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    Biden's Stimulus Is Stoking Inflation, Fed Analysis Suggests

    Inflation is likely getting a temporary boost from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Biden administration ushered in early this year, new Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco research released on Monday suggested.The analysis may add fuel to a hot debate in Washington over whether the administration’s policies are contributing to a spike in prices. Critics of the government spending package that was signed into law in March, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, have said it was poorly targeted and risked overheating the economy. Supporters of the relief program have said it provided critical aid to workers and businesses still struggling through the pandemic.The new paper comes down somewhere in the middle, finding that the spending had some effect on inflation but suggesting that it is most likely to be temporary. The economists estimated that it would add 0.3 percentage points to the core Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation index in 2021 and “a bit more” than 0.2 percentage points in 2022. Core inflation strips out volatile items like food and fuel.While those numbers are significant, they are not what most people would consider “overheating” — the Fed aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, and a few tenths of a percent here or there are not a reason for much alarm.But the result is only a rough estimate, one the researchers came up with to help inform an continuing political and economic debate.Both the Trump and Biden administrations signed trillions of dollars in virus relief spending into law. The packages included two bipartisan bills in 2020 that pumped more than $3 trillion into the economy, including direct checks to individuals and generous unemployment benefits. Another $1.9 trillion — called the American Rescue Plan — was passed this year by Democrats after they took control of both Congress and the White House.“The later timing and large size of the A.R.P. stirred debate about whether it is causing an overheating of the economy and fueling a sustained increase in inflation,” the San Francisco Fed researchers noted.The economists tried to answer that question by looking at how much spare capacity is in the economy using a labor market measure — the ratio of job openings to unemployment. The logic is that inflation tends to pick up when there is very little labor market slack, because businesses raise wages to attract workers and then raise prices to cover their climbing labor costs.Government stimulus can push up the number of job openings in the economy as it fuels demand while constraining the number of available workers because it gives would-be employees a financial cushion, allowing them to take their time as they search for a new job.Based on the package’s size and using historical evidence on how fiscal spending affects the labor market, the researchers found that the American Rescue Plan might raise the vacancy-to-unemployment ratio close to its historical peak in 1968, fueling some inflation — but that the price impact would be small and short-lived.U.S. Inflation & Supply Chain ProblemsCard 1 of 6Covid’s impact on supply continues. More

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    As Starbucks Workers Seek a Union, Company Officials Converge on Stores

    A push in the Buffalo area could produce the first union at company-owned stores in the U.S. But backers say moves by management are having a chilling effect.BUFFALO — During her decade-plus at Starbucks, Michelle Eisen says she has endured her share of workplace stress. She points to the company’s increased use of productivity goals, inadequate attention to training and periods of understaffing or high turnover.But she had never encountered a change that the company made after workers at her store and two other Buffalo-area locations filed for a union election in late August: two additional “support managers” from out of state, who often work on the floor with the baristas and who, according to Ms. Eisen, have created unease.“For a lot of newer baristas, it’s an imposing force,” Ms. Eisen said. “It is not an easy job. It should not be complicated further by feeling like you’re having everything you’re doing or saying watched and listened to.”Workers and organizers involved in the unionization effort say the imported managers are part of a counteroffensive by the company intended to intimidate workers, disrupt normal operations and undermine support for the union.Starbucks says the additional managers, along with an increase in the number of workers in stores and the arrival of a top corporate executive from out of town, are standard company practices. It says the changes, which also include temporarily shutting down stores in the area, are intended to help improve training and staffing — longstanding issues — and that they are a response not to the union campaign but to input the company solicited from employees.“The listening sessions led to requests from partners that resulted in those actions,” said Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman. “It’s not a decision where our leadership came in and said, ‘We’re going to do this and this.’ We listened, heard their concerns.”None of the nearly 9,000 corporate-owned Starbucks locations in the country are unionized. The prospect that workers there could form a union appears to reflect a recent increase in labor activism nationwide, including strikes across a variety of industries.According to the National Labor Relations Board, union elections are supposed to be conducted under “laboratory conditions,” in which workers can vote in an environment free of intimidation, in an election process that is not controlled by the employer.Former labor board officials say the company’s actions could cause an election to be set aside on these grounds should the union lose.