expensive, slowing spending, hiring and growth.
“It makes sense to get going sooner rather than later,” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said during a call with reporters on Thursday, suggesting that the moves could come very soon. “I think March would be a definite possibility.”
And officials have signaled that once rate increases start, they could promptly begin to shrink their balance sheet — where they hold the bonds they have purchased to stoke growth throughout the pandemic downturn. Doing that would help to lift longer-term interest rates, reinforcing rate increases and helping to further slow lending and spending.
Economists speculated following the jobs report that the new figures made an imminent rate increase even more likely, and that the central bank might even be prodded to remove its economic support more quickly as wages take off.
“We think that today’s report adds to the case for the Fed to kick off its hiking cycle in March,” researchers at Bank of America wrote following the release of the data. “The economy appears to be operating below maximum employment and inflation remains sticky-high.”
Krishna Guha, an economist at Evercore ISI, argued that the combination of rapidly declining unemployment and heady wages might even prompt central bankers to increase interest rates faster than once every three months — the fastest pace they increased in their last set of interest rate increases, which took place from 2015 to 2018.
“The Fed might end up having to hike at a pace faster than the baseline one hike per quarter,” Mr. Guha wrote.
Fresh data out next week could serve to further intensify that pressure: The Consumer Price Index is expected to surge to 7 percent in the year through December, based on a Bloomberg survey of economists, which would be the fastest pace of increase since June 1982.
The White House is doing what it can to promote competition, disentangle supply chains and lower prices at the margin, but controlling inflation falls mainly to the Fed, a fact President Biden underlined while speaking at a news conference on Friday.
“I’m confident the Federal Reserve will act to achieve their dual goals of full employment and stable prices, and make sure the price increases do not become entrenched over the long term,” Mr. Biden said.
Investors will get a chance to hear from key Fed officials themselves next week. Jerome H. Powell, whom Mr. Biden has renominated as Fed chair, has a confirmation hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee. Lael Brainard, now a governor and Mr. Biden’s pick to be vice chair, has a hearing on Thursday.
Both are likely to emphasize the unevenness of the recovery and acknowledge that millions of workers remain out of the job market thanks to caregiving responsibilities, virus fears and other pandemic barriers, as they have throughout the downturn.
They will probably also note that overall hiring slowed in December: Employers added 199,000 jobs, the weakest performance all year, as they struggled to find workers. And Omicron poses a risk of further retrenchment, because the November data came before the recent surge in virus cases that has kept restaurant diners at bay and shut down live performances.
But at the end of the day, it is the falling jobless rate that is likely to remain in focus for the Fed as it contemplates its next steps, economists think.
“A March rate hike seems pretty likely at this stage,” said Julia Coronado, founder of the research firm MacroPolicy Perspectives. Asked if there was one overarching takeaway from the new data, she said: “It’s just a tightening labor market. That’s it.”
Citigroup will dismiss unvaccinated employees by the end of the month as it presses on with a vaccine requirement the company announced in October.
The bank has given staff based in the United States a deadline of Jan. 14 to submit proof of their inoculations against the coronavirus or request religious, medical or legal exemptions, according to a person familiar with the policies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Workers who do not comply with the mandate — which requires a full dose of vaccinations, not booster shots as well — will be placed on unpaid leave on Jan. 15 and fired Jan. 31, the person said. The person added that some staff might not receive year-end bonuses unless they signed documents agreeing not to sue the company.
More than 90 percent of Citigroup’s 65,000 U.S. employees have complied with the requirement, the person said.
Bloomberg News reported the news earlier.
Vaccine rules are a delicate issue for Wall Street firms and other large employers. JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, has not imposed a requirement, but said at the end of last year that government mandates could make it “difficult or impossible” for the company to continue to employ unvaccinated staff. Bank of America does not require inoculation as a condition of employment, either, but it has strongly encouraged staff to get vaccinations and boosters, and has asked workers to inform the company of their status.Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, in arguments on Friday, seemed skeptical that the Biden administration has the legal power to mandate large employers to require coronavirus vaccinations or frequent testing. Across the nation’s biggest banks, policies around in-person work, vaccination and testing vary widely. Citigroup’s stance, which is among the strictest, is being resisted by some employees.
