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    December Jobs Report: Recovery Goes Into Reverse

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Presidential TransitionliveLatest UpdatesCalls for Impeachment25th Amendment ExplainedTrump Officials ResignHow Mob Stormed CapitolAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyJobs Recovery Goes Into Reverse as Pandemic Takes a New TollU.S. employment fell by 140,000 in December as virus cases surged. Leisure and hospitality businesses were hit hard, but some industries showed growth. More

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    Unemployment Claims Expected to Have Remained High Last Week

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesThe Stimulus PlanVaccine InformationF.A.Q.TimelineAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyUnemployment Claims Expected to Have Remained High Last WeekThe weekly report, which will be published Thursday morning, might show a drop in claims because of the Christmas holiday.Victor Lopez-Lucas plays with his daughter Kenya, 1, as they wait in line to receive food donations in Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday.Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York TimesDec. 31, 2020, 7:00 a.m. ETNew clues to the economy’s trajectory heading into 2021 will come Thursday morning when the government reports the latest data on initial claims for jobless benefits.While the Christmas holiday might cause a dip in the numbers, with state unemployment offices that process claims closed for at least one day last week, new filings are expected to stay at a very high level, in the range of more than 800,000 per week, said Greg Daco, chief economist at Oxford Economics. “That’s very elevated and we are facing an economy that has slowed down significantly.”Applications for benefits declined during Thanksgiving week, only to move higher later, and a similar catch-up phenomenon could happen after Christmas and New Years, too.In California, widening restrictions on restaurants and other businesses and an uptick in coronavirus infections may cause filings to jump, said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco.“California has locked down even more, and there is no end in sight in terms of cases and hospitalizations,” he said. “We’re seeing more layoffs and that hasn’t shown up in the numbers yet.”The $900 billion stimulus package that President Trump signed into law Sunday comes too late to affect the jobless claims data. It will take months for the impact of the aid to be felt, and most economists expect the rate of layoffs to remain high.When fresh monthly jobs data is released by the Labor Department next week, Mr. Anderson expects that it will show a rise in the unemployment rate to 6.9 percent in December, up from 6.7 percent last month. The unemployment rate has fallen sharply since peaking at 14.7 percent in April but hiring has slowed as the economy has faltered in recent months.What’s more, the pace of layoffs has been persistently high, as sectors like dining, travel and entertainment are struggling while the pandemic has kept many people at home.The introduction of vaccines is a bright spot, as are positive economic signs, like surging stock prices and a booming housing market. But it will be months before enough Americans can be inoculated to allow people to go to restaurants, events and movie theaters without fear of being infected.“The trend is not good with the additional closures implemented around the country,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust in Chicago.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Retailing’s Tumultuous Year Began Before the Pandemic

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyRetailing’s Tumultuous Year Began Before the PandemicThe industry employs millions of people, and the upheaval it experienced played out in the lives of many Americans.Houston Premium Outlets, a mall in Cypress, Texas, on Black Friday.Credit…Go Nakamura for The New York TimesSapna Maheshwari and Dec. 29, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ETThe retail industry was in the midst of a transformation before 2020. But the onset of the pandemic accelerated that change, fundamentally reordering how and where people shop, and rippling across the broader economy.Many stores closed for good, as chains cut physical locations or filed for bankruptcy, displacing everyone from highly paid executives to hourly workers. Amazon grew even more powerful and unavoidable as millions of people bought goods online during lockdowns. The divide between essential businesses allowed to stay open and nonessential ones forced to close drove shoppers to big-box chains like Walmart, Target and Dick’s and worsened struggling department stores’ woes. The apparel industry and a slew of malls were battered as millions of Americans stayed home and a litany of dress-up events, from proms to weddings, were canceled or postponed.This