“You could say it’s part of an overall series of events that seems to create a tendency that people would be chilled or inhibited,” said Wilma B. Liebman, a chairwoman of the board during the Obama administration.A labor board official recently recommended that a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama be overturned for similar reasons, but Mr. Borges said Starbucks did not believe anything it had done would warrant overturning an election.Starbucks has faced union campaigns before, including efforts in the early 2000s in New York City and in 2019 in Philadelphia, where the firing of two employees involved in union organizing was deemed unlawful by a labor board judge. Starbucks has appealed the ruling.Though none of the campaigns were successful in this country, a Starbucks-owned store in Canada recently unionized, and some stores owned by other companies that have licensing agreements with Starbucks are unionized.Many of the ways Starbucks has responded in Buffalo — where union backers seek to become part of Workers United, an affiliate of the giant Service Employees International Union — are typical of employers. The measures include holding meetings with employees in which company officials question the need for a third party to represent them.Starbucks is also seeking to persuade the labor board to require that workers at all 20 Buffalo-area stores take part in the election, rather than allow stores to vote individually, arguing that employees can spend time at multiple locations. (Union organizers typically favor voting in smaller units to increase the chance of gaining a foothold in at least some locations.) The board is likely to rule on this question and set an election date in the coming weeks.But some of the company’s actions during the union campaign are unorthodox, according to labor law experts. “A huge increase in staffing, shutting down stores, it’s all unusual,” said Matthew Bodie, a law professor at St. Louis University who is a former labor board attorney.Michelle Eisen, a Starbucks worker in Buffalo, said the sudden presence of managers from out of state created unease among many employees.Libby March for The New York TimesA recent visit to a Starbucks near the airport, where workers have filed for a union election, turned up at least nine baristas behind the counter but only a handful of customers.“It’s insane,” said Alexis Rizzo, a longtime Starbucks employee who has been a leader of the organizing campaign at the store. “Even if you’re just trying to run to the back to grab a gallon of milk, you now have to run an obstacle course to fit between all the folks who have no real reason to be there.”Ms. Rizzo said the number of employees in the store at once — which she said had run into the teens — made those who predate the union election filing feel outnumbered and demoralized. “It’s intimidating,” she said. “You go to work and it’s just you and 10 people you don’t know.”Starbucks said the additional personnel were intended to help the store after an uptick in workers who were out sick.Some of the additional employees have come to the airport location from a nearby store that Starbucks recently turned into a training facility. That store does not have an election petition pending, but many of its workers have pledged support for the union effort, and some feel separated and disoriented as well.“Initially, people thought our store could use a little reset,” said Colin Cochran, a pro-union employee at the store that was turned into a training facility, who has mostly been assigned to other locations since then. “As it’s dragged out and we’re getting sent to more and more other stores, it’s been frustrating. We want to see each other again.”Workers said their anxiety had been heightened by the sudden appearance of new managers and company officials from out of town.In a video of a meeting in September, a district manager in Arizona tells co-workers that the company has asked her to spend time in Buffalo over the next 90 days. “There’s a huge task force out there that’s trying to fix the problem because if Buffalo, N.Y., gets unionized, it will be the first market in Starbucks history,” the district manager says in the video, provided by a person at the meeting and viewed by The New York Times. When someone asks if the task force is a “last-ditch effort to try and stop it,” the district manager responds, “Yeah, we’re going to save it.”Will Westlake, a barista in a Buffalo suburb called Hamburg, where workers have also filed for a union election, said a store log showed that several company officials from outside the Buffalo area had been to the store during the past six weeks. Included were at least seven visits from Rossann Williams, Starbucks’ president of retail for North America.The officials sometimes work on laptops facing the baristas, sometimes join them behind the bar to work and inquire about the store, and sometimes perform menial tasks like cleaning the bathroom, Mr. Westlake said. He said that many of his co-workers felt intimidated by these officials and that he found the presence of Ms. Williams “surreal.”Starbucks said that many of the officials were regional leaders and coaches who were helping to solve operational issues and remodel stores, and that they were part of a companywide effort dating to May, when Covid-19 infection rates declined and stores across the country got busier.“The resurgence of business came so fast we were not prepared,” Ms. Williams said in an interview.Colin Cochran was among the pro-union workers at the Starbucks store that was turned into a training facility.Libby March for The New York TimesThe company says that it has added staffing in a number of cities beyond Buffalo, especially in the Midwest and the Mountain West, and that it brought on an additional recruiter in each of its 12 regions in the spring to expedite hiring. It said it had turned about 40 stores around the country into temporary training facilities.On a Saturday in October, Ms. Williams visited the training store, saying little as she stood behind a group of workers while a trainer instructed them at the bar.Later, seated outside the store to discuss her work in Buffalo, she waved off the idea that temporarily shutting down a store or making other significant changes might compromise the union election’s laboratory conditions.“If I went to a market and saw the condition some of these stores are in, and I didn’t do anything about it, it would be so against my job,” she said. “There’s no way I could come here and say I’m not going to do anything.” More