“They’re not leaving people any choice,” Ben Shittu, a 37-year-old software engineer at Citigroup in Ireland, said in an interview Thursday. He has refused to be inoculated against the coronavirus, citing concerns about the efficacy and side effects of the new vaccines.
Mr. Shittu said he had felt compelled to post a video opposing the bank’s policy after a contentious team meeting in November, during which his manager told employees that their jobs depended on getting the vaccine. Since then, Mr. Shittu said, he has been inundated with supportive messages from fellow workers. Staff members have also taken to discussing their concerns on private messaging apps as well as those operated by the bank.
“What do I plan to do if Citi decides to fire me — I don’t think it’s relevant,” Mr. Shittu said. “If you lose one job, one door closes, another opportunity will always come around.”
A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the concerns raised by Mr. Shittu.
Vaccine policies and rising coronavirus cases have complicated Wall Street’s efforts to get employees back to their desks. With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, the country is averaging more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases a day, far more than at any previous point in the pandemic. That surge has prompted banks including JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup to allow employees to work from home at the start of the year.
Wall Street’s turbulent start to the year continued on Friday, after the government’s latest update on the job market seemed to crystallize expectations that the Federal Reserve will need to start raising interest rates soon.
That view was most evident in the market for government bonds, as Treasury yields jumped to levels not seen since before the coronavirus pandemic began to rage through the global economy. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes rose to nearly 1.80 percent on Friday, its highest point since January 2020, before falling back slightly.
The rise in bond yields rippled to the stock market, triggering another drop in technology stocks. While the broad S&P 500 fell about 0.4 percent on Friday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped nearly 1 percent, a fourth consecutive decline for both indexes.
The impetus for Friday’s trading was word from the Labor Department that employers in the United States added 199,000 jobs in December, well below economists’ expectations for a gain of 440,000 jobs and the job market’s weakest monthly showing in 2021. Investors and analysts zeroed in on the month’s lower unemployment rate and rise in wage growth — signs that the slump might be a result of difficulty finding workers.
Investors are laser focused on the Fed’s next move as it removes support for the economy to tamp down inflation, and the signs of tightness in the labor market were seen as more reason for the central bank to act quickly, with some economists expecting the first increase to come as soon as March. On Wednesday, minutes from the Fed’s December meeting showed that its policymakers were willing to raise interest rates sooner and more often than they had earlier indicated, triggering a sharp drop in stocks.
“This report confirms that the Fed’s interpretation of labor market developments is correct and that the Fed will need to tighten monetary policy to prevent inflation expectations becoming anchored,” said Gregory Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics.
Rising interest rates discourage risk-taking by investors and raise the cost of borrowing for fast-growing companies, both of which can dampen enthusiasm for technology stocks. As a group they were hard hit this week, with the Nasdaq composite down more than 4.5 percent, the sharpest weekly decline since February.
The selling hit shares of several large companies, including Amazon, which dropped 2.4 percent this week; Alphabet, down 5.4 percent; and Microsoft, down 6.6 percent. Those losses also weighed on the broader S&P 500, which ended the week 1.9 percent lower.
But a tight labor market, rising prices and higher government bond yields are also signs of a still growing economy, and investors also began to target stocks that will benefit from that growth — even if it remains uneven. Notably, the Dow Jones industrial average, which is made up largely of stocks that are geared toward economic activity, fell just 0.3 percent for the week.
Banks that will profit because higher interest rates mean they can charge more for loans rallied. The KBW Nasdaq Bank Index, which tracks shares of banks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, climbed to new highs, rising 1.6 percent on Friday and 10 percent for the week.