year’s civil unrest and its thorny issues for American society also hit retailers. Businesses closed because of protests over George Floyd’s killing by a white police officer, and they reckoned with their own failings when it came to race. The challenges faced by working parents, including the cost and availability of basic child care during the pandemic, were keenly felt by women working at stores from CVS to Bloomingdale’s. And there were questions around the treatment of workers, as retailers and their backers treated employees shoddily during bankruptcies or failed to offer hazard pay or adequate notifications about workplace Covid-19 outbreaks.Many Americans felt the retail upheaval — the industry is the second-biggest private employment sector in the United States — and some shared their experiences this year with The New York Times.Joyce Bonaime of Cabazon, Calif., is collecting unemployment benefits for the first time after working in retailing since the 1970s.Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times‘That’s what I did my whole life’Joyce Bonaime, a 63-year-old in Cabazon, Calif., has worked in retailing since the 1970s. In the past 14 months, she became one of many store employees whose lives were upended by bankruptcies — first at Barneys New York and more recently at Brooks Brothers.Ms. Bonaime had spent about 10 years as a full-time stock coordinator for a Barneys outlet at Desert Hills Premium Outlets near her home, overseeing the shipping and receiving of designer wares, when the retailer filed for bankruptcy and liquidated late last year.“Barneys treated people very badly at the end there,” Ms. Bonaime said. The retailer, she said, sent inconsistent messages about severance payments and the timing of store closures, which limited people from finding other jobs just before the holiday shopping season.After Barneys, Ms. Bonaime secured a full-time stockroom position at Brooks Brothers in the same outlet mall. But the pandemic forced the store to temporarily close in March, and she was furloughed. She anticipated returning once the store reopened this summer. But Ms. Bonaime’s job was terminated this month and lost her health benefits. She is now collecting unemployment checks for the first time in her life.When Ms. Bonaime started her career, working at shoe stores and completing a management training program at one chain, retailers had a different relationship with employees and communities, she said.“We went through training on the bones in the foot and the muscles; we knew a lot about our industry,” she said. “We would reach out to local high schools and work with the cheerleading team and find a shoe they liked for outfits and give them a discount and make sure they had the right sizes.”Ms. Bonaime, who is getting by right now, feels stuck. She had planned to work a few more years before retiring, but her options are limited. Businesses at the outlet mall are struggling — and it was already hard to interview last year as a woman in her 60s, she said. Amazon is hiring, but she is concerned about the risk of accidents in a warehouse.“This pandemic just changes everything because I would have no problem getting a job otherwise,” she said. “I just don’t think there’s going to be anything in retail, and that’s what I did my whole life.”Jeffrey Kalinsky, the founder of Nordstrom’s Jeffrey boutiques, says he is not ready to retire from retailing.Credit…Maggie Steber for The New York Times‘I was collateral damage’Soon after the pandemic hit, Nordstrom said it would permanently close its three high-end Jeffrey boutiques, which were founded by Jeffrey Kalinsky and acquired by the retailer in 2005. Mr. Kalinsky, a Nordstrom executive who had focused on bringing designer apparel to the retailer, retired as part of the move.The Jeffrey stores, in New York, Atlanta and Palo Alto, Calif., had dressed the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and even been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live.” The first location, in Atlanta, would have celebrated its 30th anniversary in August.Mr. Kalinsky, 58, said in an interview that he was recovering from Covid-19 at the end of March when he became aware that the stores might remain shut after a temporary closure.“It felt like I had a gun pointed at me,” he said. “The folks I always dealt with at Nordstrom were always very transparent, and I can only surmise that they were looking at how to position themselves to get through this period — and I was collateral damage.”He had once told the Jeffrey staff that it was like the original cast in a Broadway musical, performing at an “amazing level” for customers every day. The hardest part of this year was telling employees about the closing, he said.