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    John Deere Workers Strike After Failed Contract Talks

    About 10,000 unionized employees walked out, as worker activism rises during nationwide labor shortages.Employees of Deere & Company formed picket lines after some 10,000 unionized workers went on strike to demand better pay and benefits at a time when the agriculture equipment maker was on track for a year of record profits.Meg Mclaughlin/Quad City Times, via Associated PressSome 10,000 unionized workers at the agriculture equipment maker Deere & Company went on strike early Thursday after overwhelmingly rejecting a contract proposal worked out with the company by negotiators for the United Automobile Workers union.“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” Chuck Browning, the director of the union’s agricultural department, said in a statement. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”Deere said it was “determined to reach an agreement” that would benefit workers. “We will keep working day and night to understand our employees’ priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running for the benefit of all those we serve,” Brad Morris, the company’s vice president for labor relations, said in a statement.The strike deadline was announced on Sunday after the union said its members had voted down the tentative agreement reached on Oct. 1 with the company, which makes the John Deere brand of tractors. Union negotiators had said the proposal would provide “significant economic gains” and “the highest-quality health care benefits in the industry.”But workers, who are spread out across 14 facilities, primarily in Iowa and Illinois, criticized the deal for insufficiently increasing wages, for denying a traditional pension to new employees and for failing to substantially improve an incentive program that they consider stingy.“We’ve never had the deck stacked in our advantage the way it is now,” said Chris Laursen, a worker at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, who was president of his local there until recently.Mr. Laursen cited several sources of leverage for workers: the profitability of Deere & Company — which is on a pace to set a record of nearly $6 billion this fiscal year — as well as relatively high agricultural commodity prices and supply-chain bottlenecks resulting from the pandemic.“The company is reaping such rewards, but we’re fighting over crumbs here,” he said.Deere, long known to farmers for its green-and-yellow product line, is a publicly traded company valued at more than $100 billion. After a brief plunge early in the pandemic, its shares have tripled, far outpacing the overall market. They rose slightly on Thursday.Steve Volkmann, an analyst with the investment bank Jefferies, acknowledged that Deere was doing well. “Crop prices have increased with every other commodity,” he said, “and when farmers make money, they tend to buy equipment.” And he said Deere’s leadership in agricultural technology had helped make it more profitable.Mr. Volkmann said the financial damage from the labor dispute, if it was settled quickly, would be limited. The company’s bigger challenge, he said, comes from the pandemic’s disruption to the worldwide supply chain, which has caused shortages and raised prices for some components.“Deere is already under some stress,” he said. “They’re not producing at full capacity anyway — they just don’t have the parts.”As many employers grapple with worker shortages, workers across the country appear more willing to undertake strikes and other labor actions.Last week, more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg, the cereal maker, went on strike, and Mondelez International, which makes Oreos and other Nabisco snacks, experienced a work stoppage this summer. Coal miners in Alabama have been on strike for months. Workers have also waged prominent union campaigns at Amazon and Starbucks.Those on strike elsewhere in the country have raised similar complaints as the Deere employees, pointing out that they put in long hours as essential workers during the pandemic but are not sharing much of the profits that their companies reaped during that time.“There was no reprieve — everyone was working seven days a week,” said Dan Osborn, the president of a Kellogg workers local in Omaha.Mr. Osborn said his members were upset over a two-tier compensation system that they worry puts downward pressure on the wages and benefits of veteran workers. “Divide and conquer, it’s an age-old adage,” he said.The Facebook pages of some U.A.W. locals on Thursday encouraged workers to turn out for picketing, which one said would qualify them for strike pay and health insurance.Union members at General Motors walked off the job for almost six weeks in 2019 before agreeing to a four-year contract that included substantial wage increases and closed disparities in a two-tier wage structure.Under the tentative deal at Deere, wages would have increased 5 or 6 percent this year, depending on a worker’s pay grade, and then an additional 3 percent each in 2023 and 2025.Pension benefits would have increased but would have remained substantially lower for workers hired after 1997, and many workers were disappointed to see benefits eliminated for new hires, Mr. Laursen said.Other workers are perturbed about the lack of health care benefits for retirees, which also ceased for workers hired after 1997.Analysts suggested that Deere might be wary of taking on additional long-term obligations because its current level of profitability is unlikely to last.“It’s a very cyclical business,” said Ann Duignan, an analyst with J.P. Morgan. “They may be having record profits this year, but we believe we are close to a peak.”Many workers were frustrated with similar elements of the last contract that the union negotiated with Deere, in 2015, and had been anticipating a showdown ever since.“I’ve been saving since the last contract,” said Toby Munley, a Deere electrician in Ottumwa, where U.A.W. members voted to reject the previous contract, as did another local in Iowa. “People were feeling it then.” That contract was narrowly approved overall.Looming over the negotiation is suspicion among rank-and-file workers toward the international union after a series of scandals in recent years involving corruption in the union and illegal payoffs to union officials from executives at the company then known as Fiat Chrysler.The scandals led to more than 15 convictions, including those of two recent U.A.W. presidents.Mr. Munley said he had worried that the U.A.W. would try to negotiate a marginally better deal and sell the membership on it before the strike deadline Wednesday night, but said he was encouraged that the union had held firm.“I was happy to see we didn’t come back with a tentative agreement,” he said. “It restored some of my faith in my international.”Nelson D. Schwartz More