Energy companies also rallied over the week, with Occidental Petroleum gaining 14.6 percent and Hess 17 percent. Though oil prices fell slightly on Friday, West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, climbed this week to $79 a barrel from about $75.
Though the Fed had already signaled last month that rates would climb, investors had initially taken that forecast in stride — in part because the Omicron variant of the coronavirus had only just emerged, creating some uncertainty for the economic outlook.
But now investors are brushing off concerns over the spiking Omicron cases as recent data indicates that the new form of the virus may be milder than other variants.
“The market continues to look through the spiking Omicron numbers, focusing on the much lower hospitalization and death rates, and the resulting resistance to instituting new lockdown rules,” said Louis Navellier, founder of the money manager Navellier & Associates. “Hopes remain that we are near the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”
On Friday, that was also evident in trading of cruise lines, which have become bellwethers for sentiment about the pandemic. Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Carnival all rose nearly 4 percent, making them among the best-performing stocks in the S&P 500. Airline and hotel stocks were also sharply higher.
Analysts trying to divine the Fed’s next move will get another critical update next week when the Labor Department releases the Consumer Price Index for December. Paired with Friday’s jobs report, the inflation measure could offer a better sense of how wage gains are affecting prices.
“Inflation based on wage growth could indicate inflation sticking around for longer,” said Lindsey Bell, a strategist at Ally Invest. “If that’s confirmed by the C.P.I. report, investors will push up the probability of the Fed hike coming in March.”
Inflation in the eurozone climbed to an annual rate of 5 percent in December, the second-consecutive record, according to the European Union statistics office’s initial estimate, which was released on Friday.
The rate was slightly higher than the previous month’s increase of 4.9 percent. Inflation around the world has jumped as the pandemic disrupted supply chains, labor markets and the availability of goods. In Europe especially, soaring energy prices have contributed significantly to the record-high inflation rates.
But analysts say there are small signs that inflation is turning a corner. In December, energy prices rose 26 percent from a year earlier, one-and-a-half percentage points smaller than November’s increase.
Still, energy prices are set to remain volatile this winter amid dwindling stockpiles of natural gas and concerns about supply from Russia. Around the New Year, European gas prices fell sharply but then jumped 30 percent on Tuesday. They remain several times higher than normal prices.
The European Central Bank expects energy prices to stabilize throughout the year and supply bottlenecks to ease, allowing inflation to eventually fall back. European policymakers have argued that because most of the jump in inflation will be temporary, they do not need to respond aggressively by raising interest rates or ending all the bank’s bond-buying programs.
But Europeans will still have to withstand a relatively long period of higher prices. Once energy prices are stripped out, December’s inflation rate rose to 2.8 percent from a year earlier, as the prices of food and industrial goods increased. The central bank forecasts the overall inflation rate, including energy, to average 3.2 percent this year, notably above its 2 percent target.
According to some analysts, the eurozone may have reached the peak in inflation.
“In the near term, eurozone inflation is set to decline,” Salomon Fiedler, an economist at Berenberg bank, wrote in a note to clients. For one, the effects of changes to German sales taxes at the start of the pandemic will no longer affect inflation, reducing the overall rate by about half a percentage point.
There are “tentative signs” that some of the key drivers of the recent increase in inflation are reversing, Claus Vistesen, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note.
“If we are right, markets, and the E.C.B., will breathe a sigh of relief, but we think it will be short-lived,” he wrote. “Energy inflation will come down only slowly, and with food inflation now seemingly on the rise, the headline will remain high overall through most of this year.”
Airlines are at odds with the European Union over rules that require them to use their takeoff and landing slots at airports even when they don’t have enough passengers to justify flights. Airlines are being forced to fly thousands of nearly empty planes — sometimes called “ghost flights” — as travel plummets because of Omicron infections.
In recent weeks, several European carriers, including Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines, have said they need to cancel thousands of fights because they are not booked enough to be profitable. But they are being squeezed by E.U. rules that require them to use their valuable airport slots or risk losing them, potentially to rival carriers.