“That day was probably the most difficult, emotional day of my entire life,” he said. “I felt just gutted. It was indescribable.” Employees have told him that they “miss the merchandise, they miss the edit, they miss the specialness.”His goal was for Jeffrey to carry the best merchandise but “sell it an environment that was very democratic,” he said. “I wanted to showcase it all and wanted it all to be next to each other. I wanted the friction of Gucci next to Dries next to Comme des Garçons. I wanted to feel the tension in a good way because that, in my opinion, is how the perfect closet is.”Business & EconomyLatest UpdatesUpdated Dec. 23, 2020, 8:59 a.m. ETExtension of federal jobless benefits may not prevent a brief lapse.Frustration rises at Britain’s ports over clearing a logjam of thousands of trucks.How the aid bill changes the food stamp program.Mr. Kalinsky hopes to find a job designing for an American brand, saying he is not prepared to retire from retailing. He wonders if Jeffrey could have survived the pandemic by working with vendors and landlords.“We had an impressive business, a wonderful clientele, and we would have been fine — but did we have a piggy bank for Covid? No,” he said.Trent Griffin-Braaf shifted his passenger van business in Albany, N.Y., to e-commerce deliveries.Credit…David Steinberg for The New York TimesA man with a vanTrent Griffin-Braaf started this year feeling more confident than ever. The transportation company he created to ferry guests from hotels in the Albany, N.Y., area to local attractions like the racetrack in Saratoga Springs was catching on.But when the coronavirus shut down tourism, weddings and conferences, Mr. Griffin-Braaf’s passenger vans were idled and his business was in jeopardy. “We were really in a rough place,” he said.In the late summer, his company became a carrier for Amazon and shifted to e-commerce deliveries. His team of 70 drivers and other staff include immigrants from Africa and India, workers laid off from restaurants, a struggling nail-salon owner and recent college grads “just trying to figure it out” during the pandemic.His drivers cover a 150-mile radius around Albany, including many rural areas where the number of Amazon shoppers is increasing, he said. “All you see around here is Amazon,” he said. “Come work for Amazon.”Many of his drivers were earning 10 hours of overtime a week during the peak holiday season. “I feel blessed to be busy, because so many people aren’t right now,” he said.Mr. Griffin-Braaf, 36, has not given up on passenger vans. He has started driving workers living in parts of Albany with limited public transportation to their jobs at distribution centers and other businesses far from bus lines.On the weekends, he volunteers the vans to drive families to visit loved ones in upstate prisons. Mr. Griffin-Braaf, who served time in prison years ago, said that long term, he hoped to have tractor-trailers to move e-commerce packages across the country, and to offer van service in other “transportation deserts” around the state so people could get to work.“I know how hard it is to get a job if you don’t have a car, and I have seen how hard it is when you don’t get visits in prison,” he said. “I have lived these things.”Lauren Jackson owns and runs the Hair Hive in Buffalo with her sisters.Credit…Mustafa Hussain for The New York Times‘We are glad you are here’Lauren Jackson and her two sisters inadvertently chose the wrong time to open the first Black-owned beauty supply store in their hometown, Buffalo: March 7, two weeks before the state ordered them to shut down.So the sisters reopened it as an “essential business,” stocking hand sanitizers, masks and other pandemic necessities. Their store, the Hair Hive, reopened in early April, which helped them build a customer base while competitors stayed closed.“Everything happens for a reason,” said Ms. Jackson, 28.She and her sisters, Danielle Jackson and Brianna Lannie, had talked about opening the store for several years. It is five minutes from their childhood home on the east side of Buffalo, a predominantly Black neighborhood where their parents still live.The sisters were initially intimidated about trying to break into the well-established industry.“We didn’t want to tell anyone so they wouldn’t say, ‘You can’t compete with them,’” Ms. Jackson said. “We didn’t even tell our parents.”The sisters got a loan from a family member and another from a Buffalo nonprofit. Lauren Jackson said she had watched other Black-owned businesses in her neighborhood come and go over the years, including salons, barbershops and restaurants that often closed because the younger generation didn’t want to take over after the founding family members retired. Ms. Jackson wants to break that trend.