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    As Democrats Trim Spending Bill, Some Americans Fear Being Left Behind

    President Biden had an ambitious agenda to remake the economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of proposals, some of them indefinitely.WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are curbing their ambitions for President Biden’s economic agenda, and Jennifer Mount, a home health care aide, worries that means she will not get the raise she needs to pay more than $3,000 in medical bills for blindness in one eye.Edison Suasnavas, who came to the United States from Ecuador as a child, has grown anxious about the administration’s efforts to establish a pathway to citizenship, which he hoped would allow him to keep doing molecular tests for cancer patients in Utah without fear of deportation.And Amy Stelly wonders — thanks to a winnowing of Mr. Biden’s plans to invest in neighborhoods harmed by previous infrastructure projects like highways that have harmed communities of color — whether she will continue to breathe fumes from a freeway that she says constantly make her home in New Orleans shudder. She has a message for the president and the Democrats who are in the process of trying to pack his sprawling agenda into a diminishing legislative package.“You come up and live next to this,” Ms. Stelly said. “You live this quality of life. We suffer while you debate.”Mr. Biden began his presidency with an expensive and wide-ranging agenda to remake the U.S. economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of his most ambitious proposals, some of them indefinitely.He has been thwarted in his efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has pared back investments in lead pipe removal and other efforts that would help communities of color. Now, as the president tries to secure votes from moderates in his party, he is reducing what was originally a $3.5 trillion collection of tax cuts and spending programs to what could be a package of $2 trillion or less.That is still an enormous spending package, one that Mr. Biden argues could shift the landscape of the economy. But a wide range of Americans who have put their faith in his promises to reshape their jobs and lives are left to hope that the programs they are banking on will survive the cut; otherwise, they face the prospect of waiting years or perhaps decades for another window of opportunity in Washington.“The problem now is this may be the last train leaving the station for a long time,” said Jason Furman, an economist at the Harvard Kennedy School who was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “It could be five, 10, 20 years before there’s another shot at a lot of these issues.”President Biden entered the White House with an expensive and ambitious agenda to remake the U.S. economy. He has pared back those plans.Tom Brenner for The New York TimesMr. Furman and other former Obama administration officials saw firsthand how quickly a presidential agenda can shrink, and how presidential and congressional decisions can leave campaign priorities unaddressed for years. Mr. Obama prioritized an economic stimulus package and the creation of the Affordable Care Act over sweeping immigration and climate legislation in the early years of his presidency.Stimulus and health care passed. The other two did not. A similar fate now could befall Mr. Biden’s plans for home care workers, paid leave, child care subsidies, free prekindergarten and community college, investments in racial equity and, once again, immigration and climate change.If Mr. Biden is able to push through a compromise bill with major investments in emissions reduction, “he’s got an engine that he’s working with” to fight climate change, said John Podesta, a former top aide to Mr. Obama and President Bill Clinton. “If he can’t get it, then I think, you know, we’re really kind of in soup, facing a major crisis.”Republicans have criticized the spending and the tax increases that would help fund it, claiming that the Democratic package would hurt the economy. Democrats “just have an insatiable appetite to raise taxes and spend more money,” Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday” this week. “It would kill jobs.”Amy Stelly said she wondered whether she would continue to breathe fumes from the Claiborne Expressway, which is near her home in New Orleans.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesThe threat of Republican filibusters has blocked Mr. Biden’s plans for gun and voting-rights legislation.For now, though, the president’s biggest problem is his own party. He is negotiating with progressives and moderates over the size of the larger tax and spending package. Centrists like Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have pushed for the price tag to fall below $2 trillion. Mr. Manchin has said he wants to limit the availability of some programs to lower- and middle-income earners. Progressive groups are jockeying to ensure that their preferred plans are not cut entirely from the bill.The House has proposed investing $190 billion in home health care, for example, less than half of what Mr. Biden initially asked for. If the price tag continues to decrease, Democrats would almost certainly have to choose between two concurrent aims: expanding access to older Americans in need of caretakers or raising the wages of those workers, a group that is disproportionately women of color.Another proposal included in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure bill was an investment of $20 billion to address infrastructure that has splintered communities of color, although the funding was slashed to $1 billion through a compromise with Republican senators.Ms. Stelly thought the funds, plus the president’s sweeping proposals to address climate change — which might also be narrowed to appease centrist Democrats — would finally result in elected officials addressing the highway emissions that have filled her lungs and darkened the windows of her home.Ms. Stelly, an urban designer, has since limited her expectations. She said she hoped the funding would be enough to at least issue another study of the highway, which claimed dozens of Black-owned businesses and the once-thriving neighborhood of Tremé.The Claiborne Expressway bisects the residential neighborhood of Tremé in New Orleans. Ms. Stelly said she hoped the funding would be enough for another study on the effects of the highway.William Widmer for The New York TimesSome Democrats are eager to pack as much as they can into the bill because they fear losing the House, the Senate or both in the midterm elections next year. Mr. Podesta has urged lawmakers to see the package as a chance to avoid those losses by giving Democratic incumbents a batch of popular programs to run on, and also giving the president policy victories that could define his legacy.Mr. Biden has promoted some of his policies as ways to reverse racial disparities in the economy and lift families that are struggling in the coronavirus pandemic from poverty.Ms. Mount, who immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, said she was appreciative of her job helping older Americans and the disabled eat and bathe and assisting them in their homes. But her wages for her long hours — working about 50 hours a week for $400, at times — have made it effectively impossible to stay on top of payments for basic needs.She had hoped Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage or salaries for home health care aides meant she would no longer need to choose between her electric bills and her medical expenses. She said the treatment had improved her blindness, but without a salary increase for her field, she is more convinced that she will be working for the rest of her life.“I have to make a choice: Do I go to the grocery store or pay my mortgage? Do I pay my water bill or pay my electric bill?” said Ms. Mount, who lives in Philadelphia. “With that, retirement looks B-L-E-A-K, all uppercase. What do I have there for retirement?”When Mr. Biden initially proposed two years of free community college, Ms. Mount, 64, was encouraged about future opportunities for her six grandchildren in the United States. But she fears that effort could also be cut.“That’s politics from on top,” she said. “At times, they always seem detached.”Protesters gathered in front of the White House in August in support of the DACA program, which protects young immigrants from deportation.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSome measures that Democrats have long promised voters have run afoul of Senate rules that dictate which policies the administration should include in bills that use a special process to bypass the filibuster, including a minimum-wage increase and a plan to offer citizenship to immigrants brought to the United States as children.When the Senate parliamentarian rejected the strategy, it made Mr. Suasnavas, who has lived in the United States since he was 13, consider the prospect of eventually being deported; he would have to leave behind his job as a medical technology specialist, and his 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.“We’ve been having the hopes that politicians in Washington — Democrats and Republicans — will see not only the economic impact we can bring to the country but also we’re still people with families,” said Mr. Suasnavas, 35. “Our hearts have been broken so many times that it feels like another wound in your skin.” More