The rules, which normally require airlines to use at least 80 percent of their allocated slots at airports, were waived in early 2020 as the coronavirus hit the continent. But since then, the bloc has begun reinstating them, and last month the European Commission set the threshold to 50 percent for the winter travel season.
“Now the threshold for maintaining slots is raised again, and this means that if we cancel these 3,000 flights, we would lose our slots at multiple airports,” Maaike Andries, a spokeswoman for Brussels Airlines, said Thursday. “This is something that any airline must avoid of course.”
Pre-assigned takeoff and landing slots are common at Europe’s crowded airports, and are used to allocate space and prevent chaos among different airlines.
In the United States, only three airports maintain slots — Kennedy and La Guardia in New York and Ronald Reagan National in Washington — and the Federal Aviation Administration waived them early on in the pandemic and most recently extended them through March this year.
In announcing its decision to set the restriction at 50 percent capacity on Dec. 15, Adina Valean, the E.U. commissioner for transport, acknowledged concerns about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but said the move was aimed at helping airlines return to capacity by the summer.
But as more people canceled trips over the holidays amid the surge in the virus, airlines were left with little choice but to fly near-empty planes or risk losing valuable airport slots.
Carsten Spohr, chief executive of the Lufthansa Group, said his company had to cancel 33,000 flights, roughly 10 percent of those scheduled for the winter season. Other flights took off but were nowhere near fully booked. Besides Lufthansa, the company owns Eurowings and Austrian, Brussels and Swiss airlines.
“We have to carry out 18,000 additional, unnecessary flights just to secure our starting and landing rights,” Mr. Spohr told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung weekly newspaper two weeks ago.
“This is damaging for the climate,” he said, “and is exactly the opposite of what the European Commission hopes to achieve” in its effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Georges Gilkinet, the Belgian minister for transportation, said on Wednesday that he had sent a letter to the European Commission asking for a further loosening of the regulation, which he called “economic, ecologic and socially nonsense.”
“I asked the Commission to review these unsuitable rules in times of Covid,” Mr. Gilkinet said on Twitter.
This week, the commission said it was standing by its decision to leave slot use at 50 percent through the winter season, in the interest of balancing the needs of airport operators, passengers and airlines.
That position was supported by a group representing airports.
“The pandemic has hit us all hard. Balancing commercial viability alongside the need to retain essential connectivity and protect against anticompetitive consequences is a delicate task,” said Olivier Jankovec, director of Airports Council International Europe. “We believe that the European Commission has got this right.”
The Supreme Court heard arguments over efforts to overturn two major Biden administration policies intended to raise coronavirus vaccination rates: its vaccine-or-testing mandate aimed at large employers and a vaccination requirement for some health care workers.
The hearing on Friday came as the country is facing a surge in coronavirus cases and the White House wrestles with how to manage this phase of the pandemic. It could be the “most important day for public health in a century,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown.
The argument boils down to whether the federal government has the authority to impose these mandates, a question the Supreme Court has not yet considered in other challenges:
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it has the power via a 1970 law that allows it to issue emergency rules for workplace safety.
Opponents, which include some states, trade groups and companies, say that the mandates should be left to legislation, not executive action.
The outcome is a tough call, labor lawyers say. The court’s conservative majority may be skeptical of broad assertions of executive power, writes The New York Times’s Adam Liptak. The last time the Supreme Court considered a Biden administration policy addressing the pandemic — a moratorium on evictions — the justices shut it down.
A decision in favor of the mandate would mean that, by Monday, large companies must have policies in place that require employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly. They must be following those policies by Feb. 9.
If the court rules against the government, then that would effectively end the federal mandate, though the administration could pursue the regular rule-making process. This also wouldn’t preclude states from introducing their own vaccine requirements.
The special hearing was called late last month, and the court said it would move quickly (as it did in a recent case over abortion rights in Texas). A ruling could come fast.
In the meantime,many companies have been gearing up for a mandate, if they haven’t already introduced such rules.
