Layoffs spike in November; job openings fall

WASHINGTON — Layoffs spiked in November compared with the previous month and the number of job openings slipped, signaling that the job market has stalled as the resurgent coronavirus has brought about another wave of shutdowns of restaurants and bars and hobbled consumer spending.

While the layoffs were concentrated among restaurants, bars and hotels, the slowdown in job postings was widespread across most industries, showing a reluctance by businesses to hire more people amid a pandemic-fueled recession.

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The number of open jobs at the end of November slipped 1.6% to 6.5 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday, its first drop since August. Layoffs, however, soared 17.6% to 1.9 million, driven mostly by job cuts at restaurants, bars and hotels, which more than doubled.

Wall Street ekes out modest gains

Wall Street capped a wobbly day of trading Tuesday with modest gains, while Treasury yields extended their recent rally.

The S&P 500 inched up less than 0.1% after flipping between small gains and losses for much of the day. About 62% of companies in the index rose, with energy sector stocks notching the biggest gain as crude oil prices rose. Companies that rely on consumer spending also helped lift the market, outweighing declines in health care, communications and technology stocks.

Small-company stocks continued to outpace the rest of the market, a sign that investors are becoming more optimistic about an economic rebound.

IRS says it has solved virus-relief check issue

The IRS said that after initial problems, it is getting more of the second round of relief payments to taxpayers.

The government began distributing the payments, worth $600 per eligible adult and dependent, at the end of December.

However, many people who filed their taxes with an online preparation service initially found that their payment did not make it to them directly. That is because money may have been sent to a temporary bank account established by the tax preparer, which is no longer active. By law, the financial institution must return payments sent to closed or inactive accounts.

While there is no exact measure of how often this happened, the National Consumer Law Center estimates that up to 20 million Americans may have been impacted by the administrative issue.

A number of tax preparation companies said that they were able to resolve the issues. H&R Block said its customer payments were processed as of last Wednesday, January 6. Aside from special cases, H&R Block said its customers should have received their payments already. TurboTax said that payments for customers affected by the error were deposited on Friday.

Boeing orders rise in December but lag for year

Boeing Co. got a bump in orders and deliveries of new planes in December, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a poor year for the big aircraft maker.

Chicago-based Boeing still reported more cancellations than new orders for its 737 Max jet, which was grounded for 21 months after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

The market for new planes remains depressed by the pandemic, which has devastated air travel and caused airlines to reconsider aircraft purchases. Despite the December numbers, Boeing’s full-year numbers for 2020 still declined from 2019.

Boeing finished 2020 with 157 deliveries, including planes handed over to cargo airlines and military customers. That was down from 380 deliveries in 2019. European rival Airbus finished the year with 566 deliveries.

Ride-hailing, delivery drivers sue California

LOS ANGELES — Drivers for app-based ride-hailing and delivery services filed a lawsuit Tuesday to overturn a California ballot initiative that makes them independent contractors instead of employees eligible for benefits and job protections.

The lawsuit filed with the California Supreme Court said Proposition 22 is unconstitutional because it limits the power of the Legislature to grant workers the right to organize and excludes drivers from being eligible for workers’ compensation.

The measure was the most expensive in state history with Uber, Lyft and other services pouring $200 million in support of it. Labor unions, who joined drivers in the lawsuit, spent about $20 million to challenge it.

The Associated Press