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    'Squid Game,' the Netflix Hit, Taps South Korean Fears

    The dystopian Netflix hit taps South Korea’s worries about costly housing and scarce jobs, concerns familiar to its U.S. and international viewers.In “Squid Game,” the hit dystopian television show on Netflix, 456 people facing severe debt and financial despair play a series of deadly children’s games to win a $38 million cash prize in South Korea.Koo Yong-hyun, a 35-year-old office worker in Seoul, has never had to face down masked homicidal guards or competitors out to slit his throat, like the characters in the show do. But Mr. Koo, who binge-watched “Squid Game” in a single night, said he empathized with the characters and their struggle to survive in the country’s deeply unequal society.Mr. Koo, who got by on freelance gigs and government unemployment checks after he lost his steady job, said it is “almost impossible to live comfortably with a regular employee’s salary” in a city with runaway housing prices. Like many young people in South Korea and elsewhere, Mr. Koo sees a growing competition to grab a slice of a shrinking pie, just like the contestants in “Squid Game.”Those similarities have helped turn the nine-episode drama into an unlikely international sensation. “Squid Game” is now the top-ranked show in the United States on Netflix and is on its way to becoming one of the most-watched shows in the streaming service’s history. “There’s a very good chance it will be our biggest show ever,” Ted Sarandos, a co-chief executive at Netflix, said during a recent business conference.Culturally, the show has sparked an online embrace of its distinct visuals, especially the black masks decorated with simple squares and triangles worn by the anonymous guards, and a global curiosity for the Korean children’s games that underpin the deadly competitions. Recipes for dalgona, the sugary Korean treat at the center of one especially tense showdown, have gone viral.A shop in Seoul selling “Squid Game”-themed dalgona.Heo Ran/ReutersLike “The Hunger Games” books and movies, “Squid Game” holds its audience with its violent tone, cynical plot and — spoiler alert! — a willingness to kill off fan-favorite characters. But it has also tapped a sense familiar to people in the United States, Western Europe and other places, that prosperity in nominally rich countries has become increasingly difficult to achieve, as wealth disparities widen and home prices rise past affordable levels.“The stories and the problems of the characters are extremely personalized but also reflect the problems and realities of Korean society,” Hwang Dong-hyuk, the show’s creator, said in an email. He wrote the script in 2008 as a film, when many of these trends had become evident, but overhauled it to reflect new worries, including the impact of the coronavirus. (Minyoung Kim, the head of content for the Asia-Pacific region at Netflix, said the company was in talks with Mr. Hwang about producing a second season.)“Squid Game” is only the latest South Korean cultural export to win a global audience by tapping into the country’s deep feelings of inequality and ebbing opportunities. “Parasite,” the 2019 film that won best picture at the Oscars, paired a desperate family of grifters with the oblivious members of a rich Seoul household. “Burning,” a 2018 art-house hit, built tension by pitting a young deliveryman against a well-to-do rival for a woman’s attention.The masked guards in “Squid Game” mete out violence during the competitions.NetflixSouth Korea boomed in the postwar era, making it one of the richest countries in Asia and leading some economists to call its rise the “miracle on the Han River.” But wealth disparity has worsened as the economy has matured.“South Koreans used to have a collective community spirit,” says Yun Suk-jin, a drama critic and professor of modern literature at Chungnam National University. But the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s undermined the nation’s positive growth story and “made everyone fight for themselves.”The country now ranks No. 11 using the Gini coefficient, one measure of income inequality, among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the research group for the world’s richest nations. (The United States is ranked No. 6.)As South Korean families have tried to keep up, household debt has mounted, prompting some economists to warn that the debt could hold back the economy. Home prices have surged to the point where housing affordability has become a hot-button political topic. Prices in Seoul have soared by over 50 percent during the tenure of the country’s president, Moon Jae-in, and led to a political scandal.“Squid Game” lays bare the irony between the social pressure to succeed in South Korea and the difficulty of doing just that, said Shin Yeeun, who graduated from college in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit. Now 27, she said she had spent over a year looking for steady work.“It’s really difficult for people in their 20s to find a full-time job these days,” she said.South Korea has also suffered a sharp drop in births, generated partly by a sense among young people that raising children is too expensive.“In South Korea, all parents want to send their kids to the best schools,” Ms. Shin said. “To do that you have to live in the best neighborhoods.” That would require saving enough money to buy a house, a goal so unrealistic “that I’ve never even bothered calculating how long it will take me,” Ms. Shin said.Characters in the show receive invitations to participate in the Squid Game.Netflix“Squid Game” revolves around Seong Gi-hun, a gambling addict in his 40s who doesn’t have the means to buy his daughter a proper birthday present or pay for his aging mother’s medical expenses. One day he is offered a chance to participate in the Squid Game, a private event run for the entertainment of wealthy individuals. To claim the $38 million prize, contestants must pass through six rounds of traditional Korean children’s games. Failure means death.The 456 contestants speak directly to many of the country’s anxieties. One is a graduate from Seoul National University, the nation’s top university, who is wanted for mishandling his clients’ funds. Another is a North Korean defector who needs to take care of her brother and help her mother escape from the North. Another character is an immigrant laborer whose boss refuses to pay his wages.The characters have resonated with South Korean youth who don’t see a chance to advance in society. Known locally as the “dirt spoon” generation, many are obsessed with ways to get rich quickly, like with cryptocurrencies and the lottery. South Korea has one of the largest markets for virtual currency in the world.Like the prize money in the show, cryptocurrencies give “people the chance to change their lives in a second,” said Mr. Koo, the office worker. Mr. Koo, whose previous employer went out of business during the pandemic, said the difficulty of earning money is one reason South Koreans are so obsessed with making a quick buck.“I wonder how many people would participate if ‘Squid Game’ was held in real life,” he said.Seong Gi-hun, the show’s protagonist, entering an arena for one of the games.Netflix More