“A lot of people come into the store because we are Black-owned,” she said. “They feel comfortable knowing we can relate with what’s going on with their hair. They tell us, ‘We are glad you are here.’”Feisal Ahmed returned to his sales job at Macy’s in Manhattan after a four-month shutdown.Credit…Haruka Sakaguchi for The New York Times‘Scared of what might be coming’In June, as the first wave of the coronavirus was finally coming under control in New York, Feisal Ahmed got a call from his manager at Macy’s.Would he like to return to his job selling luxury watches when the store in Herald Square reopened? “I am already there,” he told his boss. “Put me first in line.”Mr. Ahmed was in his early 20s and a recent emigrant from Bangladesh when he started working at Macy’s in 1994. He met his wife in the store, was able to make a down payment on a house in Astoria, Queens, and saved up enough money to start his own laundry, which he eventually sold.“I owe a lot to this job,” he said.But after an initial feeling of relief and excitement to return to work after four months of lockdowns, reality set in for Mr. Ahmed. He has gone some days without selling a single watch, for which he would earn a commission.Last week, business picked up for a few days, driven by last-minute Christmas shopping, but it was nowhere near a normal holiday pace. “The pandemic, job security — people are scared to spend money,” he said.Still, Mr. Ahmed feels lucky. In New York City, retail jobs make up 9 percent of private-sector employment, and many have been slow to return. At stores selling clothing and clothing accessories, employment is down more than 40 percent from a year ago, according to a recent report by the state comptroller’s office.Mr. Ahmed said that as a member of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, he had certain job protections. But he worries about what the winter will bring, as the pandemic continues to keep many shoppers away.“Employees are scared of what might be coming,” he said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Kentucky Hurting While Awaiting Federal Pandemic Aid

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesThe Stimulus PlanVaccine InformationF.A.Q.TimelineAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyKentucky Is Hurting as Its Senators Limit or Oppose Federal AidUrban and rural fortunes diverge in the state, with the pandemic compounding troubles that predated it.A line for food being given out in Owensboro, Ky., this fall. As hunger and poverty have spread in the state, Senator Mitch McConnell has opposed broad-based aid to state and local governments.Credit…Alan Warren/The Messenger-Inquirer, via Associated PressBen Casselman and Dec. 28, 2020Updated 7:17 p.m. ETIn Perry County, Ky., the local government is cutting back on garbage pickup. Magoffin County is laying off public safety workers. And in Floyd County, where food pantries are reporting that demand has tripled over the past month, officials are trying to figure out how to avoid cuts to a program distributing food to families.“A lot of these kids, this is the only meal they get in a day,” said Robert Williams, Floyd County’s judge-executive, the chief elected official. “I can’t ask a kid to sit on a computer all day with nothing to eat.”In cases and deaths, Kentucky hasn’t been hit as hard by the coronavirus as some other states. Like most of the country, it has experienced a surge this fall, but one less severe than in neighboring Tennessee. Kentucky’s economy is reeling all the same, particularly in rural areas already struggling.“We were in dire need of help economically to start with, before Covid,” said Matthew C. Wireman, the judge-executive of Magoffin County, an Appalachian county where the unemployment rate was 16.7 percent in October, one of the highest in the country.The relief package passed by Congress this month and signed by President Trump on Sunday should provide help. The $600 payments to individuals, criticized by the president and many progressives as too small, would go a long way where the typical household earns less than $40,000 a year. So would the $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits. And the bill includes provisions meant to help rural areas, including subsidies for broadband infrastructure and help for small farmers.But the aid would come over the objection of one of Kentucky’s Republican senators, Rand Paul, who was one of just six to vote against the package in the Senate, on the grounds that it amounted to handing out “free money.” And it would be smaller and later than it might otherwise have been because of the work of the state’s other senator, Mitch McConnell, who as majority leader fought to limit the package.Mr. McConnell in particular worked to exclude broad-based aid to state and local governments — help that many local officials in his state say they desperately need.A spokesman for Mr. McConnell, however, said the lawmaker had not been a hindrance and had helped lead the multitrillion-dollar federal response to the pandemic.“The compromise bill is not perfect, but it will do an enormous amount of good for struggling Kentuckians and Americans across the country who need help now,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement Sunday evening.In an email, Mr. Paul blamed Kentucky’s economic problems on orders issued by the state’s governor, Andy Beshear, a Democrat.