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Daily Briefing – 150

Post: Sep. 16, 2020

Back Under 1 Percent

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Tuesday, September 15th. The State’s infection rate dropped to 0.87% after increasing slightly on Monday to one percent. Governor Cuomo stressed that “we don’t want to see our infection rate go over one percent for any period of time.” He emphasized that New Yorkers must keep wearing our masks, washing our hands, and remaining socially distant.

Read the press release

OECD Boosts Economic Outlook

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Wednesday boosted its global economic outlook while warning policy makers not to tighten policy too quickly. The OECD said global gross domestic product will shrink by 4.5% this year, and rise 5% next year. 

The OECD credited the improvement to better-than expected outcomes for China and the U.S. in the first half of this year, and a response by governments on a massive scale. But the Paris-based organization said output in many countries at the end of 2021 will still be below the levels at the end of 2019, and well below what was projected before the pandemic.

Read more at MarketWatch

Fed Signals Interest Rates to Stay Near-Zero Through 2023 – Revises Economic Forecast Upward

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept rates steady at near-zero, suggesting that interest rates will likely stay there through the end of 2023. 

Policymakers also upgraded their outlook on the U.S. economy’s emergence from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering more optimistic projections on where unemployment and economic growth will end the year 2020. In June, the Fed forecast a 6.5% contraction in real GDP and an unemployment rate of 9.3% by the end of 2020. But an August jobs report showing a better-than-expected 8.4% unemployment rate suggesting that the economic recovery is proceeding faster than originally expected.

Updated forecasts have the Fed now seeing 3.7% contraction in GDP with the unemployment rate reaching 7.6% by the end of the year

Read more at Yahoo Finance

U.S. Retail Spending Grew at Slower Pace in August

U.S. consumers increased retail spending in August for the fourth straight month but at a slower pace than earlier in the summer, as the economy tried to recover with the coronavirus pandemic still under way.  Retail sales—reflecting what households spent at service stations, stores, restaurants and online—rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in August from July, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. August marked the third month that retail spending was above prepandemic levels.

August is typically a big month for back-to-school shopping, and spending on electronics rose 0.8% with many school districts teaching classes online. Clothing purchases rose 2.9%, while furniture spending increased 2.1% from July.

Read more at the WSJ

Home-Builder Confidence Soars to All-Time High

Home builders are more confident about the state of their industry than ever before as foot traffic of prospective buyers continues to improve, according to research from a trade group released Wednesday.

The National Association of Home Builders’ monthly confidence index rose five points to a reading of 83 in September. The index reading was the highest on record in the 35-year history of the data series, surpassing the previous month’s record high. Index readings over 50 are a sign of improving confidence. The index had fallen below 50 in April and May as concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic mounted.

Read More at MarketWatch

More From Home Builders Survey: Prospective Home-Buyers Are Shifting to Suburbs 

Evidence of a “suburban shift” in consumer home-buying preferences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can be found in the second-quarter National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Home Building Geography Index (HBGI).

Small metro suburbs accounted for the fastest growing geographical areas for single-family construction during the second quarter, up 10.6 percent on a four-quarter, moving-average basis. This was followed by small towns (9.3 percent), small metro core areas (7.5 percent) and exurbs (5.6 percent).  Of the seven regional geographies, only small metro-area suburbs posted a year-over-year gain in this quarter, while the others registered declines, the biggest of which occurred in large metro core areas.

Read more at NoVa.com

Juggling Safety in a Circus of Roles: National Safety Survey 2020

So much can change in a year. Last year’s National Safety Survey examined the difference in titles and responsibilities safety professionals have. This year, the dynamics of health and safety within an organization have rapidly evolved since the novel coronavirus has brought illness prevention to the forefront of every conversation.

The year 2020 has brought about an unprecedented set of challenges to the safety industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has required professionals to focus their efforts on illness prevention to ensure business continuity while balancing ongoing “traditional” tasks.

Read more at EHS Today

Johns Hopkins: College Towns the New Hotspots

On a per capita basis, college towns are accounting for many of the country’s most severe outbreaks. According to data published by USA Today on September 11, 19 of the top 25 local outbreaks in the US were in college towns. Harrisonburg, Virginia—home to James Madison University—topped the list with more than 1,500 cases per 100,000 population over the previous 2 weeks. The school suspended in-person classes and sent students home in order to reduce the number of people on campus after detecting more than 500 cases within the first week of classes.

Universities continue to issue suspensions and other punishments for students who violate university COVID-19 policies or public health guidelines.  Transmission around college campuses is not limited to students and staff. In Oxford, 26 residents in a long-term care facility for veterans “died in connection with” COVID-19 in the past month. Although it is likely not possible to link students directly to individual cases and deaths in the local community in most instances, transmission between the university population and local public is inevitable.

Read more at Johns Hopkins

I-9 Flexibility Continued for Another 60 Days, Until November 19, 2020

Days before the upcoming deadline, ICE has announced it is extending the remote virtual verification option for completion of I-9 employment verification an additional 60 days (instead of just 30 days), until November 19, 2020, due to continued precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pursuant to the original guidelines for virtual verification, eligible employers may continue to inspect Section 2 documents without an actual in-person physical inspection (e.g., over video link, fax, or email). As before, the policy applies only to employers and workplaces that are in fact operating remotely. 

Read more at Jackson Lewis