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    Dollar Stores Hit a Pandemic Downturn

    Sandra Beadling was fed up with the 70-hour workweeks, the delivery trucks running days behind schedule, and the wear and tear on her knees from all the stooping to restock the bottom shelves.The manager of the Dollar General store in Wells, Maine, Ms. Beadling, 54, had tried to hire more help. But that was a tough sell when Walmart was offering $16 an hour and her store was paying $12.Ms. Beadling had spent long stretches this summer as one of only a few workers in the store, tending to the register and trying to help shoppers. She had pleaded with her managers to allow the store’s part-time workers to have more hours, but to no avail.One night last month, Ms. Beadling closed up the Dollar General at 10, got home at 11:30 and then left her house at 4 a.m. to be back at the store for an inventory check. “I was so tired I couldn’t find words,” she said. She sent her assistant manager a text saying she had quit and then blocked her co-workers’ numbers so they couldn’t call back and persuade her to stay.“It wasn’t sustainable,” Ms. Beadling said.Some wonder whether the same can be said for the unbridled success of dollar stores and their business model, which has benefited from the prevalence of poverty and disinvestment in the inner cities and rural America. Dollar stores, which pay among the lowest wages in the retail industry and often operate in areas where there is little competition, are stumbling in the later stages of the pandemic.Sales are slowing and some measures of profit are shrinking as the industry struggles with a confluence of challenges. They include burned-out workers, pressure to increase wages, supply chain problems and a growing number of cities and towns that are rejecting new dollar stores because, they say, the business model harms their communities.Just this week, Dollar Tree, which also operates Family Dollar stores, said it would start selling more products above $1. The move has broad significance beyond the discount retail industry, analysts say, because it signals that a company that has built its brand on selling $1 merchandise feels the need to shift its model to account for higher wages and an unreliable supply line from Asia.“It means these issues may be permanent,” said Scott Mushkin, a founder and an analyst at R5 Capital, a research and consulting firm focused on retail.The dollar store strategy has struggled in an economy like the current one.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesThe troubles follow a year of soaring profits and a period of staggering growth in the industry. Roughly one in every three stores that have been announced to open in the United States this year is a dollar store, according to Coresight Research, a retail advisory firm, a sign of how well the industry did in 2020.The business model, which relies on relatively cheap labor and inexpensive goods, is designed to flourish even when its core customers are hurting financially. The strategy was honed during the high unemployment and wage stagnation of the Great Recession of 2008.But dollar stores are not as well equipped for the surreal economy of today, when workers like Ms. Beadling are quitting in protest and a single coronavirus case on a container ship can cause a two-month delay in getting Chinese-made merchandise to the United States.“This is another case of the pandemic laying bare the underlying vulnerabilities in how we’ve set up our economy,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group that is critical of many large corporate retailers.While just about every retailer is dealing with shipping and distribution problems, the dollar stores may have difficulty passing on the increased costs to price-sensitive customers.Dollar Tree said it expected as much as $200 million in additional freight costs this year.In an August conference call with analysts, Dollar Tree’s chief executive, Michael Witynski, recounted how one of the shipping vessels the company had chartered was denied entry to a Chinese port after a crew member tested positive for the virus. The ship had to change crews in Indonesia before returning to China.Dollar General added 50,000 workers this summer, the retailer said.Simon Simard for The New York TimesThe store in Eliot, Maine, where another manager recently quit.Simon Simard for The New York TimesMr. Mushkin said of Dollar Tree: “They have everything going the wrong way.”Dollar General said it had hired 50,000 additional workers between mid-July and Labor Day, but acknowledged in August that its labor costs were adding to expenses. Analysts say some of these additional expenses are driven by the pressure to raise wages.Still, the higher pay may not be enough to encourage employees to stay on the job. Workers say the stores are chronically understaffed and rely on part-time workers who are given unpredictable schedules and cannot afford the required employee contribution for health care benefits.In a statement, Dollar General said, “We pay competitive wages, which are determined based on several factors including the relevant labor market.” The company added that “our operating standards are designed to provide stores with sufficient labor hours, and it is not our expectation that store managers should work 70 to 80 hours per week.”Part-time workers sometimes encounter the opposite problem of not having enough work. As a store manager, Ms. Beadling said, she was constantly trying to find additional hours to give to her employees who needed the money, including one worker who was living in a tent because she couldn’t afford rent.But the allotted hours for the store were limited by higher-up managers, she said. This summer, social media buzzed with photos of dollar stores, from Lincoln, Neb., to Pittsburgh and beyond, where employees had taped up signs in the front door announcing that they had walked off the job.“Capitalism will destroy this country,” read one sign in the window of a Dollar General in Eliot, Maine, this spring. “If you don’t pay people enough to live their lives, why should they slave away for you?”Paige Murdock, the former Dollar General manager in Eliot, now works in a coffee warehouse and delivers for DoorDash.Simon Simard for The New York TimesPaige Murdock, a manager of the Eliot store, was the first to quit. The company limited the hours she could give to her staff, she said, which often meant she was running the store short-handed.She went weeks without getting a day off or seeing her family but, as a salaried employee, did not receive overtime pay. When a manager said Ms. Murdock, 44, couldn’t take her previously approved vacation week to help her daughter, who is in the military, move to Texas, she decided to quit.“If you look at my résumé, I am a very loyal employee,” Ms. Murdock said. “I will work my heart out. All the other jobs I left I would give two weeks’ notice. I don’t call out. I don’t ask for much.”Mr. Murdock now works in a warehouse for a coffee company and picks up delivery jobs at DoorDash to fill in the gaps.In its statement, Dollar General said its manager turnover “has been at historically low levels over the past few years.”Chris Burton started working at a Dollar General in New Orleans in the spring of 2020, earning $10 an hour. A saxophonist, he took the job because his work as a substitute teacher and his musical performances had been put on hold during the pandemic. More than a year later, his hourly pay has nudged up only to $11.“Walmart will move you up to $15 much faster,” said Mr. Burton, 34, who works with Step Up Louisiana, a labor advocacy group that has been pushing for improved working conditions in dollar stores. “But Dollar General is never going to pay as much as Walmart. That’s how they keep their prices lower. It’s basic economics.”Chris Burton took a $10-an-hour job at a Dollar General in New Orleans because the pandemic put his substitute teaching and music performances on hold.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesWall Street is also taking note of the low pay and the complaints from employees about working conditions.“We regularly see shelves that are stocked in a disorganized manner,” said Brad Thomas, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “As a retail analyst that indicates that the store doesn’t have enough labor or the right labor.”Mr. Mushkin of R5 Capital said other major retailers had responded faster to the changing labor conditions by raising wages when their sales were booming last year. Those early moves resulted in a smaller hit to their bottom line than what the dollar stores are experiencing.“We provide our associates with flexible schedules and market-competitive pay, and in all cases, we are at or above minimum wage in the markets we operate in,” Dollar Tree said in a statement.Political attitudes toward dollar stores in some communities are also shifting. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly three dozen communities have passed limits on dollar store developments or rejected stores outright, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.The dollar stores say those are the exceptions. “We are always disappointed when local lawmakers choose to limit our ability to serve their community, but these relatively few situations have not materially impaired our ability to grow,” Dollar General said.The company added, “We provide our customers with convenient access to essential items and quality brands they want and need, including components of a nutritious meal,” including fresh produce, which is being offered in an increasing number of stores.Although the opposition hardly makes a dent in the more than 1,620 dollar stores slated to open this year, some measures have happened in major markets such as the Atlanta area and Cleveland, and in small towns like Warrensburg, N.Y.There has been considerable opposition on Warrensburg’s governing board to a Dollar General that was proposed to be built on Main Street.Bryan Rounds, a member of the board, said Warrensburg, in the southern Adirondacks, had long been mostly a “drive-through town” on the road to lakeside camps or ski slopes farther north. But during the pandemic, Warrensburg, like many rural areas, became a popular spot for Airbnb rentals. “Things are happening around here,” Mr. Rounds said. “We don’t need one of these stores.” More