“The best way for Kentucky to recover is to repeal Governor Beshear’s lockdown edicts that have caused massive unemployment,” the senator said. “I support extending unemployment and paying for it by reducing foreign aid and nation-building expenditures in Afghanistan.”Unemployment rates in some rural counties are in the double digits. Rates of hunger and poverty, high before the crisis, have soared. Kentucky has lost more than 20,000 state and local government jobs since February, and with budgets crippled by falling tax receipts, officials must choose between raising taxes and cutting services.“It’s frustrating that our own senator won’t support local governments,” Mr. Wireman, a Democrat, said. “These are extraordinary times, and we need to be taking extraordinary measures on the national level from our federal government to help folks out.”Like many rural areas across the country, Magoffin County depends heavily on the public sector. State and local government jobs account for nearly a third of all employment in the county, versus an eighth of all jobs nationally. Elliott County, two counties to the north, is even more reliant: Nearly two-thirds of all jobs are government jobs, including more than 200 at a state prison.“In many rural communities, state and local government is the major employer,” said Janet Harrah, executive director of outreach at Northern Kentucky University’s business school.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Scenes From Gallup, N.M., Where the Coronavirus Has Hit Hard

    The coronavirus has disfigured Gallup, a small New Mexico town near Native American reservations, that is now one of the hardest hit places in the country.The virus’s spread upended the local economy, which over the years built up around tourism and the railroad and heavy industry.Shop owners, residents and aid workers are now trying to figure out how to make it through.The Place Hit Hardest by the VirusDec. 27, 2020Hospitals in Gallup are nearly full. Most stores are empty. The unemployment rate in the county where the city sits is one and a half times the national average. Earlier this month, it had the most cases per capita of any metro area in the United States, according to a New York Times database.As the pandemic has steadily marched across the country in recent months, places like Gallup have been among the hardest hit.The Lions Club rodeo has been held every June in Red Rock Park. It was canceled this year.Perched between the Navajo Nation to the north and Zuni Nation to the south, almost half of Gallup’s residents are Native American, according to census data.Native American communities have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, at one point accounting for nearly 40 percent of all cases in New Mexico, even though those communities make up less than a tenth of the state’s population. And some who have so far been spared by the virus are nonetheless reeling from the consequences of the economic slowdown.Eric-Paul Riege, a 26-year-old artist, is the son of a veteran and hotel manager and a Navajo mother who taught him the art of weaving. His work has appeared in galleries and collections around the country. But paid projects this year all but dried up.Eric-Paul Riege’s art has appeared in galleries and collections around the country. But paid projects have dried up so he’s been working shifts at a local diner.When I met Mr. Riege, he was working shifts at a diner called Grandpa’s Grill, processing orders for takeout food.Route 66 cuts through Gallup. The town has relied on tourism to help drive its economy, counting on visitors to shop at local galleries and trading posts selling Native American art and crafts. But limits on activity in the area have made that hard.When the region was experiencing an extreme wave of virus cases in May, the city locked down, and state police officers and the National Guard barricaded highway exits to prevent people who didn’t live in Gallup from entering town unless it was an emergency.A residential street in Gallup.Last month, long after the barricades came down, trading posts were open but closed for indoor shopping, limiting the chances of anyone passing by to stop and browse.Perry Null, inside his shop, Perry Null Trading. He estimated that his business was down by 40 percent this year.The iconic El Rancho hotel, where John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn and other Hollywood stars once stayed, was roughly a quarter full.Under current New Mexico restrictions, the El Rancho hotel cannot have any indoor dining.Gallup is in many ways a relic of conquered Indigenous lands and American expansion. Many of the trading posts, for example, are owned and operated by white people. Those small shops sit in the shadows of McDonald’s, Walmart and other big American franchises, where cars and people often spill out of parking lots now.Customers waiting to get into Walmart just before Thanksgiving. Local officials say smaller businesses often have to operate with stricter virus guidelines than the big box stores.Bill Lee, the head of Gallup’s Chamber of Commerce, said there has been a growing economic divide because of the restrictions put in place by local and state officials. Smaller businesses often have to operate with stricter guidelines, including rules preventing in-store shopping, while bigger box stores, especially those deemed essential, could operate with fewer limits. “The governor has chosen winners and losers,” Mr. Lee told me.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    New Signs of Economic Distress Emerge as Trump Imperils Aid Deal

