Honda and Nissan are among the latest companies to furlough thousands of workers at their US operations – as hospitals across the country start letting go of staff amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The two car manufacturers said on Tuesday the pandemic, which has so far claimed 11,000 Americans and infected 370,000 others, had slashed demand for cars across the US.
A spokesman for Honda, which employs about 18,400 workers at plants in Alabama, Indiana and Ohio, said the Japanese automaker would guarantee salaries through Sunday after suspending operations on March 23. Honda’s plants will be closed through May 1.
Nissan said it was temporarily laying off about 10,000 hourly workers in the US effective April 6.
It has suspended operations at its US manufacturing facilities through late April. Operations at Honda’s Powersports plant in South Carolina, which makes ATVs, have been suspended since March 26.
Honda, which employs about 18,400 workers at plants in Alabama, Indiana and Ohio (above), said the Japanese automaker would guarantee salaries through Sunday after suspending operations on March 23
Automakers are facing a dramatic drop in sales in the United States, the world’s second-largest car market, after some states barred dealers from selling new cars while ‘stay-at-home’ orders are in place. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Monday extended its shutdown of U.S. and Canadian plants until May 4.
Toyota Motor Corp has halted its US and Canadian production through April 17. A Toyota spokesman said it has not furloughed full-time US employees.
Meanwhile, health care workers across the country are also being furloughed as hospitals are forced to cancel non-emergency medical appointments and elective surgeries due to lockdowns and increased pressures on hospital systems.
Hospital job cuts are being reported across the entire country – even in states that are coronavirus hot spots like New York and Michigan.
Oneida Health Hospital, which is located in hard hit New York, is putting up to 30 percent of its staff on involuntary furlough. Doctors and senior staff are taking a 20 perent pay cut.
‘We’re in trouble,’ the hospital’s chief executive Gene Morreale told the New York Times. ‘We’ve been here 121 years and I’m hoping we’re still there on the other side of this.’
Elsewhere in other parts of the country, Michigan’s Trinity Health is planning to furlough 2,500 workers and Boston Medical Center has announced it is furloughing 700 staffers after losing roughly $5 million a week during the pandemic.
Cincinnati’s Bon Secours Mercy Health will furlough 700 employees from nex week and freeze wages for nonclinical employees.
The Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is furlouging 400 employees, while Tennessee’s Williamson Medical Center is furloughing 200 health care workers.
Health care workers across the country are also being furloughed as hospitals are forced to cancel non-emergency medical appointments and elective surgeries. Nurses protested in New York on Monday
A group of nurses gather for a strike in New York on Monday about their lack of personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic
The job cuts are an emerging problem for hospitals that must earn income amid a national health crisis.
It comes as a CNBC/Change Research poll of six states – Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – showed a growing number of Americans were worried about losing their jobs or taking pay cuts amid the pandemic.
The poll, which was released on Tuesday, found that 65 percent of Americans say they have serious concerns about losing wages and 39 percent said the same about potentially losing their job.
In the retail sector, REI said it would keep its 162 retail locations closed and furlough some of its roughly 14,000 employees without pay for 90 days.
CEO Eric Artz, who announced the decision in a blog post, said he and the Washington based company’s board would go without compensation for six months.
Senior executives will take a 20 percent pay cut and forgo any 2020 bonuses while other corporate staff will see their pay cut 25 percent. Furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits during the 90-day period, according to the company.
The effects of the pandemic are almost sure to leave a mark on the way people work, shop and socialize – perhaps permanently shifting the way many service industries operate.
Even when the threat of the virus is gone, consumers will think harder about the health implications of squeezing into crowded restaurants and movie theaters. More businesses will accept the effectiveness of employees who work from home, and the move to online shopping will accelerate.
‘We’ve never had a crisis where we couldn’t socially gather with people,’ said John Gordon, founder of Pacific Management Consulting Group in San Diego, which advises restaurants.
Up until March, service workers – from dishwashers to real estate agents – had been enjoying a record winning streak in the job market and US service jobs had risen for a decade.
The sector appeared almost immune to blips in the economy and not even low-wage competition overseas or automation seemed to threaten service jobs that require direct contact with customers.
When the virus arrived, it upended the service economy, which accounts for 84 percent of US private-sector employment. It wiped out 659,000 service jobs in March – 94 percent of the jobs that vanished last month as the US economy plunged into recession.
New claims for unemployment benefits rose to 6.65 million in the latest week from the 3.3 million the previous week. It means that 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the two weeks that the coronavirus started rapidly spreading across the country. Janet Yellen told CNBC second-quarter GDP could decline by 30 per cent and unemployment is already at 12 per cent and 13 per cent amid the coronavirus outbreak
New claims for unemployment benefits rose to 6.65 million in the week ending March 28. In the same week of last year, only 211,000 people requested benefits for the first time
More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the last week of March, according to figures released by the Department of Labor. About 50 people lined up (above) outside an Arkansas unemployment office last Monday
Last week, the coronavirus dealt a swift end to the nation’s 50-year-low unemployment rate with employers reporting hundreds of thousands of job cuts in March.
The Labor Department’s employment report released last Friday details the worst job loss since the depths of the global financial crisis in March 2009 and the biggest single-month jump in the jobless rate in more than 45 years.
The true picture, though, is far worse, because the government figures do not include the last two weeks when nearly 10 million thrown-out-of-work Americans applied for unemployment benefits.
Economists say the April report is set to be dramatically worse with a double digit unemployment rate and as many as 20 million jobs destroyed, which would blow away the record 800,000 tumble in March 2009.