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    'Every Day Is Frightening': Working For Walmart Amid Covid

    It was a hot morning in Baton Rouge, La., the day that Peter Naughton woke up on the floor.Sore, disoriented, he’d already grasped what his mother was now telling him: He’d had another seizure. But he also grasped a larger truth: He needed to pull it together and somehow go to work.A cashier and self-checkout host at the nearby Walmart, Mr. Naughton dreaded depleting his limited paid time off in the midst of a pandemic. His mother, for her part, insisted that her epileptic son, then 44, stay home and rest. The hours after a seizure were difficult enough. Toss in the stress of Covid-19 and a customer base that largely — and often angrily — rejected mask use, and a day at work seemed anything but recuperative.In the end, Mr. Naughton’s growing headache and general fogginess were intense enough that he conceded to his mother’s wishes. He dialed once, twice, three times. No answer. Given the penalty for missing work without giving notice — and the fear of risking his job during uncertain times — he saw what he had to do. Reeling, he made the trip to the store and clocked in.That was the summer of 2020, and in the bewildering year since, the stakes and strain around low-wage frontline jobs like Mr. Naughton’s seem only to have multiplied.As shuttered offices cautiously debate the merits and logistics of reopening, a parallel sphere of workers — retail employees, day laborers, emergency personnel, medical staff, and so on — seemingly inhabit another country entirely. In their case nothing ever shuttered. Often their jobs just got really, really hard.“Every day is frightening,” Mr. Naughton said recently, now nearly two years into his employment at Walmart.Mr. Naughton said this in the dark, his power still out days after Hurricane Ida had barreled through Louisiana. It was 93 degrees. Later he would take another cold shower, also in the dark, in hopes of cooling off before bed.Mr. Naughton lives on a quiet, grassy street of low brick homes with his aging parents, not far from where he attended high school some two decades prior. He had an apartment of his own for a while last year, but his $11.55 hourly wage wasn’t enough to pay the rent, even working full time. So he moved back in with his mother and father, and now lives in fear of bringing the highly contagious Delta variant home to them. (Mr. Naughton is fully vaccinated. But at 78, his father has health issues that prevent him from getting the shots, Mr. Naughton said — health issues that make severe illness likelier should he contract the disease.)Mr. Naughton, 45, lives with his aging parents and worries about bringing the highly contagious Delta variant home to them.Emily Kask for The New York TimesElsewhere in the country, the conversation has begun to move on, away from early Covid alarm and into something more guardedly speculative. What will post-pandemic life look like? How have our priorities shifted? But for vast swaths of the nation, largely untouched by doses from Pfizer and Moderna, it remains late 2020 in many ways.“A lot of people here still don’t believe the virus is real — even when the hospitals are full, even when they have family dying,” Mr. Naughton said. “With the vaccines, one co-worker told me getting it would go against her faith. Another told me it contains baby fetuses and mercury. Someone else said it was created by Bill Gates to insert microchips to track you. I said, ‘Why would he want to track you?’”The conversations Mr. Naughton describes may be epidemiologically out of step, but he and thousands of others seem trapped in an America-right-now vortex, a swirl of politics, belief, resentment and fear. At fast food restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, nursing homes and anywhere else frontline workers show up each day, a deep schism has taken hold. Workers nervous about the virus find themselves at the mercy of those who aren’t.“If I ask people to wear a mask or socially distance at work, they get mad and tell the manager. Then I have to get coached. If you get coached too many times, you lose your job,” Mr. Naughton said, referring to the company’s system for managing worker infractions. (Charles Crowson, a Walmart spokesman, did not dispute that an accumulation of coachings could lead to termination.)Draped over this dynamic are often the stark realities of poverty, and the stresses of navigating a low-paying job in a high-pressure situation. And so an already strained situation strains further. Bitterness over masking requests, job insecurity, a run on bottled water, vaccine politics — tensions routinely boil over in his store and beyond, Mr. Naughton said.“It wasn’t always like this. It used to be more friendly here. It’s become hostile. People are really on edge. They fight with you in the store, or with each other,” he said. “The other day a woman wanted to fight over the price of potatoes. You can even see it in how people drive, like they have a death wish.”These days Mr. Naughton passes a fair amount of time alone. He burns off stress at the gym, goes on hikes, reads books on politics. (By flashlight, in the days after Hurricane Ida.) The Delta resurgence also dealt a blow to his social life — at one point, concerned about the alarming spread in Louisiana, he canceled plans to see live comedy with a co-worker. She went on without him; “she wasn’t worried about it,” he said.Over the last few months, Mr. Naughton has pinned his hopes on a transfer — there’s another nearby Walmart he believes to be less stressful. After extensive lobbying, he said the move was finally approved. Coincidentally, it’s to the same store where his father routinely shops, Covid risks and all.Mr. Naughton had an apartment of his own last year, but his $11.55 hourly wage wasn’t enough to pay the rent.Emily Kask for The New York Times“He’s stubborn. He goes there for pastries, for Coke. He spends hours there. We tell him not to, it’s not safe,” Mr. Naughton said.With nearly 1.6 million workers, Walmart is the largest private employer in the country. It employs 35,954 people in Louisiana alone, working for one of the 137 Supercenters, discount stores, neighborhood markets or Sam’s Clubs across the state. Covid appears to have been good for the bottom line: During fiscal 2020, the company generated $559 billion in revenue, up $35 billion from the previous year. But labor activists say too little of that money has gone toward work force protections, which in turn has prolonged the pandemic..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}According to United for Respect, a nonprofit labor advocacy group for Walmart and Amazon workers — Mr. Naughton is an outspoken member — safety measures remain deeply insufficient.“Thousands of Walmart associates across the country like Peter have been forced to endure poverty wages and abysmal benefits while working through a deadly pandemic, managing panic-buying sprees and culture wars over mask mandates,” said Bianca Agustin, the accountability director for United for Respect.In a survey the group conducted of Walmart associates — the term the company uses for all non-temporary employees — in May 2020, nearly half said they had come into work sick or would do so, fearing retaliation otherwise. This past April the group released a report with the public health nonprofit Human Impact Partners, finding that Walmart could have prevented at least 7,618 Covid cases and saved 133 lives with a more robust paid sick time policy. (Researchers have estimated that some 125,000 Walmart workers nationwide likely contracted Covid between February 2020 and February 2021.)United for Respect is pushing for five measures in response: hazard pay of $5 per hour; access to adequate paid and unpaid leave; immediate notification of positive cases within a given store; the inclusion of workers in the creation of safety protocols; and protection from retaliation. In the meantime, it has created a Covid reporting tool for workers at Amazon and Walmart. So far almost 1,900 cases have been claimed at 360 stores and facilities.“Walmart lets in people without masks all the time, and social distancing isn’t enforced,” Mr. Naughton said. “Our lives are constantly in danger. They have ‘health ambassadors,’ but all they do is sit at the door offering customers masks. I’ve had to fill in for them. A lot of people just ignore you, or else get angry.”In response, Mr. Crowson, the Walmart spokesman, replied that the company “has worked hard to protect the health and safety of associates and customers. This includes administering no-cost vaccinations, enhanced cleaning practices, daily health screenings and temperature checks for our associates, special bonuses and an emergency leave policy.”For Mr. Naughton, donning his yellow “Proud Walmart Associate” vest each morning and going to work is basic survival in perilous economic times.Emily Kask for The New York TimesFor his part, Mr. Naughton continues fearing work while also fearing the idea of missing any. That’s partly the work ethic he inherited from his father, who never once called in sick to the chemical plant where he spent his career. But it’s also basic survival in perilous economic times. Putting aside any medical implications for him or his loved ones, he worries that contracting Covid could cost him his job. At 45, reliant on Medicaid for health coverage and having no retirement plan to speak of, he continues to don his yellow “Proud Walmart Associate” vest each morning.Over the years Mr. Naughton has worked at fast food restaurants, grocery stores and an amusement park. The idea of finding a more Covid-safe work-from-home gig appeals to him, but his hours at Walmart leave little time for job hunting. Regardless, he says the positions he comes across are “the kind you can’t get without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job.”Asked about the distant universe of office careers and mask-wars-free remote work, Mr. Naughton, he replied that it all feels “unfair.”“They say we’re essential,” he said, “but they treat us like we’re disposable.” More

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    800,000 New Yorkers Just Lost Federal Unemployment Benefits