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesThe Stimulus DealThe Latest Vaccine InformationF.A.Q.AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyNew Signs of Economic Distress Emerge as Trump Imperils Aid DealA decline in consumer income and spending poses a further challenge to the recovery as jobless claims remain high and benefits approach a cutoff.Food donations were distributed on Saturday in Bloomington, Calif. Economic data released on Wednesday pointed to challenges ahead as the pandemic grinds on.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York TimesDec. 23, 2020, 5:30 p.m. ETWith the fate of a federal aid package suddenly thrown into doubt by President Trump, economic data on Wednesday showed why the help is so desperately needed.Personal income fell in November for the second straight month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, and consumer spending declined for the first time since April, as waning government aid and a worsening pandemic continued to take a toll on the U.S. economy.Separate data from the Labor Department showed that applications for unemployment benefits remained high last week and have risen since early November.Taken together, the reports are the latest evidence that the once-promising economic recovery is sputtering.“We know that things are going to get worse,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist with the career site Glassdoor. “The question is how much worse.”The answer depends heavily on two factors: the path of the pandemic, and the willingness of the federal government to provide help.Congress, after months of delays, acted on Monday, passing a $900 billion economic relief package that would provide aid to the unemployed, small businesses and most households. Most urgently, it would prevent millions from losing jobless benefits at the end of this week.But on Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump demanded sweeping changes in the bill, throwing into doubt whether he would sign it.Mr. Trump’s criticism of the relief effort, which he called a “disgrace,” was that it was not generous enough: He called on Congress to provide $2,000 a person in direct payments to households, rather than the $600 included in the bill.Many economists view direct payments as among the least effective measures in the package, because much of the money would go to households that don’t need it. But beyond the merits of any specific measure, the real risk is that Mr. Trump’s comments could delay the aid, or derail it entirely.The data released Wednesday underscored the economy’s fragility. Personal income fell 1.1 percent in November and is down 3.6 percent since July, as the loss of federal assistance more than offset rising income from wages and salaries.Consumer spending, which proved resilient in the summer and fall, declined 0.4 percent, an ominous sign for small businesses trying to survive the winter. Some of the biggest drops came in categories most exposed to the pandemic’s impact: Spending on restaurants and hotels fell 3.8 percent in November, and spending on transportation, clothing and gasoline also declined.The pullback in spending is spilling over into the labor market. About 869,000 people filed new claims for state jobless benefits last week. That was down from a week earlier but is significantly above the level in early November, before a surge in coronavirus cases prompted a new round of layoffs in much of the country.A further 398,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, one of two federal programs to expand jobless benefits that were set to expire this month without congressional action. Some forecasters expect the December employment report to show a net loss of jobs.“The data just underscores the importance of fiscal support,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist for Jefferies, an investment bank. Without it, she said, “there would be permanent damage, and it would probably be pretty significant.”The relief bill was smaller than many economists said was needed to carry the economy through the pandemic and ensure a robust recovery. It won’t revive the hardest hit industries or undo the damage left by months of lost income for many households.A deserted hotel lobby in Beverly Hills, Calif. Consumer spending fell last month for the first time since April, with Americans cutting back in particular on restaurant meals and hotel stays.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York TimesBut the package may be enough to forestall the wave of evictions and small-business failures that many economists warn is inevitable without it. And it should be enough to avoid a fall back into recession, which an increasing number of forecasters have said is likely without a quick injection of federal money.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    For Millions of Jobless, Christmas Is a Season to Endure, Not Celebrate

