Business Briefs – April 2, 2020

Some Employers to Laid-Off Staffers: Let’s Stay in Touch

WASHINGTON (AP) – As job cuts tear through the U.S. economy, a faint glimmer of light has emerged: Hoping that a recession will prove brief, some employers are trying to maintain ties to the staffers they’re letting go so they could quickly rehire them once the viral outbreak has passed. Several large retail chains have said they are furloughing workers rather than laying them off. Some are paying health insurance costs for those they’ve dropped. Among small businesses, too, some are keeping in touch with workers they’ve had to let go. How long millions of laid-off employees will remain without work will go far to determine the depth and duration of a U.S. recession.

April 1, Rent’s Due: Many Struggle To Pay in Virus Outbreak

NEW YORK (AP) – It’s the first of the month, and rent is due for millions of Americans for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak turned the economy upside down. Most states and local governments have stopped evictions to give time for unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks to arrive. But there is still plenty of worry that even if April’s payment is delayed, the rent will still come due before many industries are up and running again. Nearly 3.3. million people in the U.S. filed unemployment claims for the week of March 16, as the shutdown from the virus started.

Apply Here: How to Spend $2.2 Trillion — And Rescue Economy

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump hopes to shovel $2.2 trillion into the U.S. economy over the coming weeks to try to cushion its free fall. But that means putting his fate in the hands of banks, profit-minded businesses and government bureaucrats he has frequently derided, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The massive bailout package includes direct cash payments, $349 billion in loans for small businesses and a $500 billion corporate rescue fund. It’s an attempt to keep the economy afloat as Trump warns Americans to brace for “a bad two weeks,” with up to 240,000 coronavirus deaths now projected in the U.S.

Reporting for Duty: Airline Crews Sign Up to Help Hospitals

STOCKHOLM (AP) – Airlines are looking to retrain laid-off cabin crew staff as medical workers to help in hospitals currently overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. A first group of 30 former employees of Scandinavian Airlines have started training this week to learn basic skills to assist in nursing homes and hospitals. Airline cabin crew are considered good candidates to work in hospitals because they are required to complete medical training to serve aboard flights. And many have lost jobs as the pandemic has grounded most flights around the world as governments try to contain the spread of the virus.

Sprint and T-Mobile Merge, Creating New Wireless Giant

NEW YORK (AP) – Mobile carrier T-Mobile has completed its takeover of smaller rival Sprint, creating a new wireless giant that rivals AT&T and Verizon in size. The deal was announced two years ago and has taken a long time to close because of pushback from state and federal regulators. T-Mobile will sell assets to satellite TV company Dish to try to set it up as a new wireless company. Still, public-interest groups say the consolidated wireless market will cost consumers. T-Mobile says the deal will benefit consumers and had promised regulators not to raise prices for three years.

FDA Wants Heartburn Meds Off the Market Due to Contamination

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. health regulators are telling drugmakers to immediately pull their popular heartburn drugs off the market after determining that a contamination issue with the medications poses a greater risk than previously thought.

The move from the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday applies to all prescription and over-the-counter versions of ranitidine, best known by the brand name Zantac. The drugs are widely used to treat stomach acid and ulcers.

Patients should stop taking any of the medications they currently have and throw them away, the FDA said.

The agency last year said patients could continue taking the medications and did not face health risks from low levels of a “probable” cancer-causing contaminant found in multiple brands.

But officials reversed that decision, saying they’ve now determined that levels of the chemical increase over time, especially if tablets and capsules are stored at higher temperatures. That poses an unacceptable risk to patients, they said.

Surveys: Manufacturing Contracts Last Month in U.S., World

WASHINGTON (AP) – Manufacturing contracted in the United States and around the world last month, dragged down by economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reported Wednesday that its U.S. manufacturing index fell to 49.1 in March after registering 50.1 in February. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction. The index had signaled growth in January and February.

Also Wednesday J.P. Morgan reported that global manufacturing shrank in March. Its worldwide manufacturing index registered 47.6 in March. That was a slight improvement on February’s 47.1 — but only because Chinese factories began ramping back up last month after being locked down in February to counter COVID-19. Excluding China, J.P. Morgan found, global manufacturing dropped to the lowest level last month since May 2009 at the depths of the Great Recession.