Starbucks recently said that U.S. workers would have to be fully vaccinated by Feb. 9 or submit to weekly testing, in compliance with the mandate.
JPMorgan Chase warned employees that “government-issued vaccine mandates may likely make it difficult or impossible for us to continue to employ unvaccinated employees,” and encouraged workers to get vaccinated.
Macy’s requested the vaccination status of its employees, often a prelude to a mandate.
Richard H. Clarida, the departing vice chair of the Federal Reserve, bought and sold shares of a stock investment fund in early 2020 just as the Fed was preparing to swoop in and rescue markets amid the unfolding pandemic.
Mr. Clarida failed to initially disclose all of the financial transactions, Jeanna Smialek reports for The New York Times, citing an amended financial disclosure that shows the trading was more extensive than earlier known.
Mr. Clarida previously came under fire for buying shares on Feb. 27 in an investment fund that holds stocks — one day before the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, announced that the central bank stood ready to help the economy as the pandemic set in. The transaction drew an outcry from lawmakers and watchdog groups because it put Mr. Clarida in a position to benefit as the Fed restored market confidence.
The recently amended financial disclosure showed that the vice chair sold that same stock fundon Feb. 24, at a moment when financial markets were plunging amid fears of the virus.
The Fedinitially described the Feb. 27 transaction as a previously planned move by Mr. Clarida away from bonds and into stocks, the type of “rebalancing” investors often do when they want to take on more risk and earn higher returns over time. But the rapid move out of stocks and then back in makes it look less like a planned, long-term financial maneuver and more like a response to market conditions. READ MORE
Google infringed on audio technology patents held by the speaker manufacturer Sonos and it is not allowed to import products that violate Sonos’s intellectual property into the United States, a trade court ruled on Thursday. The United States International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body that decides trade cases and can block the import of goods that violate patents, issued its final ruling on Thursday, closing a two-year investigation into the intellectual property dispute.
Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, has been sued over the 2020 killing of a federal security guard, a move that aims to challenge a federal statute that shields websites and social media platforms from liability for what users post. The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday by Angela Underwood Jacobs, the guard’s sister, argued that Facebook was responsible for connecting individuals who sought to harm law enforcement officers and sow civil discord. Ms. Jacobs’s brother, Dave Patrick Underwood, who served at a federal building and courthouse in Oakland, Calif., was shot and killed in May 2020 by an Air Force sergeant with antigovernment ties, according to the F.B.I.
The New York Times Company has reached an agreement to buy The Athletic, the online sports news outlet with 1.2 million subscriptions, in an all-cash deal valued at $550 million. The deal brings The Times, which has more than eight million total subscriptions, quickly closer to its goal of having 10 million subscriptions by 2025, while also offering its audience more in-depth coverage of the more than 200 professional teams in North America, Britain and Europe that are closely followed by The Athletic’s journalists.
Fed chair confirmation hearing: The Senate Banking Committee will begin to hold confirmation hearings for the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell. Mr. Powell is expected to face questions regarding the outlook on inflation and the Fed’s former permissive culture toward stock trading by policymakers.
Consumer Price Index: The Labor Department is set to publish its latest report on price increases, which is being watched closely by the Federal Reserve as policymakers decide how quickly to pull back on the central bank’s support for the economy.
Fed vice chair confirmation hearing: Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, will also face the Senate Banking Committee for her confirmation hearing.
Delta earnings: The airline is set to publish its financial performance report for the three months ending in December as it faces new staffing challenges posed by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Delta canceled more than 1,700 flights between Christmas Eve and New Year’s weekend.
Retail sales: The Commerce Department’s report on consumer spending in December will offer economists a snapshot of spending during the last month of the holiday season, as well as a sense of whether the Omicron variant affected retailers.
Bank earnings: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are set to publish their earnings reports for the fourth quarter. Analysts are expecting the banks to post strong profits, driven by investment-banking and strong capital markets.