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesThe Stimulus DealThe Latest Vaccine InformationF.A.Q.AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyFor Millions of Jobless, Christmas Is a Season to Endure, Not CelebrateEven with new federal aid on the way, many Americans face a holiday of tough choices, trying to celebrate while dealing with pressing needs.Tresa Watson, right, with her grandson Khalil and his mother, Rachel Rucinski, at their home in Milwaukee. Ms. Watson was laid off in March.Credit…Sebastian Hidalgo for The New York TimesNelson D. Schwartz and Dec. 23, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ETNicole Craig, an unemployed mother of two from Pittsburgh, will have no Christmas gifts for her two children, and the ham she bought with food stamps will be far less than their usual holiday dinner. Months behind on her rent and utility bills, she has been struggling to afford formula and diapers. But there is one thing she couldn’t give up: a small Christmas tree and the trimmings to go with it.Ms. Craig spent the last $7 in her bank account on tinsel, a symbol of light in the darkness of 2020. “It’s my baby’s first Christmas,” she said. “I wanted him to be able to see a Christmas tree.”Although Ms. Craig, 42, lost her job as a counselor for at-risk youth through no fault of her own, she can’t help blaming herself when she sees Christmas decorations and other reminders of a holiday she can barely celebrate. “I don’t even want to think about it because I feel so bad for my kids,” she said. “It makes me feel like such a failure.”For Ms. Craig, and millions of other Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is a holiday season more to weather than to relish. With unemployment benefits running out and an unforgiving job market offering few berths, this Christmas will be remembered by many for painful sacrifices, not the joy of exchanging gifts and partaking of festive meals with family.The arrival of vaccines and the approval of a new federal relief package offer hope, but they come too late to salvage this year’s celebration — particularly with the prospect that this winter could bring the pandemic’s darkest days.“I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen,” Ms. Craig said.The long delay in achieving a congressional accord on an aid bill has meant fewer gifts under the tree even as the pandemic has separated families and moved what holiday cheer there is this year to video-chat gatherings.And for many families, the $600-a-person stimulus payments approved by Congress are already earmarked for rent and other necessities.In the meantime, unemployed Americans like Monica Scott of Lakeland, Fla., are looking to the past for comfort.“This year the only thing I can do is talk about memories,” said Ms. Scott, who is five months pregnant and had to leave her job at an Amazon warehouse because of the risk of miscarriage from loading and unloading heavy packages. “Last year was awesome — so many toys, clothes and shoes.”Ms. Scott, 34, wants to make a Christmas dinner with her three boys — 14, 10 and 8 years old — but food will be limited because she will be relying on food stamps and lacks a kitchen. Ms. Scott is living in a motel after being evicted last spring from her apartment, but hopes to find a permanent home soon.“It’s just a room with a bathroom,” she said. “The rent is due, and I don’t know where it will come from. I could move in with my sister, but she has her kids, and it’s just not comfortable.”Jessica Hudson, with her children, Emerson and Marleigh, spent the last few weeks scouting beautifully decorated houses for a family drive on Christmas Day.Credit…Sarahbeth Maney for The New York TimesMs. Scott and others will also be turning to food banks to pull together Christmas dinner.“We usually do rib roast, Martinelli’s apple cider, a couple of desserts,” said Jessica Hudson, a full-time student and mother of two from Millbrae, Calif. “We won’t be able to do any of that this year.”Ms. Hudson and her partner, who is unemployed, are doing their best to make Christmas as cheery as they can: They bought stockings and candy from the dollar store, and they have spent the last few weeks scouting local streets for the most beautifully decorated houses, so that they can take their children on a drive to see them on Christmas Day.The Coronavirus Outbreak More