    Many pandemic-era federal programs expired on Sunday, leaving jobless New Yorkers with more modest state unemployment benefits, or no aid at all.From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City has been pummeled economically unlike any other large American city, as a sustained recovery has failed to take root and hundreds of thousands of workers have yet to find full-time jobs.On Sunday, the city, like other communities nationwide, was hit with another blow: The package of pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits, which has kept families afloat for 17 months, expired.In short order, roughly $463 million in weekly unemployment assistance for New York City residents is ending, threatening to upend the city’s fledgling economic rebound and slashing the only source of income for some to pay rent and buy groceries in a city rife with inequality. About 10 percent of the city’s population, or about 800,000 people, will have federal aid eliminated, though many will continue receiving state benefits.The benefits were the sole income for the many self-employed workers and contract employees whose jobs are central to the city’s economy and vibrancy — taxi drivers, artists and hairdressers, among many others — and who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. “To just cut people off, it’s ridiculous and it’s unethical and it’s evil,” said Travis Curry, 34, a freelance photographer who will lose all his assistance, about $482 a week. “If we can’t buy food or go to local businesses because we don’t have money to live in New York, how will New York come back?”Federal officials say that more Americans are ready to return to work, and Republican lawmakers and small business owners have blamed the benefits for discouraging people from working at a time when there are a record number of job openings.In recent weeks, President Biden has said that states like New York with high unemployment rates could turn to leftover federal pandemic aid to extend benefits after his administration decided not to ask Congress to authorize an extension. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who last week signed a new moratorium on evictions after the Supreme Court ended federal protections, said the state could not afford to extend the benefits on its own and would need the federal government to provide additional money. A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio did not respond to requests for comment.Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state could not afford to keep financing unemployment assistance without additional federal aid.Stephanie Keith for The New York TimesThe expiring of unemployment benefits ends a period of extraordinary federal intervention to prop up the economy over the past year and a half as the virus has ravaged the country, claiming the lives of 649,000 people and leaving millions of laid-off workers struggling to secure new jobs. .css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The federal programs supplemented standard and far more modest state unemployment benefits. New York City was the first major city in the United States to be hit hard by the pandemic, decimating industries almost overnight that underpinned the city’s economy, from tourism to hospitality to office buildings. Economists have projected that New York City may not fully regain all its pandemic job losses until 2024.The federal assistance provided new streams of financial aid beyond regular unemployment payments, which are distributed by states. Jobless Americans received a $600 per week supplement, which was later reduced under Mr. Biden to $300 per week. Unemployment benefits were also offered to contract workers and the self-employed, who under normal circumstances do not qualify for assistance. Payments were extended beyond the 26 weeks offered by most states.The end of the $300 federal supplement means those who still qualify for regular benefits through New York State will lose about half of their weekly assistance.Since the jobless programs rolled out in April 2020, New York City residents have collected about $53.5 billion in unemployment aid, primarily among lower-paid workers in the service, hospitality and arts industries, according to a recent report by the economist James Parrott of the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. The recipients also tended to be people of color, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic and health toll. That includes Ericka Tircio, who lost her job cleaning a 40-story office building in Manhattan’s Financial District in March 2020 and contracted the disease around the same time. She has collected assistance since then, but it will be reduced by about $300 per week. Ms. Tircio, an immigrant from Ecuador who has a 6-year-old son, said her company told her recently that she might be asked to return to work in the coming months.“I’m praying to God that they call me back,” Ms. Tircio, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator. “There are moments when I’ve waited so long that I feel myself falling into a depression.”Ms. Tircio is a member of 32BJ SEIU, a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, whose president, Kyle Bragg, said thousands of its members had been laid off during the pandemic.“Workers should not be left behind to fend for themselves during the worst crisis in a century,” Mr. Bragg said.In recent months, about half the states elected to end their pandemic-related benefits long before the expiration this weekend, a deadline set by the federal government when a vigorous recovery appeared to be on the horizon. In states led by Republican governors, elected officials said that the assistance stymied economic growth and resulted in labor shortages; however, the job growth in those states has not been substantially different than in states that kept the programs.In New York, business leaders have advocated for the state to end the pandemic unemployment benefits, arguing that they hurt small businesses struggling to hire workers. Thomas Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said several job fairs he hosted over the summer were poorly attended.“People were disincentivized to go to work,” Mr. Grech said. “They’re making more money sitting at home. It’s a classic case of good intentions gone bad.”Mr. Grech said that raising wages as a way to lure workers, as some labor economists and advocates have recommended, was unrealistic for some restaurants “unless you want to spend $30 or $40 for a burger.”Elected officials in New York have argued that unemployment benefits helped pump money directly into the economy.“People who receive emergency unemployment assistance are going to turn around and spend that money, and that money is helpful to other people who are also struggling to get things back to normal,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan.The expiration of the benefits was supposed to coincide with a grand reopening of sorts for New York, as many companies announced during an early summer dip in virus cases that workers would be called back to the office in September. But the Delta variant has fueled a resurgence of the virus, postponing any hope that Manhattan’s office buildings would soon refill. Months of moderate job gains stalled over the summer and the city’s unemployment rate, 10.2 percent, increased slightly in July and is nearly double the national average.Bill Wilkins, who oversees economic development for the Local Development Corporation of East New York in Brooklyn, said unemployment and other benefits helped sustain his neighborhood, which has long suffered from high joblessness. But as the pandemic recedes from its peak, he said it was also “incumbent for individuals to be more self-reliant.”The pandemic exposed the significant skills gap in New York City, he said, resulting in large numbers of unemployed workers who do not qualify for job openings that require a college degree, such as high-paying jobs in the tech sector.“If you want a job right now, you have a job,” Mr. Wilkins said, referring to lower-paying openings at many mom-and-pop shops. “The problem is, is that job a sustainable wage? You want the higher-paying jobs, but you have to have the requisite skills that demand that type of salary.”Alex Weisman, an actor, registered for unemployment benefits for the first time after the pandemic shut down Broadway, where he had been in the ensemble for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” The checks, which ranged from about $800 to $1,100 a week, allowed him to keep paying rent for his apartment in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.When the pandemic shut down Broadway, including “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” it left Alex Weisman, an actor in the show’s ensemble, jobless and reliant on supplemental federal unemployment assistance.Erin Schaff/The New York TimesMr. Weisman, 34, submits audition videos every week, hoping for steady work. Earlier this year, he booked a television job for five weeks, which allowed him to briefly go off unemployment benefits.As his benefits run out, he is considering connecting with a temp agency to find work. The last time he had a job outside acting was as a barista in 2013.“I’m going to have to get an entry-level position somewhere,” Mr. Weisman said. “Because I succeeded in the thing that I trained in and wanted to do, I have absolutely nothing to offer any other industry. It’s scary.”Mohammad Kashem, who worked for nearly two decades as a taxi driver, had similar difficulties switching industries. Before the pandemic, a bank had seized his taxi medallion after he struggled to repay his loans amid a sharp drop in yellow cab ridership. Mr. Kashem, an immigrant from Bangladesh who lives in Brooklyn, worked as a postal carrier during the pandemic but quit after one month, saying he was unaccustomed to delivering mail through rain and snow. His family has been relying on $700 a week in unemployment benefits. He and his wife could not maintain jobs during the pandemic because of health issues, he said, noting that they both contracted the coronavirus and have high blood pressure and diabetes.When the unemployment benefits expire, his wife may try finding a job as a babysitter. Mr. Kashem, 50, has been wracked with anxiety about how he will pay for rent and school supplies for his three children.“I was driving taxi many, many years,” Mr. Kashem said. “I’m not used to another job.” More