In the latest sign that the United States had passed the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak, or at least had stayed in quarantine long enough to obviate the worst, New York City took its first steps towards reopening. Earlier in the year, New York’s metropolitan area, the densest in the country, was an epicenter of the viral outbreak. Now, according to the New York Times, more than 400,000 workers in construction, manufacturing and retail can begin returning to work.
Other states are still struggling with rising infection rates even as the economy at large returns to business as usual. According to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Arizona, Utah, and Arkansas are still reporting that cases are rising over the past two-week period. Michigan, according to the same data, saw a massive jump in new cases to 2,057 new cases on June 6, the latest available date. (The spike is too soon to correspond with recent nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, and also too localized.)
Virus Officially Brought a Close to Longest-Recorded Period of Growth
The National Bureau of Economic Research, a trade group that helps designate when periods of growth and contraction end, determined that the longest period of economic growth on record peaked in February as the novel coronavirus swept across Europe and the United States. The group normally waits for several months before declaring the death of a growth period, but said the magnitude of the economic shift was severe enough to call early.
Oddly, the committee’s decision procedure places the quarterly peak in the fourth quarter of 2019, despite its monthly peak occurring in February, in the middle of the first quarter of 2020. According to a note from the group, the economic plunges seen in March were so dramatic that they pushed economic indicators in the otherwise positive first quarter to beneath those of Q4 2019. Read the full story here.
BP to Lay Off 10,000 by End of Year
BP plc, in a move to stabilize their spending habits amid crashing oil prices, announced today that 10,000 workers would leave the company by the end of the year. The company’s debt rose by $6 billion alone in the first quarter.
According to CEO Bernard Looney, the COVID-19 crisis has forced BP to accelerate existing reorganization plans. “To me,” said Looney,” “the broader economic picture and our own financial position just reaffirm the need to reinvent ourselves.” Looney also said the layoffs would allow BP to restructure itself further around non-gas sources of fuel. Read the full story here.
Returning to Work
A survey released by Littler, an employment law practice, reveals that 78% of non-essential businesses say they are ready to return to their previous physical locations. Not everyone is on board, though: 71% of in-house counselors report being at least “somewhat concerned” about potential lawsuits on reopening. Read the full story here.
In order to ensure their workers safety, employers are embracing new, novel approaches to workplace safety, some of which utilize futuristic technology. Siemens Simatic Real Time Locating System, or RTLS, companies can continuously measure distance between workers, provide real-time feedback to employees, and track interactions to ensure that those who come into contact with an infected individual can quarantine themselves appropriately. Read the full story here.
Other changes are less high-tech and more personal. Maya Smallwood of EY Global PAS says that managing the workforce and post-quarantine communication are key for employers. For example, Smallwood says, sentiment gathering and analysis of employees, “already implemented by market leaders,” is increasingly popular among other businesses too. Remote work, as well, has made effective communication between teams both more complicated as well as more urgent. Read the full story here.