One sign of how painfully deep the job losses will likely prove to be: During its nearly decade-long hiring streak, the US economy added 22.8 million jobs. Economists expect the April jobs report, which will be released in early May, will show that all those jobs will have been lost.
Some economists have now forecast that the unemployment rate could go as high as 15 percent within the next month – a rate that hasn’t been seen since the Depression in the 1930s. During the Great Recession in the 2000s, unemployment peaked at 10 percent.
Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Monday the real unemployment level could be far higher than officially recorded as she warned of a depression.
Yellen told CNBC second-quarter GDP could decline by 30 per cent and unemployment is already at 12 per cent and 13 per cent amid the coronavirus outbreak.
She warned the downturn is ‘absolutely shocking’, adding: ‘If we had a timely unemployment statistic, the unemployment rate probably would be up to 12 or 13% at this point and moving higher.’
With a labor forced of 165 million that means up to 21 million Americans unemployed by Yellen’s calculations.
‘This is a huge, unprecedented, devastating hit, and my hope is that we will get back to business as quickly as possible.’
On whether the economy can recover quickly with a sudden ‘V’ upturn, she warned: ‘I think a ‘V’ is possible, but I am worried that the outcome will be worse and it really depend to my mind on just how much damage is down during the time that the economy is shut down in the way it is now.
‘The more damage of that sort is done, the more likely we are to see a ‘U,’ and there are worse letters like ‘L’ and I hope we don’t see something like that.’
Two Walmart stockers in Chicago and a Trader Joes worker in New York die from coronavirus – as workers strike across the country after dozens fall ill from coronavirus
Top supermarket chains across the country have reported their first employee deaths from the coronavirus after at least four staffers at retailers like Walmart and Trader Joe’s died.
Two Walmart employees at the same Chicago-area store, a Trader Joe’s worker in New York and a greeter at a Maryland Giant grocery store have died in the last two weeks.
Uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic has fueled stress among workers afraid of contracting the disease from customers and unexpected store closures.
Meanwhile, workers manning the frontlines amid worldwide coronavirus lockdowns continue to strike across the country.
Staff at an Amazon delivery facility in Chicago, Illinois protested on Saturday, looking for more protections as they work. Police who broke up the vehicular picket were told they should be ‘ashamed’ of themselves, Patch.com reports.
Their colleagues in New York City – where one worker was fired after protesting last week – are also planning more walkouts after dozens of employees are said to have been hit with the virus at the Staten Island facility.
In Massachusetts, 10,000 construction workers planned to strike Monday.
And in California, McDonald’s staff walked out after their colleague contracted the virus – but say bosses did not tell them.
Pictured: Cashier Baby San wears a face shield and gloves as she scans items at grocery store Super Cao Nguyen, in Oklahoma City, due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus.
Some stores have aded plexiglass sneeze guards to cash registers to keep employees safe during the pandemic
Grocery workers – many in low-wage jobs – are manning the frontlines amid worldwide lockdowns, their work deemed essential to keep food and critical goods flowing.
They are insisting employers pay them more and provide masks, gloves, gowns and access to testing. In a handful of states – Minnesota and Vermont were the first – have given grocery workers a special classification that allows them to put their children in state-paid child care while they work.
Unions in Colorado, Alaska, Texas and many other states are pressing governors to elevate grocery workers to the status of first responders.
‘The government’s responsibility is to step up in these moments,’ said Sarah Cherin, chief of staff for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in Seattle, the first U.S. epicenter of COVID-19.
The union, which represents about 23,000 grocery workers and 18,000 health care workers, won early concessions for higher pay.
‘We have always been a group of people who come to work when others stay home,’ Cherin said. ‘Our workers need the same protection others get.’
Whole Foods workers called for a recent ‘sickout’ to demand better conditions, including double pay.
A group of independent contractors for the Instacart grocery delivery service walked out to force more protections.
Staff at an Amazon delivery facility in Chicago, Illinois protested Saturday, looking for more protections as they work. Police who broke up the vehicular picket were told they should be ‘ashamed’ of themselves, Patch.com reports
Workers take part in a drive-thru ”strike” at a McDonald’s restaurant on Sunday in Los Angeles
A view of a Amazon Prime delivery van in Amazon hub, Woodside, a day after protest in Staten Island Borough in New York City amid Coronavirus Pandemic on April 1
Some of the biggest employers in the US are now responding.
To alleviate the concerns of some their workers Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, said it is rolling out face masks and temperature checks at all its US and European warehouses by next week.
The company has also been in contact with the CEOs of two coronavirus test makers as it considers how to screen its staff and reduce the risk of infection at its warehouses, according to internal meeting notes seen by Reuters.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, said it will give all hourly employees a $2-an-hour ‘Hero Bonus’ through April 18. That follows temporary $2 pay bumps by Walmart, Target and others. Walmart‘s raise is just for hourly employees in distribution centers, but it´s also giving bonuses to full- and part-time workers.
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, and Target will provide masks and gloves to front-line workers and limit the number of customers in stores. Walmart is taking the temperatures of its nearly 1.5 million employees when they report to work.
Jake Pinelli, who works at a ShopRite in Aberdeen, New Jersey, said customers don’t stay 6 feet away from others and typically don’t wear masks or gloves. Staffers have protective gear, but the younger employees often give it to older co-workers or those they know have health conditions.
‘Most of us are terrified,’ Pinelli said. ‘I have not only bills to pay, but it’s the only way right now I feel like I can do anything for my community and help out,’ Pinelli said.
At the Organic Food Depot in Norfolk, Virginia, cash is no longer used. Customers can’t bring reusable bags. Children under 16 are banned.
‘If somebody fell sick in the store, the store is most likely going to shut down,’ manager Jamie Gass said.