Consumers get some breaks, but layoffs keep coming


The Associated Press

The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments Tuesday related to the global economy, the work place and the spread of the virus.


CUSTOMERS FIRST: The pandemic is sapping trillions from the economy and the ramifications for businesses, from banks to restaurants, is expected to be severe. Companies have also recognized their customer are suffering and many are extending a hand.

— Millions of one-time drivers are staying off the road. Allstate is sending shelter-in-place paybacks to customers, with most getting checks for 15% of their monthly premium in April and May. Auto and home owners customers with financial difficulties can delay two consecutive premium payments, and some will be allowed to pay what they can afford.

The insurer is sending out $600 million to customers, according to a regulatory filing.

— With thousands having lost jobs, JPMorgan Chase has done away with minimum payment requirements on credit cards and it’s waiving late fees. The bank will not report payment deferrals, such as late payments, to credit bureaus for up-to-date clients.

Walt Bones, a fourth generation cattle rancher of Bones Hereford Ranch, poses for a portrait on Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Parker, S.D. Cattle producers, like Bones, are currently experiencing a market fallout due to the coronavirus. Bones has lost around $400 per cow. “People are scared to go out and buy a steak,” Bones said. “With all this uncertainty, where’s our demand going to come from now.” (Abigail Dollins/The Argus Leader via AP)

JOBS FALLOUT: Few industries have been spared from mass layoffs, but it’s been severe for manufacturers and restaurants devastated by social distancing.

— BJ’s Restaurants is laying off about 16,000 workers. The casual-dining chain paid all hourly restaurant employees accrued, unused vacation and sick time, and gave short-term emergency paid time off to employees not otherwise eligible for sick pay benefits under state or local laws. BJ’s expects to bring workers back, but acknowledged it may close a number of locations.

The chain, with operations in 29 states, will not pay property leaseholders this month, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday, and will seek a restructuring of those agreements.

— Nissan is laying off about 10,000 workers as it extends its production suspension until at least April 27. The workers won’t be paid during the extension, a change from a shutdown in March when workers got their normal paychecks.

— Honda will stop paying its roughly 14,400 production workers in Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina as it extended its production shutdown through May 1. Workers will continue to get health insurance and other benefits.

— Thousands of Spirit AeroSystems employees are being furloughed for three weeks without pay. Most managers and hourly employees at Spirit, Wichita’s largest employer, were informed in a company email that they will be placed on 21-day unpaid leave starting Wednesday. Spirit has been hammered by problems at Boeing and it’s troubled 737 Max aircraft. The furloughs apply to Spirit employees associated with the company’s Boeing commercial program in San Antonio and in Tulsa and McAlester, Oklahoma.

FILE – In this Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo, customers wait in line at a Stop & Shop supermarket that opened special morning hours to serve people 60-years and older due to coronavirus concerns, in Teaneck, N.J. The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed as it continues to spread across the world. Stop & Shop will hire at least 5,000 new associates for regular part-time positions in its stores, distribution centers and delivery operations across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

UNCONFIRMED: Misinformation and sketchy facts about the virus, and potential cures, are also spreading fast. Of course, social media has become the conduit in many cases.

— WhatsApp tightened restrictions on message forwarding to cut down on coronavirus-related misinformation. The Facebook company on Tuesday said users getting a “frequently forwarded” message — one already shared by five or more people — will only be able to send it to one chat group at a time.

WhatsApp said in a blog post that “we’ve recently seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.”

TESTING: There has been a lot of criticism over the failure in the U.S. to secure widespread testing for the coronavirus. The volume remains far from what medical experts believe would provide a clear picture of the spread of the virus. But there are minor advances.

— Walgreens is expanding COVID-19 drive-thru testing to 15 sites in seven states after starting with one location last month. The new locations are in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, regions experiencing escalating rates of COVID-19. Walgreens expects to be able to test 3,000 people per day across the locations, which will begin operating later this week.

OIL PATCH: Crude prices have fallen almost 60% in the past three months and economists believe demand will be severely clipped by the virus and a global economy that was already slowing.

— Exxon Mobil is slashing its capital spending budget for 2020 by 30%, a once unthinkable retreat for one of the world’s biggest energy producers. The company said Tuesday its capital investments for 2020 are expected to be $23 billion, down from the previously announced $33 billion.

MARKETS: Markets have roiled for weeks because so much about the virus is unknown. This week, investors are surging back into markets with some data showing infections are leveling off it hot spots like New York City.

— Stocks are higher in midday trading on Wall Street Tuesday as markets around the world aimed to add to their huge rally from a day earlier.